Duncan, Robert 1919–1988
Duncan, Robert 1919–1988
(Robert Edward Duncan, Robert Symmes)
PERSONAL: Born Edward Howard Duncan, January 7, 1919, in Oakland, CA; died of a heart attack February 3, 1988, in San Francisco, CA; son of Edward Howard (a day laborer) and Marguerite (Wesley) Duncan; adopted by Edwin Joseph (an architect) and Minnehaha (Harris) Symmes; adopted name, Robert Edward Symmes; in 1941 he took the name Robert Duncan; companion of Jess Collins (a painter). Education: Attended University of California, Berkeley, 1936–38, 1948–50.
CAREER: Poet. Worked at various times as a dishwasher and typist. Organizer of poetry readings and workshops in San Francisco Bay area; Experimental Review, co-editor with Sanders Russell, publishing works of Henry Miller, Anaís Nin, Lawrence Durrell, Kenneth Patchen, William Everson, Aurora Bligh (Mary Fabilli), Thomas Merton, Robert Horan, and Jack Johnson, 1940–41; Berkeley Miscellany, editor, 1948–49; lived in Banyalbufar, Majorca, 1955–56; taught at Black Mountain College, Black Mountain, NC, spring and summer, 1956; assistant director of Poetry Center, San Francisco State College, under a Ford grant, 1956–57; associated with the Creative Writing Workshop, University of British Columbia, 1963; lecturer in Advanced Poetry Workshop, San Francisco State College, spring, 1965. Military service: U.S. Army, 1941; discharged on psychological grounds.
AWARDS, HONORS: Ford Foundation grant, 1956–57; Union League Civic and Arts Foundation Prize, Poetry magazine, 1957; Harriet Monroe Prize, Poetry, 1961; Guggenheim fellowship, 1963–64; Levinson Prize, Poetry, 1964; Miles Poetry Prize, 1964; National Endowment for the Arts grants, 1965, 1966–67; Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize, Poetry, 1967; nomination for National Book Critics Circle Award, 1984, for Ground Work: Before the War; first recipient of National Poetry Award, 1985, in recognition of lifetime contribution to the art of poetry; Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award, 1986, for Ground Work: Before the War; Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Literary Excellence from Bay Area Book Reviewers Association, 1986.
Heavenly City, Earthly City (poems), drawings by Mary Fabilli, Bern Porter, 1947.
Medieval Scenes (poems), Centaur Press (San Francisco), 1950, with preface by Duncan and afterword by Robert Bertholf, Kent State University Libraries, 1978.
Poems, 1948–49, Berkeley Miscellany, 1950.
The Song of the Border-Guard (poem), Black Mountain Graphics Workshop, 1951.
The Artist's View, [San Francisco], 1952.
Fragments of a Disordered Devotion, privately printed, 1952, reprinted, Gnomon Press, 1966.
Caesar's Gate: Poems, 1949–55, Divers Press (Majorca, Spain), 1956, 2nd edition, Sand Dollar, 1972.
Letters (poems), drawings by Duncan, J. Williams (Highlands, NC), 1958.
Faust Foutu: Act One of Four Acts, A Comic Mask, 1952–1954 (first produced in San Francisco, CA, 1955; produced in New York, 1959–60), decorations by Duncan, Part I, White Rabbit Press (San Francisco, CA), 1958, reprinted, Station Hill Press, 1985, entire play published as Faust Foutu, Enkidu sur Rogate (Stinson Beach, CA), 1959.
Selected Poems, City Lights Books (San Francisco, CA), 1959.
The Opening of the Field (poems), Grove (New York, NY), 1960, revised edition, New Directions (New York, NY), 1973.
(Author of preface) Jess [Collins], O!, Hawk's Well Press (New York, NY), 1960.
(Author of preface) Jonathan Williams, Elegies and Celebrations, Jargon, 1962.
Roots and Branches (poems), Scribner (New York, NY), 1964.
Writing Writing: A Composition Book of Madison 1953, Stein Imitations, Sumbooks, 1964.
As Testimony: The Poem and the Scene (essay), White Rabbit Press (San Francisco, CA), 1964.
Wine, Auerhahn Press/Oyez (Berkeley, CA), 1964.
Uprising (poems), Oyez (Berkeley, CA), 1965.
The Sweetness and Greatness of Dante's "Divine Comedy," 1263–1965 (lecture), Open Space (San Francisco, CA), 1965.
Medea at Kolchis; [or] The Maiden Head (play; first produced at Black Mountain College, 1956), Oyez (Berkeley, CA), 1965.
Adam's Way: A Play on Theosophical Themes, [San Francisco, CA], 1966.
Of the War: Passages 22-27, Oyez (Berkeley, CA), 1966.
A Book of Resemblances: Poems, 1950–53, drawings by Jess Collins, Henry Wenning, 1966.
Six Prose Pieces, Perishable Press (Rochester, MI), 1966.
The Years as Catches: First Poems, 1939–46, Oyez (Berkeley, CA), 1966.
Boob (poem), privately printed, 1966.
Audit/Robert Duncan (also published as special issue of Audit/Poetry, Volume 4, number 3), Audit/Poetry, 1967.
Christmas Present, Christmas Presence! (poem), Black Sparrow Press, 1967.
The Cat and the Blackbird (children's storybook), illustrations by Jess Collins, White Rabbit Press (San Francisco, CA), 1967.
Epilogos, Black Sparrow Press (San Francisco, CA), 1967.
My Mother Would Be a Falconress (poem), Oyez (Berkeley, CA), 1968.
Names of People (poems), illustrations by Jess Collins, Black Sparrow Press (San Francisco, CA), 1968.
The Truth and Life of Myth: An Essay in Essential Autobiography, House of Books (New York, NY), 1968.
Bending the Bow (poems), New Directions (New York, NY), 1968.
The First Decade: Selected Poems, 1940–50, Fulcrum Press (London, England), 1968.
Derivations: Selected Poems, 1950–1956, Fulcrum Press (London, England), 1968.
Achilles Song, Phoenix (London, England), 1969.
Playtime, Pseudo Stein; 1942, A Story [and] A Fairy Play: From the Laboratory Records Notebook of 1953, A Tribute to Mother Carey's Chickens, Poet's Press, c.1969.
Notes on Grossinger's "Solar Journal: Oecological Sections," Black Sparrow Press (San Francisco, CA), 1970.
A Selection of Sixty-five Drawings from One Drawing Book, 1952–1956, Black Sparrow Press (San Francisco, CA), 1970.
Tribunals: Passages 31-35, Black Sparrow Press (San Francisco, CA), 1970.
Poetic Disturbances, Maya (San Francisco, CA), 1970.
Bring It up from the Dark, Cody's Books, 1970.
A Prospectus for the Prepublication of Ground Work to Certain Friends of the Poet, privately printed, 1971.
An Interview with George Bowering and Robert Hogg, April 19, 1969, Coach House Press, 1971.
Structure of Rime XXVIII; In Memoriam Wallace Stevens, University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT), 1972.
Poems from the Margins of Thom Gunn's Moly, privately printed, 1972.
A Seventeenth-Century Suite, privately printed, 1973.
Dante, Institute of Further Studies (New York, NY), 1974.
(With Jack Spicer) An Ode and Arcadia, Ark Press, 1974.
The Venice Poem, Poet's Mimeo (Burlington, VT), 1978.
Veil, Turbine, Cord & Bird: Sets of Syllables, Sets of Words, Sets of Lines, Sets of Poems, Addressing …, J. Davies, c. 1979.
Fictive Certainties: Five Essays in Essential Autobiography, New Directions (New York, NY), 1979.
Towards an Open Universe, Aquila Publishing, 1982.
Ground Work: Before the War, New Directions (New York, NY), 1984.
A Paris Visit, Grenfell Press, 1985.
The Regulators, Station Hill Press, 1985.
Ground Work II: In the Dark, New Directions (New York, NY), 1987.
Selected Poems, edited by Robert J. Bertholf, New Directions (New York, NY), 1993.
Selected Prose, New Directions (New York, NY), 1995.
Faust Foutu: A Comic Masque, Barrytown (Barrytown, NY), 2001.
The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2004.
Contributor to books, including Howard Nemerov, editor, Poets on Poetry, Basic Books, 1966; Edwin Haviland Miller, editor, The Artistic Legacy of Walt Whitman: A Tribute to Gay Wilson Allen, New York University Press, 1970; Ian Young, editor, The Male Muse: Gay Poetry Anthology, Crossing Press, 1973. Also author of The H.D. Book, a long work in several parts, published in literary journals. Represented in anthologies, including Faber Book of Modern American Verse, edited by W.H. Auden, 1956, The New American Poetry: 1945–1960, edited by Donald M. Allen, 1960, and many others. Contributor of poems, under name Robert Symmes, to Phoenix and Ritual. Contributor to Atlantic, Poetry, Nation, Quarterly Review of Literature, and other periodicals.
SIDELIGHTS: Though the name of American poet Robert Duncan is not well known outside the literary world, within that world Duncan has become associated with a number of superlatives. Kenneth Rexroth, writing in Assays, named Duncan "one of the most accomplished, one of the most influential" of U.S. postwar poets. An important participant in the Black Mountain school of poetry led by Charles Olson, Duncan became "probably the figure with the richest natural genius" from among that group, suggested M.L. Rosenthal in The New Poets: American and British Poetry since World War II. Duncan was also, in Rosenthal's opinion, perhaps "the most intellectual of our poets from the point of view of the effect upon him of a wide, critically intelligent reading." In addition, "few poets have written more articulately and self-consciously about their own intentions and understanding of poetry," reported Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor George F. Butterick. The homosexual companion of San Francisco painter Jess Collins, Duncan was also one of the first poets to call for a new social consciousness that would accept homosexuality. Largely responsible for the establishment of San Francisco as the spiritual hub of contemporary American poetry, Duncan left, at his death, a significant contribution to American literature through the body of his writings and through the many poets who felt the influence of the theory behind his poetics.
Duncan's poetics were formed by the events of his early life. His mother died while giving him birth, leaving his father, a day laborer, to care for him. Six months later, he was adopted by a couple who selected him on the basis of his astrological configuration. Their reverence for the occult in general, and especially their belief in reincarnation and other concepts from Hinduism, was a lasting and important influence on Duncan's poetic vision. Encouraged by a high school English teacher who saw poetry as an essential means of sustaining spiritual vigor, Duncan chose his vocation while still in his teens. Though his parents wanted him to have a European education in medieval history, he remained in San Francisco, living as a recluse so as not to embarrass the academic figure who was his lover. He continued reading and writing, eventually became the student of Middle Ages historian Ernst Kantorowicz, and throughout his life "maintained a profound interest in occult matters as parallel to and informing his own theories of poetry," Michael Davidson reported in another Dictionary of Literary Biography essay.
Minnesota Review contributor Victor Contoski suggested that Duncan's essays in The Truth and Life of Myth comprise "the best single introduction to his poetry," which, for Duncan, was closely related to mysticism. Duncan, noted a London Times reporter, was primarily "concerned with poetry as what he called 'manipulative magic' and a 'magic ritual', and with the nature of what he thought of (in a markedly Freudian manner) as 'human bisexuality.'" Reported James Dickey in Babel to Byzantium, "Duncan has the old or pagan sense of the poem as a divine form of speech which works intimately with the animism of nature, of the renewals that believed-in ceremonials can be, and of the sacramental in experience; for these reasons and others that neither he nor I could give, there is at least part of a very good poet in him." While this emphasis on myth was an obstacle to some reviewers, critic Laurence Liebermann, writing in a Poetry review, said of Duncan's The Opening of the Field that it "announced the birth of a surpassingly individual talent: a poet of mysticism, visionary terror, and high romance."
Duncan wrote some of the poems in The Opening of the Field in 1956, while he taught at Olson's Black Mountain College. Olson promoted projective verse, a poetry shaped by the rhythms of the poet's breath, which he defined as an extension of nature. These poems found their own "open" forms unlike the prescribed measures and line lengths that ruled traditional poetry. "Following Olson's death, Duncan became the leading spokesman for the poetry of open form in America," noted Butterick. Furthermore, explained some critics, Duncan fulfilled Olson's dictum more fully than Olson had done; whereas Olson projected the poem into a space bounded by the poet's natural breath, Duncan carried this process farther, defining the poem as an open field without boundaries of any kind.
Duncan was a syncretist possessing "a bridge-building, time-binding, and space-binding imagination" in which "the Many are One, where all faces have their Original Being, and where Eternal Love encompasses all reality, both Good and Evil," wrote Stephen Stepanchev in American Poetry since 1945. A Duncan poem, accordingly, is like a collage, "a compositional field where anything might enter: a prose quotation, a catalogue, a recipe, a dramatic monologue, a diatribe," Davidson explained. The poems draw together into one dense fabric materials from sources as diverse as works on ancient magic, Christian mysticism, and the Oxford English Dictionary. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Jim Harrison called the structure of a typical Duncan poem multi-layered and four-dimensional—"moving through time with the poet"—and compared it to "a block of weaving…. Bending the Bow is for the strenuous, the hyperactive reader of poetry; to read Duncan with any immediate grace would require Norman O. Brown's knowledge of the arcane mixed with Ezra Pound's grasp of poetics…. [Duncan] is personal rather than confessional and writes within a continuity of tradition. It simply helps to be familiar with Dante, [William] Blake, mythography, medieval history, H.D., William Carlos Williams, Pound, [Gertrude] Stein, [Louis] Zukofsky, Olson, [Robert] Creeley and [Denise] Levertov."
Process, not conclusion, drew Duncan's focus. In some pages from a notebook published in Donald Allen's The New American Poetry: 1945–1960, Duncan stated: "A longing grows to return to the open composition in which the accidents and imperfections of speech might awake intimations of human being…. There is a natural mystery in poetry. We do not understand all that we render up to understanding…. I study what I write as I study out any mystery. A poem, mine or another's, is an occult document, a body awaiting vivisection, analysis, X-rays." The poet, he explained, is an explorer more than a creator. "I work at language as a spring of water works at the rock, to find a course, and so, blindly. In this I am not a maker of things, but, if maker, a maker of a way. For the way is itself." As in the art of marquetry—the making of patterns by enhancing natural wood grains—the poet is aware of the possible meanings of words and merely brings them out. "I'm not putting a grain into the wood," he once told Jack R. Cohn and Thomas J. O'Donnell in a Contemporary Literature interview. Later, he added, "I acquire language lore. What I am supplying is something like … grammar of design, or of the possibilities of design." The goal of composition, Duncan also wrote in a Caterpillar essay, was "not to reach conclusion but to keep our exposure to what we do not know."
Each Duncan poem builds itself by a series of organic digressions, in the manner of outward-reaching roots or branches. The order in his poems is not an imposed order, but a reflection of correspondences already present in nature or language. At times, the correspondences inherent in language become insistent so that the poet following an organic method of writing is in danger of merely recording what the language itself dictates as possible. Duncan was highly susceptible to impressions from other literature—perhaps too susceptible, he once noted in a Boundary 2 interview. In several interviews, for example, Duncan referred to specific early poems as "received" from outside agents, "poems in which angels were present." After reading Rainer Marie Rilke's Duino Elegies, he came to dread what he called "any angelic invasion"—an insistent voice other than his own. One poem that expresses this preference is "Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow," the first poem in The Opening of the Field. As Duncan once explained to Cohn and O'Donnell, "When I wrote that opening line … I recognized that this was my permission, and that this meadow, which I had not yet identified, would be the thematic center of the book. In other words, what's back of that opening proposition I understood immediately: twice you wanted to compel me to have a book that would have angels at the center, but now I am permitted, often you have permitted me, to return to a mere meadow." His originality consisted of his demand that the inner life of the poem be his own, not received from another spiritual or literary source. "Whether he is working from Dante's prose Renaissance meditative poems, or Thom Gunn's Moly sequence, he works from them and to what they leave open or unexamined," explained Thomas Parkinson in Poets, Poems, Movements.
At the same time, Duncan recognized his works as derivative literature for several reasons. "I am a traditionalist, a seeker after origins, not an original," he was noted as saying by Herbert Mitgang in the New York Times. Often Duncan claimed Walt Whitman as his literary father, seeking in poetry to celebrate the experiences common to all men and women of all times, trying to manifest in words the underlying unity of all things that was essential to his beliefs. Complete originality is not possible in such a cosmos. In fact, the use of language—an inherited system of given sounds and symbols—is itself an imitative activity that limits originality. Even so, the poet, he believed, must be as free as possible "from preconceived ideas, whether structural or thematic, and must allow the internal forces of the composition at hand to determine the final form," Robert C. Weber observed in Concerning Poetry. This position, Duncan recognized, was bequeathed to him by Whitman and Pound, who viewed a poet's life work as one continuous "unfinished book," Parkinson noted.
Duncan's works express social and political ideals conversant with his poetics. The ideal environment for the poet, Duncan believed, would be a society without boundaries. In poetry he found a vocation where there was no prohibition against homosexuality, James F. Mersmann observed in Out of the Viet Nam Vortex: A Study of Poets and Poetry against the War. Duncan's theory, Mersmann added, "not only claims that the poem unfolds according to its own law, but envisions a compatible cosmology in which it may do so. It is not the poem alone that must grow as freely as the plant: the life of the person, the state, the species, and indeed the cosmos itself follows a parallel law. All must follow their own imperatives and volition; all activity must be free of external coercion."
Political commitment is the subject of Bending the Bow. Duncan was "one of the most astute observers of the malpractices of Western governments, power blocs, etc., who [was] always on the human side, the right side of such issues as war, poverty, civil rights, etc., and who therefore [did] not take an easy way out," though his general avoidance of closure sometimes weakened his case, Harriet Zinnes remarked in a Prairie Schooner review. Highly critical of the Vietnam War, pollution, nuclear armament, and the exploitation of native peoples and natural resources, the poems in Bending the Bow include "Up-Rising," "one of the major political poems of our time," according to Davidson. For Duncan, the essayist continued, "the American attempt to secure one meaning of democracy by eliminating all others represents a massive violation of that vision of polis desired by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and projected through Walt Whitman." Though such poems voice an "essentially negative vision," noted Weber, "it is a critical part of Duncan's search for the nature of man since he cannot ignore what man has become…. These themes emerge from within the body of the tradition of the poetry he seeks to find; politics are a part of the broad field of the poet's life, and social considerations emerge from his concern with the nature of man."
The difference between organic and imposed order, for Duncan, explained Mersmann, "is the difference between life and death. The dead matter of the universe science dissects into tidy stacktables; the living significance of creation, the angel with which the poet wrestles, is a volatile whirlwind of sharp knees and elbows thrashing with a grace beyond our knowledge of grace." The only law in a dancing universe, the critic added, is its inherent "love of the dance itself." Anything opposed to this dance of freedom is seen as evil. Both Duncan's poetics and his lifestyle stemmed from "a truly different kind of consciousness, either a very old or a very new spirituality," Mersmann concluded.
Duncan's method of composition based on this spirituality results in several difficulties for even the sympathetic reader. His "drifting conglomerations" are an exercise of poetic freedom that sometimes inspires, "but more often I feel suicidal about it," Dickey commented. Davidson noted that Duncan "never courted a readership but rather a special kind of reader, who grants the poet a wide latitude in developing his art, even in its most extreme moments…. The number of such readers is necessarily limited, but fierce in devotion." A large number of Duncan's poems are most accessible to an inner circle familiar with the personal and literary contexts of his writings, observed a Times Literary Supplement reviewer, who pointed out that "not everyone can live in California."
Duncan's method of composition has presented some difficulties for critics, as well. The eclectic nature of Bending the Bow, for example, remarked Hayden Carruth in the Hudson Review, excludes it from "questions of quality. I cannot imagine my friends, the poets who gather to dismember each other, asking of this book, as they would of the others in this review, those narrower in scope, smaller in style, 'Is it good or is it bad?' The question doesn't arise; not because Duncan is a good poet, though he is superb, but because the comprehensiveness of his imagination is too great for us."
After the publication of Bending the Bow in 1968, Duncan announced he would not publish a major collection for another fifteen years. During this hiatus he hoped to produce process-oriented poems instead of the "over-composed" poems he wrote when he thought in terms of writing a book. In effect, this silence kept him from receiving the widespread critical attention or recognition he might otherwise have enjoyed. However, Duncan had a small but highly appreciative audience among writers who shared his concerns. Distraught when Ground Work: Before the War, the evidence of nearly twenty years of significant work, did not win the attention they thought it deserved from the publishing establishment, these poets founded the National Poetry Award and honored Duncan by making him the first recipient of the award in 1985. The award, described in a Sagetrieb article, was "a positive action affirming the admiration of the poetic community for the dedication and accomplishment of a grand poet."
Duncan concluded the project he began with Ground Work: Before the War with Ground Work II: In the Dark, which was published shortly before his death. Leonard Schwartz noted in the American Book Review that while not as groundbreaking in technique as the first, the poems in In the Dark are "much more surer and more complete than those in I … [which] is … an exploration of words to find their fullest senses." Schwartz concluded, "II is the fruit of that exploration, finished works brought back and thereby bringing to term a specific condition of consciousness." Thom Gunn, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, found that Duncan "trusts his spontaneity so completely that he encourages it to trip up his conscious intentions." Gunn noted that "It is this current that accounts for the most exciting, and the most exasperating of Duncan's writing."
Selected Poems, published posthumously in 1993, gathers together Duncan's writings from throughout his career, resulting in a comprehensive review of the poet's innovative technical and spiritual poetics. In comparing Duncan to other Black Mountain poets, Mark Ford in the London Review of Books remarked that "Duncan's work … exhibits a far more nuanced awareness of its own relationship to the traditions of poetry that it aims to modify." A Publishers Weekly reviewer stated that even readers familiar with the author's poetry will "become more sensitized to his … imagery and consistency" after reviewing this collection. Dachine Ranier, contributor to Agenda, called the collection "a lovely offering of the work of an American poet, unjustly neglected for decades."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Allen, Donald M., The New American Poetry, 1945–1960, Grove (New York, NY), 1960.
Allen, Donald M., The Poetics of the New American Poetry, Grove (New York, NY), 1973.
Bertholf, Robert J., and Ian W. Reid, editors, Robert Duncan: Scales of the Marvelous, New Directions (New York, NY), 1979.
Charters, Samuel, Some Poems/Poets: Studies in American Underground Poetry since 1945, Oyez (Berkeley, CA), 1971.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 1, 1973, Volume 2, 1974, Volume 4, 1975, Volume 7, 1977, Volume 15, 1980, Volume 41, 1987, Volume 55, 1989.
Dickey, James, Babel to Byzantium, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1968.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 5: American Poets since World War II, 1980, Volume 16: The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America, 1983.
Faas, Ekbert, editor, Towards a New American Poetics: Essays and Interviews, Black Sparrow Press (San Francisco, CA), 1978.
Fass, Ekbert, Young Robert Duncan: Portrait of the Homosexual in Society, Black Sparrow Press (San Francisco, CA), 1983.
Fauchereau, Serge, Lecture de la poesie americaine, Editions de Minuit (Paris, France), 1969.
Foster, Edward Halsey, Understanding the Black Mountain Poets, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 1995.
Mersmann, James F., Out of the Viet Nam Vortex: A Study of Poets and Poetry against the War, University Press of Kansas, 1974.
Pearce, Roy Harvey, Historicism once More: Problems and Occasions for the American Scholar, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1969.
Rexroth, Kenneth, Assays, New Directions (New York, NY), 1961.
Rexroth, Kenneth, American Poetry in the Twentieth Century, Herder and Herder, 1971.
Rosenthal, M. L., The New Poets: American and British Poetry since World War II, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1967.
Stepanchev, Stephen, American Poetry since 1945, Harper (New York, NY), 1965.
Tallman, Warren, Godawful Streets of Man, Coach House Press, 1976.
Agenda, autumn-winter, 1970; autumn, 1994, p. 308.
American Book Review, May, 1989, p. 12.
Audit/Poetry (special Duncan issue), number 3, 1967.
Boundary 2, winter, 1980.
Caterpillar, numbers 8-9, 1969.
Centennial Review, fall, 1975; fall, 1985.
Concerning Poetry, spring, 1978.
Contemporary Literature, spring, 1975.
History Today, January, 1994, p. 56.
Hudson Review, summer, 1968.
Library Journal, March 1, 1993, p. 81; August, 1994, p. 132; September 15, 2003, Scott Hightower, review of The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov, p. 58.
London Review of Books, March 10, 1994, p. 20.
Maps (special Duncan issue), 1974.
Minnesota Review, fall, 1972.
New York Review of Books, June 3, 1965; May 7, 1970.
New York Times Book Review, December 20, 1964; September 29, 1968; August 4, 1985.
Poetry, March, 1968; April, 1969; May, 1970.
Publishers Weekly, February 15, 1993, p. 232; May 16, 1994, p. 63.
Sagetrieb, winter, 1983; (special Duncan issue) fall-winter, 1985.
Saturday Review, February 13, 1965; August 24, 1968.
School Library Journal, August, 1994, p. 132.
Southern Review, spring, 1969; winter, 1985.
Sulfur 12, Volume 4, number 2, 1985.
Times Literary Supplement, May 1, 1969; July 23, 1971; November 25, 1988, p. 1294.
Unmuzzled Ox, February, 1977.
Voice Literary Supplement, November, 1984.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1988, p. 659; spring, 1994, p. 373.
Los Angeles Times, February 4, 1988.
New York Times, February 2, 1988.
Times (London, England), February 11, 1988.