The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov

The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov

by Robert Bertholf, Albert Gelpi
     
 

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This volume presents the complete correspondence between two of the most important and influential American poets of the postwar period. The almost 500 letters range widely over the poetry scene and the issues that made the period so lively and productive. But what gives the exchange its special personal and literary resonance is the sense of spiritual affinity…  See more details below

Overview


This volume presents the complete correspondence between two of the most important and influential American poets of the postwar period. The almost 500 letters range widely over the poetry scene and the issues that made the period so lively and productive. But what gives the exchange its special personal and literary resonance is the sense of spiritual affinity and shared conviction about the power of the visionary imagination. Duncan and Levertov explore these matters in rich detail until, under the stress of dealing with the Vietnam War in poetry, they discover deep-seated differences in the religious and ethical convictions underlying their politics and poetic stance. The issues that drew them together and those that drove them apart create a powerful personal drama with far-reaching historical and cultural significance. The editors have provided a critical Introduction, full notes, a chronology, and a glossary of names.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This volume presents the complete correspondence between celebrated American poets Duncan and Levertov, which began in 1953 and ended in 1985 with Duncan's death. Editors Bertholf (curator, Poetry/ Rare Book Collection, SUNY at Buffalo) and Gelpi (William Robertson Coe Professor of American Literature, emeritus, Stanford Univ.) divide the 500 letters into four chronological groupings and provide meticulous ancillaries, which include notes, a glossary, an appendix, and a time line of the friendship; Gelpi also provides a first-rate introduction. As both poets explore the mythopoetic power of the imagination, their correspondence lays open the metaphysics of the visionary process, and they write back and forth about the mystery of this experience. Later, the discussion moves to external realities and their shared opposition to the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, their original impulse-to see their distinctive orientations as complementary-gives way to contentions over their didactic responses to the war, and shared wonder is not enough to sustain the friendship. In the end, it would seem, poetry could make no claims on absolutes, and the big ideas that brought these poets together bring their friendship to naught. A big book for those looking for insight into the nature of poetry, particularly in the last half of the war-riddled 20th century.-Scott Hightower, Fordham Univ., NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"This collection represents the most important and complete interchange between two poets in the latter half of the century, and offers essential insight into the aesthetics of Black Mountain, open-field, Projectivist, and Objectivist poetry—but also elucidates the blend of mystical and personal which makes their work so entrancing . . . I found this book one of the most exciting interchanges of ideas in letter that I have ever read. Albert Gelpi's introduction thoroughly extends appreciation for Levertov and Duncan's relationship, and provides illuminating insight into the causes of the rift between them. Such a massive collection demands good appendices, and the editors successfully provide contextual notes, a glossary, a chronology, and biographical information about the people mentioned in the letters."—Jeffery Beam, Oyster Boy Review

"Duncan and Levertov's intellectual integrity makes reading this book an emotionallly bracing experience."—BOOKFORUM

"The affectionate, chatty, honest, lengthy, detailed comments in the correspondence give an insight into two souls for whom words were life...This corresondence is invaluable to those interested in the language of poetry, indeed of all writing."—Choice

"The correspondance, now presented to us in a monumental edition produced by Albert Gelpi and Robert J. Bertholf, with a judicious introduction by Gelpi and useful appendix, glossary of names, chronology and notes, is an indispensable addition to our understanding of American poetry in the post-war decades. Even readers who have reservations about the work of both poets will find these letters riveting."—Marjorie Perloff, Times Literary Supplement

"The intimacy, loyalty, and lively intellectual exchange captured in this correspondence reveal the intense bond between Duncan and Levertov and depict the state of American poetry and cultural history in the mid-twentieth century."—American Literature
"No good poetry can be written to order, regardless of how worthy or pressing the cause. Duncan's and Levertov's letters are an invaluable historical document on how difficult it is to respond to such questions while innocent blood is being spilled. They seem to me even more eloquent and relevant today as we find ourselves living through another senseless war."—The New York Review of Books
"The reader who holds The Letters in his hands holds the actual friendship . . . and accordingly is offered a rare chance to understand where two old friends went wrong. Spanning some thirty years . . . the collection manages what would seem unlikely in material so sprawling: to tell a coherent story."—Common Knowledge
"This splendid edition fulfills every wish."—American Literary Scholarship

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780804745680
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
Publication date:
10/30/2003
Edition description:
1
Pages:
896
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 2.20(d)

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Meet the Author

Robert Bertholf is Curator of The Poetry/Rare Books Collection, University of Buffalor of New York. Albert Gelpi is William Robertson Coe Professor of American Literature, Emeritus, at Stanford University.

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