“My Mother Would Be a Falconress” Read by Robert Duncan

I've been meaning to point to this text & audio page with Duncan's poem about his mother & now I'm finally getting around to it. It's a remarkable poem both for its music & for the precision of its language. The beauty of this poem startles me every time I read it, but I had never heard it in Duncan's voice.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

4 thoughts on ““My Mother Would Be a Falconress” Read by Robert Duncan”

  1. this is a poem of his i speak to others about.
    his work is unique. his influence is strong with me. but he is so unique he can’t be copied, can’t be counterfeited.
    george oppen in 1970 said there will never be another like robert, that robert was almost a throwback and after a long pause the last of the romantics.
    there were three commanding poets then when i returned here for good in san francisco–george oppen, lawrence ferlinghetti, and robert duncan–and across the bay josephine miles at uc-berkeley. i met them all and knew george and jo well. it was a sweet beginning.
    robert remained a kingdom perhaps a feod or feif, feudal almost. i met him early and through him was invited in the spring of 1971 to be a guest for an hour on berkeley’s kpfa, pacifica radio, hosted by charles amerkanian (a position now held by jack foley)and again on another for a program based on composer david durrah’s and my collaborations on jazz song and an oratorio “texas and hell” i’d begun writing in 1967.
    i knew robert’s high school english teacher edna
    keogh who adored robert and moved to san francisco when she retired from bakersfield. i worked in the bookshop at the california palace of honor city art museum and she was a volunteer there and a great inspiration and model i think she may have died before robert did, but not long before. edward mycue

  2. Edward, you really need to write a literary autobiography — you have known almost everybody in the poetry world, it seems. Or at least one very interesting part of it.

  3. an autobiog sounds like a mountain. ever the sissy i. little bits here and there, maybe. i always wanted to be a novelist and at 18 to 19 wrote two. i actually kept one UNDER MY PILLOW in my room at arlington state (junior college then)in arlington, texas for approximately 6 months until i reread it and fell into shame & tears at how callow/young/awful/&stupid it seemed. and i burned itburned it. (i wish i’d have kept it because as billy blake wrote
    someplace the path to wisdom goes through the country of excess )(well close to what he said)and so there might have been something there that would reveal myself to me.) (i’m so much more lenient to myself since then.) anyway i dramatically tore it up and BURNED IT. well that was the first one. the second after a period of fallow mattresscide received the same fate but not as dramatically–more glumly.
    it was at that time i had this english teacher from the east 1956-7 who’d just completed her dissertation on laura riding, and i got into that riding/yeats/gertrude stein trio. (you know riding and stein had a great correspondence and yeats was somehow in there i can’t recall why but i handwrote in pencil as was necessary only to use pencil every version of yeats’ surviving versions of his poems–his variorum was out or just coming out then–and returned my focus to poems accepting i would never be a star the way novelists are and become rich rich rich. i have been happy with poems.) oh a larry lawrence fixel counsel is apt here: abt the real carrot and the real stick. he said that story tellers have a real carrot dangling before them (and can become rich rich rich) but poets have the imaginary carrot and the imaginary stick.
    enough here. i just do antecdotes (ok for anecdotage–and besides i never could spell, and before spellcks and computers this would have meant a lot of work. so i go for the flow, the oral tradition–yeats/stein/riding: i think of riding as my first master)(i sometimes think much of my discoveries in poetry and life have been due to misspelling, misreading, miscalculation–oops my secret is out.) my brother david mycue is the historian (just retired as archivist and curator of the south texas history museums in the nuevo santander section of texas centered in mcallen/edinburgh etc on and along the rio grande
    both sides and the world of his wife elena de los santos’s people). ed mycue so talky this morning.

  4. On the subject of…

    MOTHER’S VALENTINE

    How were your roses last year
    I yell across the abyss
    her face becomes a rose

    there are still faces like that
    way out on the genetic periphery
    near 24th street in any forest

    of the future it’s just the space
    between things inexplicable
    when you think of it

    driven into the ground
    by love or rain
    returning and returning

    wearing the robes of duchesses
    the names of wounds
    the last quick kisses.

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