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First published by the Jargon Society
in 1958, Letters announces the major phase of Robert Duncan’s
writing. Though long unavailable, it stands as a foundational book
of postmodern poetry, setting “self-creation and self-consciousness
in constant interplay” (in the author’s own words).
Edited by Robert J. Bertholf, the present edition includes an afterword
as well as a series of memos from Duncan to the typesetter Claude
“The composition of Letters begins with ‘Letter to Denise Levertov’ and moves out over almost three years’ work to complete a book presided over by an alphabet primary to world creation. These angelic letters then those powers hidden or discovered are substance of our speech. A naming of my peers, and an exclamation of joy: Denise Levertov, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, James Broughton, Mike McClure, Helen Adam—it is the presence of companions, named and unnamed, that inspires Letters. A book of primaries, a book of companions. A book of praise. I have stored here, as best I know how, the songs of all I live by. For I adhere to form as the bee obeys the geometry of the hive.” —Robert Duncan
With illustrations by the author.