Poems of Berkeley

duncanAs part of poetry month, Susan Cohen (a fellow poet) and I are orchestrating a reading of poems about Berkeley at the North Branch of the Berkeley Public Library on the afternoon of Saturday, April 25. Gathering poems for the event, I wanted to include something by Robert Duncan, who was a romantic and powerful figure in the poetry scene in the Bay Area in the sixties.  Here he is with Denise Levertov, another poet we’re including., along with Ginsberg, Spicer, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Chana Bloch, and others–hard to narrow it down to 20 poems.

Duncan held dawn readings on Mt. Tamalpias and was part of the legendary Six Gallery reading in San Francisco. Larry has a large broadside of his most famous poem, My Mother Would be a Faconress. But this quieter, mysterious poem of his is one of my favorites.

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun’s going down

whose secret we see in a children’s game
of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

Robert Duncan

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