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Robert Creeley, 1926-2005

April 4th, 2005 · No Comments

I didn’t read of Creeley’s death until the early morning hours of 1 April in my hotel room in Cardiff, where I am to attend the IATEFL festivities starting tomorrrow evening.

I first read Creeley as a high school student, “I Know a Man” the first poem of Creeley’s I remember distinctly, no doubt because it just felt true, disturbing yet comforting, wrapped as I was in acute adolescent alienation and morbid fear of what was going down in the country at the time: Vietnam, the slipping away of optimism over civil rights, even with Martin Luther King’s assassination yet to come.

After that, Creeley was always a presence on my bookshelves, and in my reading life a quiet guide, introducing me to Cid Corman, Zukofsky, and leading me to think about Williams and the communities and conflicts in American poetry in new ways. I may never shake, however, the feeling that I still have a lot more work to do, will never know enough, etc. etc., which of course none of us ever get to the end to, nor, especially with Creeley as a guide, should we…

So it’s been a fascinating few days, made more acute by jet lag, and the backdrop of mass media attention on the deaths of Terry Schiavo and the Pope.
Wandering alone in Cardiff, trying to catch up on reading, preparations for the new school year and for the conference, the outpouring of reminiscinces on the poetics list and blogs has been touchstone for reflection and re-evaluation of poetry and life. Stephen Vincent and Ron Silliman [1] [2] [3] have provided, as always, new doors and useful starting points for this thinking, and Jack Kimball’s re-publishing of his Creeley article is essential for those starting out, or in need of orienting their maps.

I first heard Creeley speak (in person) last September at the Zukofsky conference, and was astonished at how strong he seemed, and at how familiar his voice was to me, though I had in fact known it only in recorded form and through the page. The mix of open-ness, doubt, sychopations of jazz, and the clear rhythms of New England make the closing paragraphs of Stephen Vincent’s eulogy ring all the the more true.

And beyond or with the work who can ever forget his social presence – a magnetism that brought people up to their best, everyone, in my experience, immedate and alert to each word in the air. A place honored where the poem became as valid as any door through which one may enter to receive a particular gift, where no place else could be more interesting to live and abide.

I – as I am sure of many of us – will miss him dearly.

For any readers who don’t know Creeley’s work, the EPC Creeley page is a great place to start.

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