- Category : 1919-births
- Type : GP
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Split - Small (10,15,20,46)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Penetration 4
American major contemporary poet, considered a presiding voice of the San Francisco Bay area specifically, which he helped establish as a major center of poetry in the United States. Duncan became the leading spokesperson for open poetry in America, and his full powers are considered best displayed in "The Venice Poem," 1948, patterned after Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements.
Duncan’s mother died shortly after giving birth to him and his father, a day laborer, put him up for adoption when he was six months old. Adopted by a couple who chose him on the basis of his astrology chart, he grew up as Robert Edward Symmes, reverting to his original surname in 1942. Raised mainly in Bakersfield, California, his adopted father was an architect and both of his parents were theosophists. He was deeply affected by metaphysical influences throughout the family; his grandmother had been an elder in a Hermetic order similar to William Butler Yeats’s Order of the Golden Dawn.
He attended the University of California at Berkeley from 1936-1938, and published his first poems in school magazines. He then moved to New York, where he befriended Anais Nin and others. Early influences included Edith Sitwell, Jean Cocteau and the French Surrealists. He returned to San Francisco in 1945 after publishing "The Homosexual in Society" and in "Politics," 1944. He moved to Berkeley in 1946 and joined a small group of poets there, studied medieval and Renaissance civilization and in 1951, began a long-standing relationship with painter Jess Collins.
In 1952, he joined a group of poets publishing in "Origen" magazine, followed by an association with "Black Mountain Review." He taught briefly at the experimental Black Mountain College in Western North Carolina before it closed in 1956.
Duncan became the leading spokesman for the poetry of open form in America. In 1972, he courageously announced he would not publish again until 1983 when a volume to be called "Ground Work" would lay the foundation for the work of his final years.
His poems have been collected in two volumes, "The First Decade: Selected Poems 1940-1950," and "Derivations Selected Poems 1950-1956," 1968.
Died 2/03/1988, San Francisco, CA.