Skip Navigation
*To search for student contact information, login to FlashLine and choose "My Campus" tab.

Search by campus:

Special Collections and Archives

Robert Edward Duncan, Papers

Robert Edward Duncan, Papers, 1942-1978

Prepared by Dean Keller; Updated 1996; February 2006
1 document case, 1 media box, .5 cubic foot, 11th floor


Scope and Content

One of the focus areas for collection development within Special Collections is contemporary poetry. An effort is made to collect Robert Duncan's published works as well as selected manuscripts.

This collection includes several manuscript poems, and some of the correspondence between Robert Duncan and his students at Kent Sate University, when he taught the course "Studies in Ideas of the Poetic Imagination" during Fall 1972. Also included in the collection is his correspondence with Patrick Meanor in which he arranges a reading at SUNY. Provenance varies and is indicated for each item within folder contents.

Box 2 contains reel-to-reel tape recordings of lectures and readings.


Biographical Note

Robert Duncan was born on January 7, 1919, in Oakland, Calif., and died of a heart attack on February 3, 1988, in San Francisco, Calif. Duncan was adopted by the Symmes when his mother died, and therefore he has also written as Robert Edward Symmes. Duncan is best remembered for his role in establishing the San Francisco Bay area as a hub for American poets. Important poet, critic, essayist, dramatist, non-fiction writer, editor, and author of children's books, linked with the Black Mountain School, the San Francisco Renaissance, and the Beat movement. Duncan's poetry reflects his knowledge of history, mythology, mysticism and literature. He believed that composing a poem is a spontaneous act, with no need for any revisions or formal structure. Duncan served as editor of Experimental Review, Phoenix, and Berkeley Miscellany at the beginning of his career. Duncan was the first recipient of the National Poetry Award. His early poems were collected in The First Decade: Selected Poems, 1940-1950 (1968), and Derivations: Selected Poems, 1950-1956 (1968), and his first major volume was The Opening of the Field (1960). Among his works are the Roots and Branches (1964), Bending the Bow (1968), in which with the poem "Up-Rising" he attacks the US government's involvement in Vietnam, Ground Work: Before the War (1984), etc. A major collection of Duncan's manuscripts is archived in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.


Box 1

Folder -- Contents

  1. 1942, Nov.: Duncan, Robert [Edward], 1919-1988. Some work done while at Ashfield, Mass., November 1942. A Sheaf for Dick and Clara [Winston]. Autograph Poems Signed. 12p., 27.9cm.

    Contents: Blood is part of me that, I imagine killing men like laying, The snow is on the heath, Variations in praise of Jesus Christ our Lord, Variations upon phrases from Milton's "The Reason of church government", Variations upon the words:...
    The manuscript also contains 2 small drawings by Duncan. Gift of Richard and Clara Winston, Brattleboro, Vermont.

  2. 1947: Duncan, Robert Edward, 1919-1988. Medieval Scenes papers. Typed Document and Autograph Document. 70p., 28cm.

    Manuscript contains: (1) 1st draft in pencil, 30p. (2) author's notes, Sept. 1962, 4p. (3) Fair copy in ink of The Dreamers through The Kingdom of Jerusalem, 5p. (4) typescript of reading version 1947, 23p. (5) notes 1947, 5p. (6) typescripts of The Adoration of the Virgin and Huon of Bordeaux submitted to New Directions but rejected because of space.
    Accompanied by a list of contents and note by Duncan outlining restrictions on use of the manuscript.
    In folder decorated by Duncan.
    Published by Centaur Press, San Francisco, 1950 (SpecColl PS3507.U629M4).
    Purchased from James R. Lowell, Cleveland, Ohio.

  3. 1957, 24 Aug.: Duncan, Robert [Edward], 1919-1988. Three poems in measure one: an open letter. Typed Document. 4p., 28cm.

    Accompanying the manuscript is an Autograph Letter Signed by Duncan to James R. Lowell giving the background of the work.
    Purchased from James R. Lowell, Cleveland, Ohio.

  4. 1971, 25 Feb: [Duncan, Robert], 1919-1988. To Miss [Christina] Bahler, Kent, Ohio.

    Sends photograph and biography for Creative Arts Festival.. Typed Letter (xerox). 1p., 28cm.
    Gift of Robert Bertholf, Buffalo, New York.

  5. 1972, 7 Nov.: [Duncan], Robert [Edward], 1919-1988, [San Francisco, Calif.] To Carol [Donley, Hiram, Ohio]. On myth; poetry; music. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 28cm.

    Accompanied by a carbon copy of Carol Donley' reply. Robert Duncan at KSU, Fall, 1972.
    Gift of Carol Donley, Hiram, Ohio.

  6. 1972, 6 [Dec.]: [Duncan], Robert [Edward], 1919-1988, [San Francisco, Calif.] To Mary [McConville, Kent, Ohio].

    Comments on poetry; W.C. Williams; Wallace Stevens. Autograph Letter Signed (copy). 4p., 28cm.
    Accompanied by 3 letters to Duncan by McConville. Robert Duncan at KSU, Fall, 1972.
    Gift of Mary McConville, Kent, Ohio.

  7. 1972, 18 Dec.: Duncan, Robert [Edward], 1919-1988, [San Francisco]. To Patrick [Meanor, Kent, Ohio].

    Provides suggestions to improve Meanor's comparison of T.H. Eliot and W. Steven's poetic technique, written for a seminar taught by Duncan at Kent State University; criticizes and expounds upon Meanor's analysis of poetry as an "exercise or an exorcise"; describes his own work habits and his own interpretation of Elliot and Stevens. Autograph Letter Signed. 8p., 28cm.
    Robert Duncan at KSU, Fall, 1972.
    Gift of Patrick Meanor, Oneonta, N.Y.

  8. 1972, 20 Dec.: [Duncan], Robert [Edward], 1919-1988, [San Francisco, Calif.] To Mary [McConville; Kent, Ohio].

    Comments on poetry. Autograph Letter Signed (copy). 8p., 28cm.
    Robert Duncan at KSU, Fall, 1972.
    Gift of Mary McConville, Kent, Ohio.

  9. 1972: McConville, Mary.

    Notes on Robert Duncan's course "Studies in Ideas of the Poetic Imagination," Kent State University, October 9-27, 1972. Autograph Document (copy). 88p., 28cm.
    Accompanied by prospectus for the course. Robert Duncan at KSU, Fall, 1972.
    Gift of Mary McConville, Kent, Ohio.

  10. [1973], 2 Jan.: [Duncan], Robert [Edward], 1919-1988, [San Francisco, Calif.] To Ruth [Nurmi, Kent, Ohio].

    Comments on poetry and music. Autograph Letter Signed (copy). 10p., 28cm.
    Robert Duncan at KSU, Fall, 1972.
    Gift of Ruth Nurmi, Wayne, Pa.

  11. 1978, 18 Jan.: Duncan, Robert [Edward], 1919-1988, [San Francisco, Calif.] To Pat[rick Meanor, Oneonta, N.Y.]

    Tour will bring him to Western N.Y.; offers to read at SUNY, Oneonta. Typed Letter Signed. 1p., 28cm.
    Gift of Patrick Meanor, Oneonta, N.Y.

  12. 1978, 10 Feb.: [Duncan], Robert [Edward], 1919-1988, [San Francisco, Calif.] To Pat[rick Meanor, Oneonta, N.Y.]

    Arranges a reading; recalls seminar in Kent in 1972. Typed Letter Signed. 1p., 28cm.
    Gift of Patrick Meanor, Oneonta, N.Y.

  13. 1978, 2 Sept.: [Duncan], Robert [Edward], 1919-1988. To Pat[rick Meanor, Oneonta, N.Y.]

    Comments on his current writing and reading; travel. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 27.9cm. Gift of Patrick Oneonta, N.Y.

  14. 1978: Duncan, Robert Edward, 1919-1988.

    Medieval Scenes papers (2) .
    Contains printer's copy (xerox of original edition), galley proofs (2 sets), page proofs (3 sets), printer's dummy, finished copy of book; business and promotional material.
    Some material corrected by Robert Duncan.
    The book was published by the Friends of Kent State University Libraries, Kent, Ohio, 1978.
    Gift of Friends of the KSU Libraries.

Box 2: Audio Recordings

Contents

  1. Six reel-to-reel tapes, some unidentified. Partial list of contents: "The Work" lecture in Vancouver; "Medieval Scenes" and "July 23, 1961, re. Olson Lecture."
 
-->