Terence Johnson in his article on Robert Duncan in The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage (edited by Claude Summers) observes the timing of the cultivation of a certain theme. He puts it succinctly as a matter of biography.
After 1951, when Duncan began his lifelong relationship with the artist Jess Collins, the “household” becomes a major theme in his work.
It is the “house” itself that merits attention in a poem by Mark Doty. “Essay: The Love of Old Houses” upon meditating on the floorboards worn down by previous inhabitants proposes
here it’s proved that time requires
a deeper, better verb than pass;
it’s more like pool, and ebb, and double
back again, my history, his, yours,
My history, his, yours, doubling back to the motions of water: all the while succession demonstrates that the notion of place is indebted to words, not merely to build the description but also to mark the possession and dispossession. And we by this conjunction of pronominal play and verb crafting are reminded of Robert Duncan’s opening poem to The Opening of the Field which casts these concerns in the idiom of the repeatable. “Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow” begins thus
as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,
Duncan’s poem given his concerns veers into Hermetic images. It concludes with a characterization of the place that could be attached to the old house that Doty conjures. Duncan’s meadow “is a place of first permission, / everlasting omen of what is.” These are two very different responses to the genius of place (Doty captured by the particularities; Duncan vaulted into Platonic spheres) and yet with both one senses the ontological pressures and history that “a made place” could permit. Doty’s universe is heir to Duncan’s magical permissions and dutifully is more expansive in expressing what is possible because more is possible.
subsumed into the steadying frame
of a phrase I love: a building:
both noun and verb, where we live
and what we do: fill it with ourselves
And we are left at poem’s end with the image of two men tending house, sweeping, and waxing floors with rags made from their very “own old T-shirts cut / to squares and once again of use.”
And so for day 1014