Friday, April 26, 2013

Robert Duncan - Poet


The Wampum Snake by Mark Catesby circa 1740

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

I never know when Ella will make herself known to me  - whisper in my ear or take my hand and lead me toward a new discovery. Today was an Ella day. While at work at the college library I decided to take a moment and look at the new book shelf. My eye immediately went to matching volumes by the California poet Robert Duncan who was born in Oakland in 1919.  I knew immediately that there would be an Ella connection.  He was raised by theosophical Hermeticists who undoubtedly knew Ella. Duncan mentions Ella when he is describing his Bakersfield high school English teacher, Edna Keogh - an Irishwoman who knew Ella. This is what Duncan says of Ella:

"She [Keogh] had had a link among her friends [in Berkeley] in a gaunt, beautiful, touched, old woman, Ella Young, whom I in turn as a student in Berkeley once heard tell of those Irish circles, of poets who practiced magic, of women who saw into what was beyond the common sense, of that folk who dwelt upon the margins of fairy."

Duncan discusses his life as a poet and his words remind me of Ella's own words. Kindred spirits, indeed.

"In my conversion to Poetry I was to find anew the world of Romance that I had known in earliest childhood in fairy tale and daydream."

Here is an excerpt from Duncan's poem Ode for Dick Brown...


Restore, restore the mystery to the land
and to the hearts of men restore
the mystery. In memory, bright Mnemosyne's
rich tapestry of voices, revelations,
and persisting scenes, the luminous
reasonable and mysterious oak thrives.
The source of our lives makes each man sacred…


The Wampum Snake, above, I came across while helping a student. Days like today, thanks to Ella, I remember why I am here. 

Robert Duncan: The H.D. Book. Edited by Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman.

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