Robert Duncan was an important author in the San Francisco Renaissance and the Black Mountain School. He was born on January 7, 1919 in Oakland, California. His mother died in childbirth, and his dad, unable to support his newborn son placed Robert Duncan up for adoption. In August of 1919 Duncan was adopted. Duncan’s adopted parents chosen religion was theosophy, which greatly affected Duncan’s poetry. His poems drew on myth, occultism and religion. He wrote using projective verse and composition by field. Duncan chose to become a writer in his early teens after being encouraged by an English teacher who recognized his talent. Duncan attended the University of California, Berkeley for two years. He left California and went to finish his education at the Black Mountain School. Shortly after arriving at the school he got into a conflict with the faculty and moved to New York City.
During the 1960’s Robert Duncan won many awards. In 1961 he won the Harriet Monroe, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1963, and in 1964 he won the Levinson prize from Poetry Magazine. In 1985 Duncan received the National Poetry Award.
Robert Duncan died in San Francisco in 1988. He had fought a long battle with kidney disease. After his death, many of his works continued to be published. Even today he remains an influential figure in poetry.
Robert Duncan’s poetry often expressed his anarchic political views. In addition, his use of projective verse makes many of his poems stand out. In Newton Gresham Library’s SHSU Special Collections there are two of his poems available to read. The first called The gift of tongues or the Imagination can be found in Series 2, Subseries 4, Box 9, and Folder 3. The second which is called Melville after Pierre can be found in Series 2, Subseries 4, Box 9, and Folder 4.
“Robert Duncan.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
“Poet Robert Duncan.” Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
Christensen, Paul. “Robert Duncan’s Life and Career.” Robert Duncan’s Life and Career. Modern American Poetry, 1999. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
Mlinko, Ange. “The Unconquered Flame: On Robert Duncan.” The Unconquered Flame: On Robert Duncan. The Nation, 18 Sept. 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.