I'm reading Lisa Jarnot's magnificent biography of Robert Duncan.
A few days ago I paid another visit to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, which is part of the Smithsonian Museum system, and near my son-in-law's law firm. I purchased, as is my wont, a couple of books in the gift shop. One of which was From Head to Hand: Art and the Manual by David Levi Strauss.
David and I corresponded off and on for a couple of years when he edited the fine Bay Area journal Acts with Benjamin Hollander. As fine and generous a person as I've ever met in the poetry world, David studied with Duncan in San Francisco. I've always been impressed by David's openness to ideas, experiences and people.
During my time at Kent State I had a number of experiences of Robert Duncan--public readings and a talk where everyone was seated cross-legged on the floor of dormitory hallway (at least that's my fogged memory). Most memorable was his reading of Medieval Scenes in the KSU Kiva.
I've always had difficulty with Duncan's work. I was more of a Creeley and Olson guy. Duncan was fascinating but too Baroque for me. I remember a brief mail exchange with Aaron Shurin about this precise point. It is interesting that one can be intrigued by an author but unable to truly engage for extended periods of time. We all have blindspots, inabilities.
Lisa Jarnot's biography is helping me to rethink some things and to take another look at Duncan's work.
More about this later (I suspect).