Literature by Robert Duncan
For Robert Duncan, the language of poetry is the field of encounter between the human and the universal, and to read his work is to touch an intelligence ablaze with the visionary enchantment of his art. Though best known for his poems, he has produced over the years an impressive body of prose. Drawing from it, he has assembled his first comprehensive book of essays on poetics and mythopoesis. Fictive Certainties moves toward a definition of the poet’s ground in contemporary consciousness. The catholicity of Duncan’s concerns is conveyed by the titles of some of the book’s thirteen essays: “Poetry Before Language,” “Notes on Poetics Regarding Olson’s Maximus,” “The Sweetness and Greatness of Dante’s Divine Comedy,” “The Self in Postmodern Poetry,” and “Changing Perspectives in Reading Whitman.” Poetry as a striving for cosmic balance, the meeting of the eternal and the personal, is propounded in “Rites of Participation” and “Man’s Fulfillment in Order and Strife.” Duncan’s opening statement, “The Truth of Life and Myth,” relates the creative process to Christian experience and theology as a whole, as well as to the study of anthropology, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology.