Page 20 - Litteratteur Redefining World December issue
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Litterateur redefining world                      December 2020


                                            "If there is any truth at all"

               In  Berkeley  my  writing  stopped  almost  entirely  as  I  concentrated  on
               graduate  school  or  participated  in  that  explosion  of  energy  we  call  "the

          I had hoped that Cornell would provide me with an intellectual community. It did not.
         My  experience  at  Berkeley  was  similar,  though  again  there  were  moments  of
         excitement. Josephine Miles, Joseph Kramer, Paul Alpers, and others taught courses

         which  interested  me.  Henry  Nash  Smith's  course  included  Charles  Feidelson,  Jr.'s
         excellent book, Symbolism And American Literature, with its intriguing discussions of
         Melville,  Poe  and  Whitman.  A  1971  class  taught  by  James  Breslin  introduced  me  to
         many writers whom I had previously neglected, particularly to William Carlos Williams,
         whose masterly Spring and All was on the reading list.  We also read Robert Duncan's
         magnificent Bending the Bow. (I had bought Duncan's Selected Poems in Ithaca and
         been fascinated by "The Venice Poem" and "Homage to the Brothers Grimm.") Duncan
         lived in San Francisco and often gave lectures and readings. I saw him frequently in
         Berkeley  going  to  the  bookstores  or  the  library.  There  were  also  writers  in  Breslin's
         class: Ron Silliman, David Melnick and Rochelle Nameroff had all recently published
         books  through  a  press  called  "Ithaca  House,"  located,  ironically  enough,  at  Cornell.
         Furthermore, James Breslin was the judge of Berkeley's Yang Poetry Prize that year,
         and  a  little  selection  of  my  poems  was  one  of  the  winners.  Still,  I  could  hardly  call
         myself a writer. By 1970 I was really nothing more than a professional graduate student.

         By 1974 I had finally had enough of graduate school.

                                                                  Jack Foley's  drawing of Robert Duncan

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