Today through Saturday, April 24, the Chicago Poetry Project is co-sponsoring The Truth and Life of Myth, a Robert Duncan Symposium.

“The surety of the myth for the poet has such force that it operates as a primary reality in itself, having volition. The mythic content comes to us, commanding the design of the poem; it calls the poet into action, and with whatever lore and craft he has prepared himself for that call, he must answer to give body in the poem to the formative will.”
—Robert Duncan, “The Truth and Life of Myth”

Poet Robert Duncan (1919-1988), a central figure in the San Francisco Renaissance, is the author of “The Opening of the Field”, “Roots and Branches”, and other works. UC Press will publish Duncan’s long-awaited collection The H.D. Book in January.

The symposium’s keynote speakers are poets Nathaniel Mackey and Michael Palmer. Presenters include Brian Teare, author of Sight Map, Faith Barrett, Stephen Collis, Joseph Donahue, Amy Evans, and others.

Events include a performance of Duncan’s play “Medea in Kolchis”, talks and readings by keynote speakers and presenters, and discussion of Duncan’s poetry. Events will take place at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection. For location details and the full schedule, please visit The Chicago Poetry Project.

Robert Duncan’s poem “Often I am Permitted to Return to a Meadow”, from “The Opening of the Field”:

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

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 architectures 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 ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a 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.

—by Robert Duncan

Listen to Robert Duncan read and discuss “The Opening of the Field” at PennSound, and to a Poem Talk podcast, where host Al Filreis and guests Jerome Rothenberg, Jeffrey C. Robinson, editors of Poems for the Millennium Volume Three, and poet Charles Bernstein discuss “Often I am Permitted to Return to a Meadow”.

Read “On Robert Duncan”, an essay by keynote speaker Michael Palmer