Saturday, April 02, 2005

Robert Creeley, 1926-2005

I took American Studies as a subsidiary subject at undergraduate level (something that seems to surprise my friends). There I was especially taken by the American literature subjects because of the inspiration of a great teacher – Clive Meachen – who looked like a wild-haired beat poet in those days but now appears a little more conventional. He introduced me to the Black Mountain poets who helped define a counter-tradition to the literary establishment – Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, Ed Dorn – framed by Olson's famous essay on "Projective Verse".

Robert Creeley, the doyen of the Black Mountain poets – and my personal favourite – has just died. I can still remember being mesmerised by his spare, abbreviated use of words and a marvellous ability to distil an emotion into a lyrical image or a short-breathed line. It was no surprise to hear him speak of the profound influence of jazz on his work:
line-wise, the most complementary sense I have found is that of musicians like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. I am interested in how this is done, how "time" there is held to a measure particularly an evidence (a hand) of the emotion which prompts (drives) the poem in the first place.
I can remember reading Creeley's seminal first collection, For Love, and have revisited some of the poems in the last day or so. Here I reproduce one of the best-known. "I Know A Man" is a brief reflection on the gap between human subjectivity and the world with which it must come to terms, and the way that speech drives to fill the void, to put off silences.
I Know A Man
By Robert Creeley

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, – John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going.
There's an informative website of Creeley's work here. And there is a a series of blog reflections at the excellent wood s lot.


Blogger Antonio Hicks said...

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1:46 am  
Blogger LEB said...

I too was taught American Literature and Film by Clive Meachen and have to agree - he is a wonderful teacher.

6:32 pm  
Blogger Ella said...

I knew Clive too, when i was in aber. i remember sitting for coffee with him, and whatever i said, his response would always surprise me, take me somewhere else where i had not thought to go to!! the guy is a myth!!

2:14 am  

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