Web Letters | The Nation

The Unconquered Flame: On Robert Duncan

Dissatisfied reader

Ms. Mlinko has received an award for “poetry criticism.” Yet this long piece (a review of the recent biography) has no poetry criticism in it. The only ‘poetry’ quoted is a passage from Ezra Pound. One nicely supplies Ms. Mlinko with her lively title, but it has no relevance to Duncan’s poetry.

Why is that? And what editor gave her so much space for a repetitive collection of biographical items of no interest beyond their influence in Duncan’s poetry, an important topic of apparently no interest to her? They have not mattered since his last publication.

His work is now free of all that junk. Now only the poetry matters. Ms. Mlinko has nothing to say about that poetry, except the naming of a few titles.

There is very little of Duncan’s poetry of continuing interest to me, but I hold a very high opinion of those that I do admire. This foolish effort to ‘immortalize’ a minor poet with inflated—o-h-h and a-h-h—wanderings among the works on his long and eclectic reading list and his bizarre personal beliefs (or pseudo-beliefs) does his reputation no service.

My favorite cliché in Ms. Mlinko’s piece is “any poet worth his or her salt …”; I can’t help wondering if she knows what that phrase means. Or did she just pull it out of her volume of ‘clichés for fillers’?

Warren MacIsaac

New York City

Sep 20 2012 - 5:54pm