Childhood’s Retreat

By Robert Duncan 1919–1988 Robert Duncan
It’s in the perilous boughs of the tree   
out of blue sky    the wind   
sings loudest surrounding me.

And solitude,   a wild solitude
’s reveald,   fearfully,   high     I’d climb   
into the shaking uncertainties,

part out of longing,   part     daring my self,
part to see that
widening of the world,   part

to find my own, my secret
hiding sense and place, where from afar   
all voices and scenes come back

—the barking of a dog,   autumnal burnings,
far calls,   close calls—   the boy I was
calls out to me
here the man where I am   “Look!

I’ve been where you

most fear to be.”

Robert Duncan, “Childhood’s Retreat” from Ground Work: Before the War. Copyright © 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1982, 1984 by Robert Duncan. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Ground Work: Before the War (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1984)

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Poet Robert Duncan 1919–1988

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Religion, Youth, Trees & Flowers, Living, Nature

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, Youth, Trees & Flowers, Living, Nature

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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