Contemporary Gay American Poets and Playwrights: An A-to-Z Guide

By Emmanuel S. Nelson | Go to book overview

ROBERT DUNCAN (1919–1988)

Karl L. Stenger


BIOGRAPHY

Edward Howe Duncan was born at dawn on January 7, 1919, in Oakland, California, as the seventh child of Marguerite Pearl Carpenter and Edward Howe Duncan, a railroad engineer. Duncan’s mother died a few hours after giving birth, whether from complications during the premature delivery at home or because of the raging influenza epidemic remains unclear. Since the boy’s father was unable to provide for his burgeoning family any longer, he gave the boy as well as the two youngest girls up for adoption. Seven months after his birth, on August 4, Edward was placed in the custody of Minnehaha and Edwin Symmes and legally adopted on March 10, 1920, having been renamed Robert Edward Symmes by his adoptive father in memory of a deceased friend. Robert’s new parents were members of the Oakland Hermetic Brotherhood, a theosophical group, and they chose the boy after consulting astrological charts. Ekbert Faas, Duncan’s biographer, writes: “One thing predicted was that their future child had not been reincarnated since Atlantis and would embody the decadence of a civilization to be destroyed during his lifetime” (Portrait 18). Lisa Jarnot, who is preparing a new biography of the poet, adds: “According to hermetic doctrine, his mother Marguerite Duncan’s role had been simply that of a “ ‘vehicle’ ” of his birth. She was an agent of his reincarnation and she had died so that he might be handed over to his rightful parents” (37). At the end of 1920 the Symmeses adopted a little girl, again based on the reading of astrological charts, and named her Barbara Eleanor Symmes. The two children grew up surrounded by Hermetic and Cabalistic lore, séances, fortune readings, and occult literature. While fascinated by his parents’ beliefs to a certain degree, Robert ultimately rejected their reductionist pseudoscience: “What Duncan said about himself later was already true of the

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Contemporary Gay American Poets and Playwrights: An A-to-Z Guide
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xiii
  • Edward Albee (1928–) 1
  • Jeff Baron (1952–) 11
  • Jeffery Beam (1953–) 19
  • David Bergman (1950–) 25
  • Alan Bowne (1945–1989) 29
  • Donald Britton (1951–1994) 38
  • James Broughton (1913–1999) 43
  • Bibliography 50
  • Victor Bumbalo (1946–) 54
  • Charles Busch (1954–) 61
  • Leo F. Cabranes-Grant (1960–) 69
  • Robert Chesley (1943–1990) 74
  • Justin Chin (1969–) 82
  • Alfred Corn (1943–) 87
  • Mart Crowley (1935–) 93
  • Melvin Dixon (1950–1992) 101
  • Bibliography 106
  • Tim Dlugos (1950–1990) 108
  • Bibliography 116
  • Mark Doty (1953–) 117
  • Bibliography 123
  • David Drake (1963–) 125
  • Robert Duncan (1919–1988) 130
  • Christopher Durang (1949–) 141
  • Edward Field (1924–) 147
  • Harvey Fierstein (1954–) 153
  • William Finn (1952–) 162
  • Kenny Fries (1960–) 171
  • Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997) 178
  • Thom Gunn (1929–) 188
  • Bibliography 196
  • Essex Hemphill (1957–1995) 198
  • William M. Hoffman (1939–) 205
  • Richard Howard (1929–) 212
  • Bibliography 215
  • Maurice Kenny (1929–) 217
  • Bibliography 220
  • Rudy Kikel (1943–) 222
  • Harry Kondoleon (1955–1994) 230
  • Bibliography 234
  • Larry Kramer (1935–) 236
  • Tony Kushner (1956–) 246
  • Michael Lassell (1947–) 260
  • Timothy Liu (1965–) 268
  • Craig Lucas (1951–) 272
  • Charles Ludlam (1943–1987) 280
  • J.D. Mcclatchy (1945–) 288
  • Bibliography 291
  • Terrence Mcnally (1939–) 293
  • Bibliography 307
  • Scott Mcpherson (1959–1992) 309
  • James Merrill (1926–1995) 316
  • Paul Monette (1945–1995) 323
  • Frank O’hara (1926–1966) 334
  • Bibliography 340
  • Robert O’hara (1970–) 342
  • Peter Parnell (1953–) 349
  • Carl Phillips (1959–) 357
  • Kenneth Pobo (1954–) 363
  • D.A. Powell (1963–) 369
  • Bibliography 376
  • Guillermo Reyes (1962–) 377
  • Bibliography 382
  • Assotto Saint (yves FranÇois Lubin) (1957–1994) 383
  • Bibliography 387
  • F. Allen Sawyer (1957–) 388
  • Bibliography 392
  • James Schuyler (1923–1991) 393
  • Reginald Shepherd (1963–) 398
  • Bibliography 405
  • Martin Sherman (1938–) 406
  • Aaron Shurin (1947–) 412
  • David Trinidad (1953–) 421
  • Gore Vidal (1925–) 427
  • Bibliography 435
  • Jonathan Williams (1929–) 438
  • Doric Wilson (1939–) 444
  • Lanford Wilson (1937–) 451
  • Chay Yew (1966–) 461
  • Selected Bibliography 467
  • Index 469
  • About the Contributors 477
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