I just learned from lth
that the poet Robert Creeley
died yesterday at age 78 in Odessa, Texas.
Here is an excerpt from his poem Four Days in VermontBreeze at the window
lifts the light curtains
Through the dark a light
across the faint space
Warmth out of season
fresh wash of ground
out there beyond
sits here waiting
For whatever time comes
truth of the matter
I fell in love with his work in the early eighties, while I was an undergraduate at the University of Colorado. Once I was listening to him give a reading there, and my head fell back as if pinned to the chair by the magnetic force of his words. That was such a strange, stunning sensation for me: I never forgot it. I told Sydney Goldfarb, one of my poetry teachers, about it, and he offered to introduce me to him, but I said no. I was shy. And, really, what could I say? It wasn't the man himself who was the point -- I didn't know him, and didn't have any sense then of the possible gifts of direct, strong appreciation of good work from a stranger (even -- or especially -- from someone as young and kind of halting as I could be then) -- it was the way his poetry -- often so sparse, so short -- opened paths for me through labyrinths of emotion, relation, language and time. He was so meditative, and so often rueful, but also there was a pulse of life in his work that he let beat out in simple words -- mysteries of "you" and "it" and "all." He let the past sweep over any sense of present, and he wasn't afraid of feeling. It was clear that he had lost a lot in his life, but his poems created connection of the deepest kind.
And I loved the way his books looked. He had books of poems from a mainstream press, but also small, grey chapbooks on beautiful paper from Toothpaste Press -- they were so unassuming as objects, yet so beautiful, packed with meaning and thought and pleasure for me, that they gave me hope for my own work, that it might travel, some day, even modestly, even without a book binding of the kind I recognized, and still matter to strangers, to other people who were eager, were hungry, were open, were receptive, as I was, as I still am, to inchoate efforts to get worlds into words.
I just looked up inchoate
, to be sure that I was using it to say what I mean. It means 1. just begun, incipient. 2. imperfect, incomplete.
It's not quite what I thought, but it's good, it's part of what Robert Creeley, so early, so strongly, helped me to see -- that even with hard decades of craft and practice, of discipline, behind you, a writer is always groping towards things, towards meaning, with blunt tools and a blunted understanding, often with broken off hopes, but that the making itself is an enormous gift, to the writer and to the people who read for such things, and that the practice really does create a freedom to use bluntness, to be more blunt and also more full of grace in the attempt to say something that makes a story, makes a poem, something that quivers and burns and weighs in the air, something that passes into meaning, into bodies and minds, into lives, even as one life ends.
He was born in Massachusetts and died in Texas. I think there's something a little funny about that.fflo
just posted one of my favorite Robert Creeley poems.