Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Robert Duncan: the pebble that dropped into that quiet as a pool broke up


Amouniala Falls near Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo: photo by Ad Meskens, July 1989

In the shuttle flying under the swift sense of the work, the "incident here and there" gathers so many instances from themselves into a moving significance, unfolding or discovering a design, that we see now the art was to set things into movement, was not only the weaving of a work of art but as if each knot that bound the whole into the quiet of a unity were also the pebble that dropped into that quiet as a pool broke up, was knot but also slipping-of-the-knot, to set up an activity thruout in the work of time and space within time and space.

Tropical Rainforest, Tioman: photo by Gregorik, 29 October 2009
Robert Duncan: from A Day Book (aka The H.D. Book), 1959-1964


TC said...

And see also:

Ezra Pound's Hodge-Podge (Robert Duncan to H.D.)

Robert Duncan: Salvages: An Evening Piece

Anonymous said...

A sophisticated onomatopoeia this is. I love writing that wraps around, courses through and becomes the thing it’s writing about.
You can experience integrally or, if you prefer, pull apart in sections:

In the shuttle flying under the swift sense of the work, the "incident here and there"

but then in a moment you’re on to the next part of the work, which also operates both in modules and seamlessly.

What’s great about this is that it says so much so well in so little space and leaves very little that matters out. It also, for what it’s worth, leaves this reader feeling a little more hopeful about things. I love:

was knot but also slipping-of-the-knot

TC said...

Curtis, an exquisite segue from Artemisia's comment on the previous post, bringing us to dwell once again upon the intricate recursiveness in the extremely sophisticated yet elemental form of play that happens when the metaphorical life of language informs the literal surfaces of the words, so that we get, as you so beautifully put it,

"writing that wraps around, courses through and becomes the thing it’s writing about".

I can always feel the interior history of language bubbling up through the concrete toward the fresh air of the figurative, in Duncan's writing.

Perhaps there is an irony in the recent rediscovery of this text -- which was by the way profoundly influential, way back when, in the occasional increments that did appear in journals -- in quarters whence, latterly, metaphors have been peremptorily shown the door, or given a dunce cap and made to sit shamed in the corner of the classroom.

RD spent many years in Berkeley living just down the street from the university while being snubbed by its snooty English department braintrust, another irony as it's now that same university that proudly displays this text at the top of its press list. Mutatis mutandis and all that.

Still no matter the curse or kiss of death that always accompanies academic branding, the text has a life of its own that disdains the passing vogues and trends of all forms of intellectual regimentation.

One summer evening a few years ago I happened to be on the street just round the corner from that house where Robert had once dwelt, when there came an enormous reverberating explosion. Within moments it seemed every fire engine and police car within miles was converging upon the scene. A congenial street mendicant of my acquaintance, understandably shocked and quite alarmed, exclaimed, "Must be Al-Qaeda!"

Peering round the corner, I could see the armada of emergency vehicles was stacking up directly in front of Robert's onetime residence.

Summoning the courage to ask a fireman what had happened, I was told it had been a case of premature (and obviously excessive) private Fourth of July celebrating.

But my thought was... it's Robert's ghost, still making waves.

Anonymous said...

Mutatis mutandis, indeed. What an amazing story. It's always moving, in one way or another, to re-view or revisit places that you knew in another context. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure that wanting to have that experience less was one reason I was very happy to move back to Pennsylvania, but to a town I'd never lived in. Before the move, I decided to show Jane the places where I'd grown up on Long Island. My grandparent's house had been torn down and combined with another property, but the indentation in the sidewalk where their driveway had been hadn't been filled in, as it really should have been, but I suppose neither the new owners nor the village wanted to pay for "unnecessary", almost invisible (except to someone with experience of the old place) work. Just what I needed -- another difficult, lingering memory.

TC said...

It's always sad going back, one way or another. I've never liked to do it, and in fact, now that the results are in, never did much do it.

If when one left behind forever places where one has dwelt, one knew it was for good, I suppose it would make leaving that much harder -- which is probably why we don't let it sink in until later.

But when we are gone, so is the memory of our experience, so that the the experience itself -- the "real reality" of it -- then disappears too.

But maybe, as they say, in the end "it's a wash"?