Upon Taking Hold

By Duncan, Robert | Chicago Review, Summer-Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

Upon Taking Hold


Duncan, Robert, Chicago Review


Robert Duncan's work in the 1950s provided an important link between writers in San Francisco and those associated with Black Mountain College. In 1956, Duncan taught play-writing at Black Mountain before returning to the Bay Area; "Upon Taking Hold," dedicated to the school's rector, explores the possibilities of the open form advocated by Olson. The poem appeared in the "From San Francisco" section of the Spring 1958 issue, and would be published that same year in Duncan's collection, Letters, by Jonathan Williams at his Highlands, North Carolina, press. Duncan's engagement with Olson's poetics would continue, most famously, with his 1960 The Opening of the Field (which includes "The Natural Doctrine" from the Winter 1959 issue). This engagement, in turn, would influence the development of Language poetics in the Bay Area, as Michael Palmer's discussion of his own work in this retrospective issue attests.

for Charles Olson

the world as we reach stretches, a hand in sight. Thumb, Mountain, Tidelands of Lines, the heart and head lines, the palmist said - stars, shatterings from Moon to slumbering Venus.

Mt Tamalpais.

Cezanne restored the destroyd mountain. And the hand in the painting comes up from its illusions - a man shaped to the world's fate stretches upon his face

to wear the given mask. …

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