After his graduation from Black Mountain College, Michael Rumaker made his way to the post-Howl, pre-Stonewall gay literary milieu of San Francisco, where he entered the circle of Robert Duncan. Contrasting Duncan's daringly frank homosexuality with Rumaker's own then-closeted life, Robert Duncan in San Francisco conjures up with harrowing detail an era of police prosecution of a clandestine gay community struggling to survive in the otherwise "open city" of San Francisco.
This expanded edition includes a selection of previously unpublished letters between Rumaker and Duncan, and an interview conducted for this edition, in which Rumaker provides further reflections on the poet and the period.
"This is a wonderfully revealing account of a series of lifechanging collisions between a young writer (Rumaker), an older writer (Duncan), a still older mentor for both (Charles Olson), a city (San Francisco), and an important era in American literature (the 1950s), when it was being turned upside down by these individuals and their friends. It's also a tender and intelligent account of a young man's coming to grips with being gay in the midst of this upheaval. Much more than memoir; it's history." —Russell Banks, author of Cloudsplitter
Robert Duncan in San Francisco offers a surprising portrait of a mentor in all his witty, wicked, luminous, and vulnerable complexity. Straddling the lines of memoir and cultural history, Michael Rumaker gives a rare and delightful view of Duncan at home in the gay community while also documenting the struggles of that community in 1950s America." —Lisa Jarnot, author of Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus
"In this fine memoir of this 16 months in San Francisco, Rumaker learns many lessons about being at home with who he is, in what he calls 'Robert's city.'" —Joanne Kyger, About Now: Collected Poems
Michael Rumaker has written several novels and short story collections, as well as the memoir Black Mountain Days. He was born in Philadelphia and is a graduate of Black Mountain College – where Duncan served as his outside thesis advisor—and Columbia University. He taught at City University of New York and the New School for Social Research.