Robert Duncan: May 18, 1959

The Poetry Center presents Robert Duncan reading his poetry from and discussing his book The Opening of the Field (1960).

Originally Recorded By
The Poetry Center
San Francisco
Total Run Time
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  • Opening comments on what Duncan will be reading and how he developed his book (00:01)
  • "Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow" (00:36)
  • Comments on rewriting "Often I am Permitted to Return to the Meadow" from its creation in 1953 in London to the changes it underwent as the first poem in "The Opening of the Field" (01:56)
  • "The Structure of Rime II" (05:11)
  • Comments on how he developed the title "The Opening of the Field" from a key line in "The Structure of Rime II" (05:28)
  • Further comments on revisions of the poem, the theme of the Queen Under the Hill and its mythic origins stemming from Greek, Celtic, Arthurian, and Christian traditions (08:23)
  • Comments on an early childhood dream and its influence on the poem (10:12)
  • "Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow" {reprise} (13:17)
  • Further comments on the formulation of the book "The Opening of the Field" (14:28)
  • "The Dance" (15:34)
  • Comments on "The Dance," its form and structure, and its place in book. He compares the writing of a book of poems to a complex tapestry with interweaving threads (18:08)
  • Comments on the order of the poems in the book, and how certain themes affect their order (30:21)
  • "The Structure of Rime XI" (38:56)
  • Comments on "The Structure of the Rime XI," various images of death and the author's own mortality (40:06)
  • "A Storm of White" (45:06)
  • Comments on "A Storm of White," and its themes of death. Duncan recounts his own father's death and his reaction to it (47:02)
  • "Bone Dance" (50:12)
  • Duncan discusses the conclusion of the poem "Under Ground" and its relation to death, and how our lives, the world, and the field can be conceived as a monument to the dead. He speaks of his friend's death in World War II at Dunkirk and how it related to the death of his father, and claims all poems relate back to something hidden within the author (52:04)
  • "Under Ground" (54:11)
  • "The Natural Doctrine" (55:27)
  • "The Structure of Rime XII" (56:56)
  • "Ingmar Bergman's 'Seventh Seal'" (58:41)

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