This essay examines the contradictions of Robert Duncan’s 1960s political poetry by way of his reading of the legacy of modernism, notably as expounded in The H.D. Book. Drawing on the work of Daniel Tiffany, the essay first argues that here Duncan constructs a kitsch Ezra Pound to restore the true progressive political potential of Pound’s poetry. Using a largely Freudian methodology, Duncan finds in “kitsch” Pound a vector that opposes his authoritarian fascism. The essay then examines how Poundian poetics operates in Duncan’s poetry written in opposition to the Vietnam War and in support of the Berkeley free speech movement. This work is brought into dialogue with some of the conversations in France following May 1968 and with the slogan “Structures don’t take to the streets.” In both these sites, the question of the problematic relationship between individual political volition and activism, on the one hand, and a bourgeois conception of subjectivity, consciousness, and will, on the other, emerges as crucial.

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