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Robert Duncan (Robert Edward Duncan) Biography

(1919–88), (Robert Edward Duncan), Experimental Review, Heavenly City, Earthly City

American poet, born in Oakland, California, educated at the University of California, Berkeley. As an editor of the Experimental Review in 1940 and 1941 he published work by Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Lawrence Durrell, Kenneth Patchen, and others. Heavenly City, Earthly City (1947), his first collection of verse, reflected his admiration for the work of George Barker, whose mystical and rhetorical qualities are consonant with the tenor of much of Duncan's poetry. Contact with the poets associated with Black Mountain College, where Duncan taught in 1956, led to the intensification of his interest in innovative forms that becomes apparent in Caesar's Gate: Poems 1949–1955 (1956). Much of his later writing is remarkable for retaining a strong allegiance to European lyric and visionary traditions while adopting the Projective Verse modes proposed by Charles Olson, after whose death in 1970 Duncan became the leading practitioner of ‘open field’ composition. From the mid-1950s onward he was one of the principal figures in the San Francisco Renaissance and was conspicuous among poets opposed to the Vietnam War during the 1960s (see Vietnam Writing); Bending the Bow (1968) contains ‘Up Rising’, one of the period's most notable poems of protest. The collection also begins the extended series of ‘Passages’, typographically dispersed poems offering highly flexible patterns of signification, which formed the main body of his subsequent work. Notable among his other volumes are The Opening of the Field (1960), Roots and Branches (1964), and the two volumes of Ground Work (1984, 1987). Fictive Certainties (1979) is a collection of essays having in common Duncan's idiosyncratically autobiographical approach to critical commentary.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Hilda Doolittle (H. D.) Biography to Dutch