Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Easy Readin' Poet #2: Robert Creeley

Famous for pared-down poems wherein every word, every syllable counts (and usually in more ways than one), Creeley is nevertheless an easy read. I ordered his Selected shortly after he died in 2005, and started reading it in earnest last September. (Death and big prizes are the only mainstream PR poets get, and I must admit I'm as affected as any). I haven't finished yet -- set the book aside after reading about two-thirds of its 350-odd pages -- but for a while I was reading and savouring one poem after another during waits for buses, short subway rides, coffee breaks and even commercials on The National and The Daily Show. Considering how fragmented our attention spans have become, poets like him make me wonder why more folks don't read poetry these days. But then, most people, I'm afraid, really don't like to think that intensely, even if only for a few minutes.

Speaking of that commercial -- or rather anti-commercial -- connection, here's a quote from an obit in the Guardian:

Rejecting the language of a mass America lost to "gray emptiness, bled out in congealing dollars and the victim of its own static habits", he sought value in "the intimate, familiar, localising, detailing, speculative, emotional, unending talking that has given my life a way of thinking of itself in the very fact and feeling of existence. God knows one wants no end to that ever."
The most oft-quoted poems are the epigram-like ones -- those that fit snugly at the end of a newspaper column. See, for instance, the poem at the end of that obit -- a favourite of mine. Here though is one in a more relaxed mode. When you title a poem "The Moon", you'd better do something damned original with it. I think Creeley succeeds here.


Earlier in the evening the moon
was clear to the east,
over the snow of the yard
and fields---a lovely

bright clarity and perfect
roundness, isolate,
riding as they say the
black sky. Then we went

about our businesses of the
evening, eating supper, talking,
watching television, then
going to bed, making love,

and then to sleep. But before
we did I asked her to look
out the window at the moon
now straight up, so that

she bent her head and looked
sharply up, to see it.
Through the night it must
have shone on, in that

fact of things---another
moon, another night---a
full moon in the winter's
space, a white loneliness.

I came awake to the blue
white light in the darkness,
and felt as if someone
were there, waiting, alone.


Nick said...

I hate to admit that I'm not familiar with this particular poem. Much enjoyed though. Thanks.

Unknown said...



Anonymous said...

Yes, I like Creeley, Duncan and the other Black Mountain poets, but they seem to have been eclipsed by the beat poets who came along just a few short years later. Whether rightfully or wrongfully, I think the Black Mountain poets now appear to the reading public as the 'academic big brothers' of Ginsberg, Kerouac, Corso, Snyder, etc.

P.S., Brian, check out the Bukowski segment from Ron Mann's Poetry In Motion docmentary (1982) I was telling you about; it's viewable at, along with some other recent fun stuff....

Brian Campbell said...

Since I look up to some of those academic big brothers, the eclipse is only partial as far as I'm concerned, and Ginsburg and Kerouac are the ones casting a any real shadow. Charles Olson's Projective Verse essay is a brilliant contribution that I write about elsewhere on this blog (Dec. 2, 2005 to be exact -- type in Olson in the search bar for this blog and you'll see a number of interesting related posts)-- although as with many theorist/poets of the langpo stripe (& he was a precursor), I find the theories and ideas on poetics more compelling than the poems that supposedly come out of them.