Thursday, February 7, 2008

opening the field

Some would argue - I might well be among them - that Robert Duncan's Grove Press book of poems, The Opening of the Field, opened the poetics field in the year 1960. Keith Newton has put together a suggestive "recovery project" web page on Duncan's book. He writes:
Written almost fifty years ago, not long after the devastations of the first half of the century and in the shadow of those to come, The Opening of the Field remains one of our most moving attempts to restore, in a world left spiritually barren, some sense of “the human greenness.” There is a sense throughout the book that an unanswerable question lies at its heart: to what purpose, to what end, does the poetry direct its energies? To “the boundaries of the field,” where the mind stops, where language stops, where our stories end? Yet what we find from the beginning of the book is that thought itself is a restorative process, that even as it is directed toward its own boundaries, it is guided by an instinct to create. “In the field of the poem,” Duncan writes in “The Propositions,” “the unexpected / must come.”
PennSound's Duncan page has just recently been expanded significantly - thanks largely to the work of Mike Hennessey. There are recordings of readings done as early as 1950 - also several of 1963. And (scroll to the bottom of the Duncan page) there's a reading of Opening - in two parts - of unknown date and setting. Listen!