A landmark in the publication of twentieth-century American poetry, this first volume of the long-awaited collected poetry, non-critical prose, and plays of Robert Duncan gathers all of Duncan’s books and magazine publications up to and including Letters: Poems 1953–1956. Deftly edited, it thoroughly documents the first phase of Duncan’s distinguished life in writing, making it possible to trace the poet’s development as he approaches the brilliant work of his middle period.
This volume includes the celebrated works Medieval Scenes and The Venice Poem, all of Duncan’s long unavailable major ventures into drama, his extensive “imitations” of Gertrude Stein, and the remarkable poems written in Majorca as responses to a series of collaged paste-ups by Duncan’s life-long partner, the painter Jess. Books appear in chronological order of publication, with uncollected periodical and other publications arranged chronologically, following each book. The introduction includes a biographical commentary on Duncan’s early life and works, and clears an initial path through the textual complexities of his early writing. Notes offer brief commentaries on each book and on many of the poems.
The volume to follow, The Collected Later Poetry and Plays, will include The Opening of the Field (1960), Roots and Branches (1964), Bending the Bow (1968), Ground Work (1984), and Ground Work II (1987).