Duncan’s essay places him with other poets of his generation, writers such as Charles Olson, Gary Snyder, and Allen Ginsberg, who turned to earlier civilizations, mysticism, and Eastern religion in search of myths which they found lacking in the American consciousness. American civilization was criticized for any number of evils during the 1960’s—aggression in Vietnam, destruction of the environment, dehumanization of workers, pragmatic affluence—and poets were involved in public protests as well as writing their visions of how life should be lived and what gods deserved reverence. Duncan’s sense of the poet connected to the myth, dependent upon myth, allies him with this movement which was characterized by an emphasis on the primitive and romantic experience of which the modern, rational man was not aware.
This neoromantic movement also went against the poetics of earlier twentieth century poets. Duncan criticized T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and Ezra Pound for their excess of rationality, and for worrying too much about being reasonable so as to fit in with reasonable, educated opinion. Also, these poets for Duncan placed too much emphasis on the poem as a work of highly conscious art and not enough emphasis on the meaning given in the poem which a poet cannot assume full credit for stating. Duncan’s experience of hearing a William Blake poem read aloud in the early 1950’s released “the wonder of the world of the poem itself” and broke...
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