Saturday, October 24, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 43.7 (Robert Duncan)

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Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Duncan, Robert
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I think this was given to me by Joel Kuszai, who published it on Meow press, the chapbook series he ran in Buffalo in the nineties. I first met Joel through Charles Bernstein. I had contacted Charles after deciding to come to Buffalo to study in the poetics program. He immediately put me in touch with Joel. After a few weeks of back and forth, we finally got together. He took me for a pizza at La Nova, which was about a block from his apartment. I remember we ate this horrible pizza with steak and all kinds of other strange things on it. I have never has the courage to eat there again.

Joel then took me to the little workshop he had set up in his apartment and handed me about a hundred chapbooks he had published, of which this is one. I remember he sort of filled me in on who was in Buffalo and what they were doing and also about whatever (usually very strong) opinions he held of them. It was an intro into this new world for which I was and am grateful. Pretty soon Joel had introduced me to pretty much everyone that I hadn't met on my own.

He was also an organizer who, like his pal Taylor Brady, had an interest in forming collectives. Along with Taylor he founded the Buffalo Small Press Collective, started a listserv to discuss things related to the collective, and then taught everyone how to do basic HTML so we could start out own online literary endeavors (in 1997!).

I have lots of scattered memories of Joel, like of the many passionate and at times exasperating diatribes he posted to the listserv. Like of the party he threw for Kevin Killian and Dody Bellamy in his back yard. Like of the time I mentioned to him that I had gotten a reading at the Ear Inn Series and he gave me a skeptical look that felt somewhat disapproving. Like of taking me to my first Buffalo party, where I felt totally out of place, but happy to be there. Like of driving to London, Ontario to read with Bill Howe and cris cheek and Eleni Stecopoulos and Taylor Brady and how Joel came with us but chose not to read and how he had that same skeptical look on his face after the reading and how I could never quite read what it meant.

Anyhow, I think this chapbook, transcribed from Duncan's notebooks by Robert Berthof, was published as part of the Robert Duncan conference that took place in Buffalo the year before I arrived. Many of the entries in the book concern the composition of "Often I Am Permitted To Return To A Meadow."

1 July 1962

The dream that was called the Atlantis dream remains emblematic and puzzling. Had my parents been Freudians rather than Theosophists they might have called it my birth trauma dream. My mother had died in childbirth and she may have been an actual counterpart of the mother-country that had been lost. Yet the figures of the dream remain as if they were not symbols not primeval figures themselves of what was being expressed or shown.

First there was the upward rise of a hill that filled the whole horizon of the scene. A field of grass rippled as if by the life of the grass itself, for there was no wind while each blade owed to the left or East. The seer or dreamer then was facing north. There may have been flowers, day's eyes -- the grass was certainly in flower. The filed was alive and, pointing that way, across the rise of the hill to the East gave a sign.

Then, in a sudden, almost blurred, act of play, there was a ring of children--sometimes they are all girls, sometimes there are boys and girls--dancing in the filed. They have chosen someone who is "it" in the center, but no one appears there. The Dreamer is in the Center, the "I"--and first here I realize that this "I" is myself and second that I am a king or victim, and that in dreaming that I am a king or victim with the circle of dancing children.

Ring around of roses
Pocket full of posies

or is it poses?

ashes, ashes
All fall down...

In the third act, but it is the second part of the dream for the Field and its Dancers belong to the other section as one, I am shown a cavern underground. A throne room? There is a stone chair upon a dais. Seeing it as the King's chair, or even, in some dreamings of this dream, finding myself a King in that chair, there is no one there. A wave of fear seizes me, great doors break from their bars and hinges and under pressure, a rush of water floods the cavern.

all things have gone wrong--

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