A Household of Minor Things: The Collections of Robert Duncan and Jess

1960s: Days of Rage

Jess, The Enamord Mage: Translation #6, 1965.

“Jess and Robert Duncan pursued separate artistic paths—the former as a visual artist, the latter as a poet, though each experimented with the other’s chosen medium. Jess, who had a lifelong interest in the play inherent in language, wrote poetry and prose, and Duncan, who was drawn to the open form and movement he perceived in abstract expressionism, painted and drew. Yet neither approached the facility with which the other engaged his own field, and the benefits of these excursions into the other’s territory lay more in the insights brought back than in any contribution made on foreign ground. They collaborated rarely, which may seem surprising given the intensity of their shared worldview and the length of their relationship, some 37 years. But they did have one lasting collaboration: the joint labor of maintaining the household. Despite their different temperaments and commitments…

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