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Speaking of his own work, Robert Duncan (1919-1987) said: "I make poetry as other men make war or make love or make states or revolutions: to exercise my faculties at large." The Opening of the Field, his first major collection, was originally brought out in 1960; in it, Duncan introduced his "Structures of Rime," the open series he continued in his subsequent collections, Speaking of his own work, Robert Duncan (1919-1987) said: "I make poetry as other men make war or make love or make states or revolutions: to exercise my faculties at large." The Opening of the Field, his first major collection, was originally brought out in 1960; in it, Duncan introduced his "Structures of Rime," the open series he continued in his subsequent collections, Roots and Branches (1964) and Bending the Bow (1968), Ground Work: Before the War (1983), and Ground Work II: In the Dark (1987). "Structures of Rime" affirms his belief in the universal integrity of the poem itself in the living process of language. Thus in "The Structure of Rime I" he declares: "O Lasting Sentence, / sentence after sentence I make in your image. In the feet that measure the dance of my pages I hear cosmic intoxications of the man I will be."


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Speaking of his own work, Robert Duncan (1919-1987) said: "I make poetry as other men make war or make love or make states or revolutions: to exercise my faculties at large." The Opening of the Field, his first major collection, was originally brought out in 1960; in it, Duncan introduced his "Structures of Rime," the open series he continued in his subsequent collections, Speaking of his own work, Robert Duncan (1919-1987) said: "I make poetry as other men make war or make love or make states or revolutions: to exercise my faculties at large." The Opening of the Field, his first major collection, was originally brought out in 1960; in it, Duncan introduced his "Structures of Rime," the open series he continued in his subsequent collections, Roots and Branches (1964) and Bending the Bow (1968), Ground Work: Before the War (1983), and Ground Work II: In the Dark (1987). "Structures of Rime" affirms his belief in the universal integrity of the poem itself in the living process of language. Thus in "The Structure of Rime I" he declares: "O Lasting Sentence, / sentence after sentence I make in your image. In the feet that measure the dance of my pages I hear cosmic intoxications of the man I will be."

30 review for The Opening of the Field: Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    Dear Opening of the Field, you are a prayerful and extensive book. You are a fucking book. You get the book the opening the measure. You hammer it to the wall end rhymed allude to. You fly out. Big city of time on the grass, tangled in the feet of the grass. How inspiring to get the drift, reading on Saturday on the ships of July, the scissors of the water and the pouring out of time. Into this book, R. Duncan, yours dawn.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Mousseau

    as if it were a scene made-up by the mind, that is not mine, but is a made place, that is mine, it is so near to the heart, an eternal pasture folded in all thought so that there is a hall therein that is a made place, created by light wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall. Wherefrom fall all architecture I am I say are likenesses of the First Beloved whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady. She it is Queen Under The Hill whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words that is a field folded. It is as if it were a scene made-up by the mind, that is not mine, but is a made place, that is mine, it is so near to the heart, an eternal pasture folded in all thought so that there is a hall therein that is a made place, created by light wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall. Wherefrom fall all architecture I am I say are likenesses of the First Beloved whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady. She it is Queen Under The Hill whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words that is a field folded. It is only a dream of the grass blowing east against the source of the sun in an hour before the sun's going down whose secret we see in a children's game of rung a round of roses told. Often I am permitted to return to meadow as if it were a given property of the mind that certain bounds hold against chaos, that is a place of first permission, everlasting omen of what is. - Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow, pg. 7 * * * remembering powers of love and of poetry, the Berkeley we believed grove of Arcady - that there might be potencies in common things, "princely manipulations of the real" the hard electric lights, filaments exposed we loved by or studied by, romantic, fused between glare and seraphic glow, old lamps of wisdom old lamps of suffering but that's not the way I saw Crossd, the sinister eye sees the near as clear fact, the far blurs; the right eye fuses all that is immediate to sight. There first I knew the companions name themselves and move in time of naming upward toward outward forms of desire and enlightenment, but intoxicated, only by longing belonging to that first company of names stars that in heaven call attention to a tension in design, compel as the letters by which we spell words compel magic refinements; and sought from tree and sun, from night and sea, old powers - Dionysus in wrath, Apollo in rapture, Orpheus in song, and Eros secretly four that Christ-crossd in one Nature Plato names the First Beloved that now I see in all certain dear contributor to my being had given me house, ghost, image and colour, in whom I dwell past Arcady. For tho death is sweet and veriest imitator of ecstasy and there be a Great Lover, Salvator Mundi, whose kingdom hangs over me; tho the lamps strung among shadowy foliage are there; tho all earlier ravishings, rapture, happened, and sing melodies, moving thus when I touch them; such sad lines they may have been that now thou hast lifted to gladness. Of all fearless happiness from which reaches my life I sing - the years radiating toward the so-calld first days, toward the so-calld last days, inadequate boundaries of the heart you hold to. - A Poem Slow Beginning, pg. 14-15 * * * At the dance of the Hallows I will tell my love. There where the threshers move, the lewdness of women ripening the wheat, the men in outer room joking, how the Holy moves over them! The Earth shakes. Kore! Kore! (for I was thinking of her - She who shakes the stores of ancestral grain) The Earth does not shake again. Troubled, the heart recovers. But is moved. At the dance of the Hallows I will tell my love. It moves to fill with song, with wine, the trouble, the quiet, the cup, that follows the divine Threshers. Kore! O visage as of sun-glare, thunderous awakener, light treader! will you not wake us again? shake the earth under us? At the dance of the Hallows I will tell my love. It is my song of the whole year I sing rendering lovely the fall of Her feet and there where Her feet spring, even at the dance of the Hallows I will tell my love, the melody from whose abundance leaps the slow rounds of winter, pounds summer's heat. How the Holy moves over them I will tell my love that lies a grain among the living grain. Therefore I join them, dancing, dancing . . . a thresher among the Threshers. Kore! Kore! (for I was thinking of her when the quake came, of radiant desire underground) Thou hast my heart, a grain, in the Earth's stone. At the dance of the Hallows I praise thee therefore, Earth-mover, tender Thresher, Queen of our dance-floor! - Evocation, pg. 40 * * * By stress and syllable by change-rhyme and contour we let the long line pace even awkward to its period. The short line we refine and keep for candour. This we remember: ember of the fire catches the word if we but hear ("We must understand what is happening") and springs to desire, a bird-right light sound. This is the Yule-log that warms December. This is new grass that springs from the ground. - Keeping the Rhyme, pg. 51 * * * Yes, as a look springs to its face, as earth, light and grass illustrate the meadow, there's a natural grace I hope for that unknowing a poem may show having its life in a field of rapture, a book made full of days (pages), a ready effort full of all places then that may be because I have loved them part-song of companions and of those unknown, alike in soul. For them may there be a special green and flowering of life in these words - eager to be read, taken, yielded to. Yes, though I contrive the mind's measure and wrest doctrine from old lore, it's to win particular hearts, to stir an abiding affection for this music, as if a host of readers will join the Beloved ready to dance with me, it's for the unthinking ready thing I'm writing these poems. - Yes, As a Look Springs to Its Face, pg. 61 * * * There are memories everywhere then. Rememberd, we go out, as in the first poem, upon the sea at night - to the drifting. Of my first lover there is a boat drifting. The oars have been cast down into the shell. As if this were no water but a wall, there is a repeated knock as of hollow against hollow, wood against wood. Stopping to knock on wood against the traps of the night-fishers, I hear before my knocking the sound of a knock drifting. It goes without will thru the perilous sound, a white sad wanderer where I no longer am. It taps at the posts of the deserted wharf. Now from the last years of my life I hear forerunners of a branch creaking. All night a boat swings as if to sink. Weight returning to weight in the cold water. A hotel room returns from Wilmington into morning. A boat sets out without boatmen into twenty years of snow returning. - The Structure of Rime, pg. 73 * * * As I came needing wonder as the new shoots need water to the letter A that sounds its mystery in wave and in waine, trembling I bent as if there were a weight in words like that old man bends under his age towards Death - But it is the sun that sounds Day from the first brink, it is the sea that in its dazzling holds my eye. How under the low roof of desolate gray a language not of words lies waiting! There's depth, weight, force at the horizon that levels all images. Rabbi Aaron of Bagdad meditating upon the Word and the letter Yod and He came upon the Name of God and achieved a pure rapture in which a creature of his ecstasy that was once dumb clay, the Golem, danced and sang and had being. Reading of this devout jew I thought there may be such power in a certain passage of a poem that eternal joy may leap therefrom. But it was for a clearing of the sky, for a blue radiance, my thought cried Sublime Turner who dying said to Ruskin, The Sun is God, my dear, knew the actual language is written in rainbows. - The Natural Doctrine, pg. 81

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mat

    This was my very first experience reading Duncan and I was not disappointed. Overall, he is a very talented poet, I can tell, with a great command of rhythm and poetic momentum which builds and builds within each line and cadence. These poems sound great read aloud too, like any good poetry. I was not a huge fan of his rhyming poetry in this collection (some of it sounded a bit corny and obsolete) but the imagery and organic connections between human language and earth, where our 'music' comes fro This was my very first experience reading Duncan and I was not disappointed. Overall, he is a very talented poet, I can tell, with a great command of rhythm and poetic momentum which builds and builds within each line and cadence. These poems sound great read aloud too, like any good poetry. I was not a huge fan of his rhyming poetry in this collection (some of it sounded a bit corny and obsolete) but the imagery and organic connections between human language and earth, where our 'music' comes from, are so resonant that they overweigh any shortcomings within. You can strongly feel the mark (inspiration?) of Dante and Chaucer whose canonic influence blow strong thru these poems. Duncan stands out from his contemporaries; the beats, the San Francisco Renaissance poets and his fellow Black Mountain poets, in that his poems exude an unmistakeable strain of classical lyricism, which is not to be gainsaid or mocked or undervalued against contemporary poetic style. The only other poet I can think of around Duncan's time who also has such a strong classical feel within his poetry is Gregory Corso who I think would have dug Duncan's work very much. (Corso of course combines classical styles with surrealistic imagery though...) I look forward to reading Creeley and Olson and comparing some of their work against Duncan's. I hope to read Roots and Branches sometime in the near future. Thanks to my lovely wife for purchasing this as a Xmas gift.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

    A truly seminal book by a truly great and too often neglected American poet, brought up in my birth-town, Oakland, California. So there IS a there there... "Often I am permitted to return to a meadow" is the prologue poem par excellence that is also a credo and poetics of inspiration and the unseen aspect of our soul-work. The book contains many of Duncan's masterworks. The reader works with him through the writing of his poems, and enters luxuriant worlds and passes through them into this one. A truly seminal book by a truly great and too often neglected American poet, brought up in my birth-town, Oakland, California. So there IS a there there... "Often I am permitted to return to a meadow" is the prologue poem par excellence that is also a credo and poetics of inspiration and the unseen aspect of our soul-work. The book contains many of Duncan's masterworks. The reader works with him through the writing of his poems, and enters luxuriant worlds and passes through them into this one. The "everlasting omen of what is." I'm grateful for the audio PoemTalk 27, hosted by Kelly Writer's House Al Filries, accessible through the Poetry Foundation, where Bernstein, Robinson and Rothenberg discuss the poem and the book, and returned me to my shelf to take it out again and read. Duncan periodically floats through, dispensing his unique wisdom.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mitch

    The classic poem, "Often I Am Permitted to Return.." is here, along with dozens of other rapt raps by this, most flamboyant of poets. I love this book, and learned an enormous amount about myth & how to include things in the poem from it. Duncan is in conversation with all of his favorite poets living & dead in these poems, from Dante to Pound to HD to Rimbaud & back, as if such conversations were the most ordinary things in his life, and I suspect they were. Recent complaints that he was preten The classic poem, "Often I Am Permitted to Return.." is here, along with dozens of other rapt raps by this, most flamboyant of poets. I love this book, and learned an enormous amount about myth & how to include things in the poem from it. Duncan is in conversation with all of his favorite poets living & dead in these poems, from Dante to Pound to HD to Rimbaud & back, as if such conversations were the most ordinary things in his life, and I suspect they were. Recent complaints that he was pretentious (absolutely was), or melodramatic (always!) and precious (often) don't marr the excellence or the sheer brilliance of these poems. Duncan is capable of great profundity when he is on, and he is always on in this book. My copy is nearly in tatters. Crucial.

  6. 4 out of 5

    John

    required reading from our last real Blakean-theosophist mystic poet. Duncan doesn't always succeed, for his vision is wild and uncontained. If there's such a thing as the opposite of backyard-flowerpot-chirping-chickadee-poetry, this is it. The poetry is far from random or messy though; Duncan's knows what he's doing, but he's just tuned into an older kind of song and rhthyms more archaic than we accustomed to. Was immersed in reading the immense and lovely correspondence btwn RD and Denise Leve required reading from our last real Blakean-theosophist mystic poet. Duncan doesn't always succeed, for his vision is wild and uncontained. If there's such a thing as the opposite of backyard-flowerpot-chirping-chickadee-poetry, this is it. The poetry is far from random or messy though; Duncan's knows what he's doing, but he's just tuned into an older kind of song and rhthyms more archaic than we accustomed to. Was immersed in reading the immense and lovely correspondence btwn RD and Denise Levertov before the NYPL had to take the book away from me. The letters and friendship is a model of cooperative, intense learning and searching, and deep sympathy and care for the other's vision and creations.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Logan

    I'll never get over this one. FIVE STARS!!! I'll never get over this one. FIVE STARS!!!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Babbitt

    If Walt Whitman's second cousin had dropped acid on a day when he wasn't particularly inspired, I think he would have written something as disjointed, pseudo-profound, and needlessly obscure as this. I trudged through The Opening of the Field as best I could, trying to tell myself it was worth the challenge, but after several pages of fumbling, vague, and frankly linguistically adolescent phrases like "flamey threads of firstness go out from your touch" (which I only recall because it's on the v If Walt Whitman's second cousin had dropped acid on a day when he wasn't particularly inspired, I think he would have written something as disjointed, pseudo-profound, and needlessly obscure as this. I trudged through The Opening of the Field as best I could, trying to tell myself it was worth the challenge, but after several pages of fumbling, vague, and frankly linguistically adolescent phrases like "flamey threads of firstness go out from your touch" (which I only recall because it's on the very last page, but the book is full of them) sprinkled with pointless archaisms, I lost interest. Reading poetry is like falling in love. You need the energy of infatuation to get you over the threshold to know enough about the person to sustain a relationship. This book (without meaning to be sexist, here--just trying to convey my frustration and disappointment) is the mildly attractive woman with the PhD who has a reputation of being incredible in bed, but turns out to be a long-winded boor with very little imagination and a large handful of off-putting habits. The book is revered by lots of poets, many of whom I admire, but I'm left scratching my head as to why. There are, I think, two poems that seemed to me worth delving into, promising some reward for the effort of untangling the metaphors and structure ... but for the most part, the poems were both near impossible to decipher and not interesting enough to inspire me to give a shit.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marley

    Just read this one, which I've had lying on a shelf for a long time after finding it used. I realized I hadn't added any of his other books to my list, so I fixed that terrible omission. The whole Duncan/Olson/Levertov/Black Mountain/Creeley cluster is one of my very favorite kinds of American poetry, the only set of people who really managed the post-Ezra Pound long open poetic cycle as documentation of a process, and who did it personally and movingly and with often incredible language, plus a Just read this one, which I've had lying on a shelf for a long time after finding it used. I realized I hadn't added any of his other books to my list, so I fixed that terrible omission. The whole Duncan/Olson/Levertov/Black Mountain/Creeley cluster is one of my very favorite kinds of American poetry, the only set of people who really managed the post-Ezra Pound long open poetic cycle as documentation of a process, and who did it personally and movingly and with often incredible language, plus a lack of horrifying Poundean political beliefs. As for Duncan, this is one collection earlier than my favorites of his, which really center on "Bending the Bow." His favored tactic for these long exploratory cycles is to have them just kind of overlap his various books. Interspersed among individual works here, there are a couple dozen poems entitled "The Structure of Rime 1" (or 2, or 12), each of which is a different symbol-heavy take on his issues with prosody. Continuations pop up through his next handful of books, even as OTHER long cycles with different titles start up as well, themselves continuing for multiple books. Some even show up 20 years later. But this collection is where it all starts, and it certainly gets the ball rolling on Duncan as a writer with a sharp, interesting mind surrounded by a cloud of archetypes, trying to pin them down to the world. He never quite succeeded (what would it mean to have succeeded?), but he failed better and better. That's mid-century modernism for you.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Not an entirely fair rating. I borrowed this book and had to read it very quickly in order to give it back. I think I would have enjoyed it much more on my second/third read. So much talk of gods and other allusions that I have no reference for kind of kept me from this poetry. However, every once in a while I would find myself in a poem and would think 'Robert Duncan may be on to something here'. Will have to read again one day. Not an entirely fair rating. I borrowed this book and had to read it very quickly in order to give it back. I think I would have enjoyed it much more on my second/third read. So much talk of gods and other allusions that I have no reference for kind of kept me from this poetry. However, every once in a while I would find myself in a poem and would think 'Robert Duncan may be on to something here'. Will have to read again one day.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    typically assoicated with black mountain/post modern poets...but i've always thought Duncan to be steeped in the Romantic tradition. *shrugs* typically assoicated with black mountain/post modern poets...but i've always thought Duncan to be steeped in the Romantic tradition. *shrugs*

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elisef

    inexhaustable yet again

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Reading Duncan I'm always reminded of something the late Gerald Burns, who mostly disliked his work, said to me in conversation: He talks about the gods as if they were housecats... Reading Duncan I'm always reminded of something the late Gerald Burns, who mostly disliked his work, said to me in conversation: He talks about the gods as if they were housecats...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zack

    read this all in one sitting today. such a wonderful book. i'm gonna read it more. read this all in one sitting today. such a wonderful book. i'm gonna read it more.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

  16. 5 out of 5

    riley

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sheikh Tajamul

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jim Danneskiold

  19. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

  20. 4 out of 5

    Danu Riyanto

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Holden

  22. 5 out of 5

    John Riley

  23. 4 out of 5

    Allyssa

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gary Cummiskey

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tim Mattimoe

  26. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

  27. 5 out of 5

    graham

    "A Poem Beginning With a Line by Pindar"? Dang... "A Poem Beginning With a Line by Pindar"? Dang...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Fran Blake

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  30. 5 out of 5

    Louis Bardales

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