Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Posts Tagged ‘Robert Duncan

“It was an adventure…”

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Possibly the complex of circumstances which made the years 1950 to 1965 so decisive in the arts will not easily recur. No one can make it up, so to speak. But there were clearly years before, equally decisive, and there will no doubt be those now after. This clothesline is at best an invention of pseudohistory, and the arts do not intend to be history in this way, however much they use the traditions intimate to their practice. When [Robert] Duncan saw [Charles] Olson for the last time, in hospital a few days before his death, he said to him, “Important as history was to you, there are no followers—and as a matter of fact that isn’t what happened in poetry.” Olson grinned, and Duncan added, “It was an adventure…”

Robert Creeley, “On the Road”

Note: The ebook version of my group biography Astounding is currently on sale for $2.99. The price goes back up tomorrow, so if you’re interested in getting a copy, this would be a great time to grab it.

Written by nevalalee

December 24, 2018 at 7:30 am

Quote of the Day

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The minuet, the game of tennis, the heroic couplet, the concept of form as the imposing of rules and the establishing of regularities, the theories of civilization, race, and progress, the performances in sciences and arts to rationalize the universe, to secure balance and class—all these are a tribal magic against a real threat of upset and things not keeping their place.

Robert Duncan, A Selected Prose

Written by nevalalee

July 24, 2018 at 7:30 am

Quote of the Day

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Robert Duncan

Our engagement with knowing, with craft and lore, our demand for truth is not to reach a conclusion but to keep our exposure to what we do not know, to confront our wish and our need beyond habit and capability, beyond what we can take for granted, at the borderline, the light fingertip or thought-tip where impulse and novelty spring.

Robert Duncan, A Selected Prose

Written by nevalalee

August 11, 2016 at 7:30 am

The music of correspondences

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Denise Levertov

Reverence for life, if it is a necessary relationship to the world, must be so for all people, not only for poets. Yes; but it is the poet who has language in his care; the poet who more than others recognizes language as a form of life and a common resource to be cherished and served as we should serve and cherish earth and its waters, animal and vegetable life, and each other. The would-be poet who looks on language merely as something to be used, as the bad farmer or the rapacious industrialist looks on the soil or on rivers merely as things to be used, will not discover a deep poetry; he will only, according to the degree of his skill, construct a counterfeit more or less acceptable—a subpoetry, at best efficiently representative of his thought or feeling—a reference, not an incarnation. And he will be contributing, even if not in any immediately apparent way, to the erosion of language, just as the irresponsible, irreverent farmer and industrialist erode the land and pollute the rivers. All of our common resources, tangible or intangible, need to be given to, not exclusively taken from. They require the care that arises from intellectual love—from an understanding of their perfections.

Moreover, the poet’s love of language must, if language is to reward him with unlooked-for miracles, that is, with poetry, amount to a passion. The passion for things of the world and the passion for naming them must be in him indistinguishable. I think that Wordsworth’s intensity of feeling lay as much in his naming of the waterfall as in his physical apprehension of it, when he wrote:

…The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion…

The poet’s task is to hold in trust the knowledge that language, as Robert Duncan has declared, is not a set of counters to be manipulated, but a Power. And only in this knowledge does he arrive at music, at that quality of song within speech which is not the result of manipulations of euphonious parts but of an attention, at once to the organic relationships of experienced phenomena and to the latent harmony and counterpoint of language itself as it is identified with those phenomena. Writing poetry is a process of discovery, revealing inherent music, the music of correspondences, the music of inscape. It parallels what, in a person’s life, is called individuation: the evolution of consciousness toward wholeness, not an isolation of intellectual awareness but an awareness involving the whole self, a knowing (as man and woman ”know” one another), a touching, a “being in touch.”

Denise Levertov, “Origins of a Poem”

Written by nevalalee

June 26, 2016 at 7:30 am

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