Poetry, a Natural Thing

By Robert Duncan 1919–1988 Robert Duncan
Neither our vices nor our virtues   
further the poem. “They came up   
      and died
just like they do every year
      on the rocks.”

      The poem
feeds upon thought, feeling, impulse,
      to breed    itself,
a spiritual urgency at the dark ladders leaping.

This beauty is an inner persistence
      toward the source
striving against (within) down-rushet of the river,   
      a call we heard and answer
in the lateness of the world
      primordial bellowings
from which the youngest world might spring,

salmon not in the well where the   
      hazelnut falls
but at the falls battling, inarticulate,   
      blindly making it.

This is one picture apt for the mind.

A second: a moose painted by Stubbs,
where last year’s extravagant antlers   
      lie on the ground.
The forlorn moosey-faced poem wears   
      new antler-buds,
      the same,

“a little heavy, a little contrived”,

his only beauty to be   
      all moose.

Robert Duncan, “Poetry, a Natural Thing” from The Opening of the Field. Copyright © 1960 by Robert Duncan. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: The Opening of the Field (1960)

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Poet Robert Duncan 1919–1988

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Religion, Animals, Poetry & Poets, Nature, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Robert  Duncan

Biography

Described by Kenneth Rexroth as “one of the most accomplished, one of the most influential” of the postwar American poets, Robert Duncan was an important part of both the Black Mountain school of poetry, led by Charles Olson, and the San Francisco Renaissance, whose other members included poets Jack Spicer and Robin Blaser. A distinctive voice in American poetry, Duncan’s idiosyncratic poetics drew on myth, occultism, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Animals, Poetry & Poets, Nature, Arts & Sciences

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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