Robert Duncan: The Collected Later Poems and Plays

Robert Duncan: The Collected Later Poems and Plays

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Profoundly original yet insistent on the derivative quality of his work, transgressive yet affirmative of tradition, Robert Duncan (1919-1988) was a generative force among American poets, and his poetry and poetics establish him as a major figure in mid- and late- 20th-century American letters. This second volume of Robert Duncan’s collected poetry and plays presents authoritative annotated texts of both collected and uncollected work from his middle and late writing years (1958-1988), with commentaries on each of the five books from this period: The Opening of the Field, Roots and Branches, Bending the Bow, and the two volumes of Ground Work.

The biographical and critical introduction discusses Duncan as a late Romantic and postmodern American writer; his formulation of a homosexual poetics; his development of the serial poem; the notation and centrality of sound as organizing principle; his relations with such fellow poets as Robin Blaser, Charles Olson, and Jack Spicer; his indebtedness to Alfred North Whitehead; and his collaborations with the painter Jess Collins, his lifelong partner. Texts include his anti-war poems of the 1960s and 70s, his homages to Dante and other canonical poets, and his translations from the French of Gérard de Nerval, as well as the complete Structure of Rime and Passages series.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520324862
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 10/22/2019
Series: The Collected Writings of Robert Duncan , #3
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 924
Sales rank: 1,236,369
Product dimensions: 7.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 2.20(d)

About the Author

Robert Duncan (1919–1988) was a foremost figure in the San Francisco Renaissance and is considered one of the most accomplished and influential postwar American poets. He became a leading practitioner of nontraditional open form poetry, his later work shaped by ideas associated with Charles Olson and the Black Mountain School of poetry. During his lifetime, he published more than a dozen collections of poems, including those in this volume, which remain his best-known works.

Peter Quartermain taught contemporary poetry and poetics at the University of British Columbia for over thirty years. He is the author of Basil Bunting, Poet of the North; Disjunctive Poetics: From Gertrude Stein and Louis Zukofsky to Susan Howe; and Stubborn Poetries: Poetic Facticity and the Avant-Garde. He is the editor of Robert Duncan’s Collected Early Poems and Plays (UC Press).

Table of Contents



Introduction: Discovery Making

The Opening of the Field (1960)

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow -

The Dance 

The Law I Love Is Major Mover 

The Structure of Rime I 

The Structure of Rime II 

A Poem Slow Beginning 

The Structure of Rime III 

The Structure of Rime IV 

The Structure of Rime V 

The Structure of Rime VI 

The Structure of Rime VII 

Three Pages from a Birthday Book 

This Place Rumord to Have Been Sodom 

The Ballad of the Enamord Mage 

The Ballad of Mrs Noah 

The Maiden 

The Propositions 

Four Pictures of the Real Universe 


Of Blasphemy 

Nor Is the Past Pure

Crosses of Harmony and Disharmony 

A Poem of Despondencies 

Poetry, a Natural Thing 

Keeping the Rhyme 

A Song of the Old Order 

The Question 

The Performance We Wait For 

At Christmas 


Yes, as a Look Springs to Its Face 

Yes, as a Look Springs to Its Face, 

A Poem Beginning with a Line by Pindar 

The Structure of Rime VIII 

The Structure of Rime IX 

The Structure of Rime X 

The Structure of Rime XI 

A Storm of White 


Out of the Black 

Bone Dance 

Under Ground 

The Natural Doctrine 

The Structure of Rime XII 

The Structure of Rime XIII 

Another Animadversion 

After Reading Barely and Widely 

Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal 

Food for Fire, Food for Thought

Uncollected Work 1957–1960

A Stray Poem (Notes Reading from Rene Fulop-Miller’s The Power and Secrets of the Jesuits)

Melville after Pierre


The Song of the River to Its Shores


I Saw the Rabbit Leap

Roots and Branches (1964)

Roots and Branches

Roots and Branches

What Do I Know of the Old Lore?

Night Scenes

A Sequence of Poems for H.D.’s Birthday

A Letter

Nel Mezzo del Cammin di Nostra Vita

A Dancing Concerning a Form of Women

The Law


Sonneries of the Rose Cross

Now the Record Now Record

Variations on Two Dicta of William Blake

Cover Images

Come, Let Me Free Myself


Four Songs the Night Nurse Sang

Structure of Rime XV

Structure of Rime XVI

Structure of Rime XVII

Structure of Rime XVIII

Osiris and Set


Two Presentations

After a Passage in Baudelaire

Shelley’s Arethusa Set to New Measures

After Reading H.D.’s Hermetic Definitions

Strains of Sight


Returning to the Rhetoric of an Early Mode

Two Entertainments

The Ballad of the Forfar Witches’ Sing

A Country Wife’s Song 

What Happened : Prelude

A Set of Romantic Hymns

Thank You for Love

From The Mabinogion

Forced Lines

A New Poem (for Jack Spicer)

Sonnet 1

Sonnet 2

Sonnet 3


Adam’s Way: A Play upon Theosophical Themes


A Part-Sequence for Change

Structure of Rime XIX

Structure of Rime XX

Structure of Rime XXI

The Continent

Uncollected Work 1961–1964

A Play with Masks

Weaving the Design

Old Testament

New Testament

Bending the Bow (1968)


Sonnet 4 

Structure of Rime XXII

5th Sonnet 

Such Is the Sickness of Many a Good Thing 

Bending the Bow 

Tribal Memories Passages 1

At the Loom Passages 2

What I Saw Passages 3

Where It Appears Passages 4

The Moon Passages 5

The Collage Passages 6

Envoy Passages 7

Structure of Rime XXIII 

As in the Old Days Passages 8

The Architecture Passages 9

These Past Years Passages 10

Shadows Passages 11

Wine Passages 12

Structure of Rime XXIV 

Structure of Rime XXV 


The Fire Passages 13

Chords Passages 14

Spelling Passages 15

A Lammas Tiding 

My Mother Would Be a Falconress 

Saint Graal (after Verlaine) 

Parsifal (after Wagner and Verlaine)

The Currents Passages 16

Moving the Moving Image Passages 17

The Torso Passages 18

The Earth Passages 19

Structure of Rime XXVI: For Kenneth Anger An Illustration Passages 20

The Multiversity Passages 21

In the Place of a Passage 22 

Benefice Passages 23

Orders Passages 24

Up Rising Passages 25

The Chimeras of Gérard de Nerval 

El Desdichado (The Disinherited)






The Christ in the Olive Grove 

Golden Lines 

Earth’s Winter Song 

Moira’s Cathedral 

A Shrine to Ameinias 

Narrative Bridges for Adam’s Way 

The Soldiers Passages 26

An Interlude 

Transgressing the Real Passages 27

The Light Passages 28

Eye of God Passages 29

Stage Directions Passages 30



Uncollected Work 1965–1968

At the Poetry Conference: Berkeley after the New York Style

We heard it as a cry. It was the Word.

Keeping the War Inside

Yes I care deeply and yet

Christmas Present, Christmas Presence!

From a Poem by John Ashbery

If I Had Kin

Ground Work: Before the War (1984)

Some Notes on Notation

Achilles’ Song 

Ancient Questions 

A Song from the Structures of Rime Ringing as the Poet Paul Celan Sings

Despair in Being Tedious 

The Concert Passages 31 (Tribunals) 

Ancient Reveries and Declamations Passages 32 (Tribunals) 

Transmissions Passages 33 (Tribunals) 

The Feast Passages 34 (Tribunals) 

Before the Judgment Passages 35 (Tribunals) 

Santa Cruz Propositions 

A Glimpse 

And If He Had Been Wrong for Me 

For Me Too, I, Long Ago Shipping Out with the Cantos

And Hell Is the Realm of God’s Self-Loathing 

Childhood’s Retreat 

Fragments of an Albigensian Rime 

O! Passages 37

Bring It Up from the Dark 

Structure of Rime XXVII 

Structure of Rime XXVIII: In Memoriam Wallace Stevens

Over There

The Museum 

Interrupted Forms

Poems from the Margins of Thom Gunn’s Moly 

Preface to the Suite 

The Moly Suite 

Near Circe’s House 

Rites of Passage: I 


Rites of Passage: II 

A Seventeenth Century Suite in Homage to the Metaphysical Genius in English Poetry (1590–1690) 

1. Love’s a great courtesy to be declared

2. Sir Walter Ralegh, What Is Our Life? 

3. Go as in a dream 

4. Robert Southwell, the Burning Babe

5. “A pretty Babe”—that burning Babe 

6. George Herbert, Jordan (I) 

7. George Herbert, Jordan (II)

8. These Lines Composing Themselves in My Head as I Awoke Early This Morning, It Being Still Dark, December 16, 1971  Passages 36

9. Ben Jonson, Hymenæi: Or the Solemnities of Masque, and Barriers 

10. John Norris of Bemerton, Hymne to Darkness 


Dante Études


Book One 

We Will Endeavor 

Secondary Is the Grammar 

A Little Language 

To Speak My Mind 

Everything Speaks to Me 

In the Way of a Question 

Speech Directed 

Enricht in the Increment 

The Individual Man 

Of Empire 

The Meaning of Each Particular 

The Whole Potentiality 

The Work 

The Household 

Let Him First Drink of the Fountain 

And Tho They Have No Vowel 

Letting the Beat Go 

Book Two 

A Hard Task in Truth 


The One Rule 

Our Art but to Articulate 

In Nothing Superior 


On Obedience 

Zealous Liberality 

We Convivial in What Is Ours! 

Mr. Philip Wicksteed Stumbling into Rime in Prose in Translating Dante’s Convivio 

Go, My Songs, Even as You Came to Me 

Book Three 

My Soul Was as If Free 

Nor Dream in Your Hearts 

For the Sea Is God’s 

Where the Fox of This Stench Sulks 

In Truth Doth She Breathe Out Poisonous Fumes 

Then Many a One Sang 

In My Youth Not Unstaind 

And a Wisdom as Such 

Four Supplementary Études 

Of Memory 


I Too Trembling 

But We, to Whom the World Is 

The Missionaries Passages

The Torn Cloth 

Songs of an Other 

Empedoklean Reveries Passages

Jamais Passages

An Interlude of Winter Light 

“Eidolon of the Aion” 

The Presence of the Dance{ths}/{ths}The Resolution of the Music 

Circulations of the Song 

Uncollected Work 1969–1982 

O tree of lights! tree of colors


After Shakespeare’s Sonnet 76

Second Take on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 76


Something Is Moving

A Fantasy Piece for Helen Adam

Feb. 22, 1973

I have{ths}/{ths}nothing to go on

A Prepucal Face for Nigel Roberts

Johnny’s Thing

An Epithalamium

Poe et Cie

Let Me Join You Again This Morning, Walt Whitman

Ground Work II: In the Dark (1987)

An Alternate Life 

In the South 



The Quotidian 

To Master Baudelaire

Toward His Malaise 

Among His Words 

The Face 

At Cambridge an Address to Young Poets Native to the Land of My Mothertongue

Le Sonnet Où Sonne la Sonnette dès Dernières Jours Toujours Fait Son Retour

Pour Souffrir l’Envie Jusqu’à l’Amour en Vie 

Sets of Syllables, Sets of Words, Sets of Lines, Sets of Poems Addressing: Veil, Turbine, Cord, & Bird 

Preliminary Exercise

Notes during a Lecture on Mathematics

The Recall of the Star Miraflor

The Naming of the Time Ever 

I Pour Forth My Life from This Bough 

The Turbine 

What the Sonnet Means the Sonnet Means 

For the Assignment of the Spirit 

The Cherubim (I) 

The Cherubim (II) 


The Sentinels 

An Eros/Amor/Love Cycle 

Et Passages

In Wonder Passages

Constructing the Course of a River in the Pyrenees 

In Waking 

From the Fall of 1950, December 1980 

Two Sets of Tens: Derived from Confucian Analects 

Regulators Set of Passages

The Dignities Passages

The First Passages

Stimmung Passages

Enthralld Passages

Quand le Grand Foyer Descend dans les Eaux Passages

In Blood’s Domaine Passages

After Passage Passages

With In Passages

Seams Passages

You, Muses Passages

Structure of Rime: Of the Five Songs

The Five Songs 

Whose Passages


At the Door 

Illustrative Lines 

After a Long Illness 

Uncollected Work 1983–1988 

In Passage


Appendix: Table of Contents for Roots and Branches


Selected Bibliography

Index of Titles and First Lines

Customer Reviews