Letters, Poems 1953-1956 by Robert Duncan

by Edited and With an Afterward by Robert J. Bertholf. Flood Editions, P.O. Box 3865 Chicago, Illinois 60654-0865. www.floodeditions.com

Book Review by

Let’s leave the this and that of academics and critic mumbles in the cloistered and protected and predictable classrooms of poetry and come upon this book. I suppose Robert Duncan is a way a ways from the immediacy of small press poetry and I suppose all readers of poetry have heard the name, read the work and made the decision, one way or the other, about literary direction, small press or the other camp(s) of small press. Let’s not pretend that all poetry is not other than small press poetry. All fair. All fair. In this book, a handsome, sensitive, reissue of Duncan’s book originally published in the 1950s (before the Opening of the Field) one locates that kernel, sand, magic that invigorates the mind and heart to poetry, no matter what form the poem might in the end manifest. The matter of love informs this work and if you are inclined to love, ever, at all, or on occasion, this is an ignition. The matter of poetry informs. The muse here is a fact! It is difficult to be unmoved. Facts arrive. Great books of poems remain grand. Shelley is as immediate as the relentless, invigorating snowstorms of Buffalo, New York! With the distance time has allowed, Duncan becomes like Keats and Shelley, Browning and Duncan’s mentor, Pound, a being, a poet moved by the forces of poetry, able to harness and adorn with words that spirit that rules all poems. With this book, this historical record and the poetry it is, Robert Duncan enters The Poetry Hall of Fame and honored we are, those all of use who labor each day with words, that such poetry exists to inspire and quench various thirsts and that editors and publishers recognize just that and provide a map to this nourishment.