Duncan, Robert

United States, (1919-1988)


  1. It is said that there in Her house you
  2. are not fair but,
  3. cowering or covering, go down
  4. into the beast’s way, such is
  5. the sorcery of Her song.
  7. The voice we raise in poetry
  8. so that it seems lovely to be enthralld
  9. by words and truth
  10. to be in soaring numbers and in rimes
  11. thickens and
  12. goes down into the throat,
  13. gagging, rooting in the grass,
  14. fertilities of sound,
  16. snuffling, snorting, snared in a
  17. delirium of snout and watering mouth
  18. incapable of speech,
  19. all animal tongue and panting breath, the lungs
  20. sucking the psychedelic air.
  22. So that I fear for you even as I seek
  23. you out. Your eyes alone
  24. plead, almost speak to me. “But I
  25. seek out a plant I need,” you say,
  26. “This is the meaning of my greed.”
  28. Dear Beast, dear dumb illiterate
  29. Underbeing of Man, where
  30. violence at last comes home riding
  31. the piggish meat, where he will stumble
  32. on all fours, go down, and groan,
  33. enthralld by Circe’s wine, toucht
  34. by her wand toward that trans-
  35. substantiation where food, His Body,
  36. becometh swill, and wine
  37. drags down the spirit to Her will.
  39. Still in that dream I in the depths of
  40. my sleeping self return to,
  41. I find you wait in the mind my mind
  42. verges upon. Your eyes
  43. waking from our daily blindness to see
  44. in that nor day nor night-time light
  45. turnd on in dreams I warily
  46. remember—there,
  47. I bring, as if it were myself you need, the weed
  48. called Moly.

© Robert Duncan. Ground Work: Before the War . New Directions (1984).

About the Poet

Robert Duncan (1919-1988) was a U.S. poet and a student of H.D. and the Western esoteric tradition who spent most of his career in and around San Francisco. Though associated with any number of literary traditions and schools, Duncan is often identified with the poets of the New American Poetry and Black Mountain College. Duncan’s mature work emerged in the 1950s in the literary context of Beat culture. Duncan was a key figure in the San Francisco Renaissance.

Not only a difficult poet, but also a public intellectual Duncan’s presence was felt across many facets of popular culture. Duncan’s name is prominent in the history of pre-Stonewall gay culture and in the emergence of bohemian socialist communities of the 1930s and 40s, in the Beat Generation, and also in the cultural and political upheaval of the 1960s, influencing occult and gnostic circles of the time. [from wikipedia.org, DES-11/10]

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