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RIF/T: An Electronic Space for Poetry, Prose, and Poetics|
Editors: Kenneth Sherwood and Loss Pequeño Glazier
Version 6.1 © Fall 1997
For Robert Creeley @ 70
Special Issue of RIF/T Version 6.1 from Buffalo
See Also: Creeley at 70 in Buffalo | Robert Creeley author home page
A Note on RIF/T 06 | RIF/T Home Page | Electronic Poetry Center
Robert Creeley and Charles Bernstein from LINEbreak
Peter Gizzi and Elizabeth Willis
Loss Pequeño Glazier
Vincent S. Gregory
Photo Credit: © 1996 by Loss Pequeño Glazier
Creeley Festival, Buffalo, 1996
from LINEbreakI'm Charles Bernstein.
On today's program, "Poetry on the Line"
with Robert Creeley.
Robert Creeley's Selected Poems
has just been published by the University of California Press,
Windows and Echoes are
new from New Directions. He teaches in the
at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Bob, two of the poets that you've often
Pound and Olson
wrote epic poems,
poems encompassing history,
poems incorporating political or cultural documents.
But your own poems seem very much the
opposite of that . . .
Remember, I have one called "Epic"--"leave some
room for my epic."
That's the poem.
I could never get
on an epic
scale, so to speak.
Why is it that you're drawn as
models to these
very . . .
They're good people to hang out with
--speak to the man, Charles.
They gave me
a necessary compensation, so to speak.
Well, measure is something that you often
write about and think about; and your
sense of measure seems anti-epic,
although I wouldn't say minimal
as it might be described.
. . . like Laurel and Hardy!
I don't . . .
I was fascinated by their
abilities both to think, or think 'the' world . . .
or 'a' world . . . no, 'the' world
such as I, also,
variously knew it.
And to find a way of not
compacting it or compounding it but of--
representing it but of--
of thus using it,
as though they--not
took control of it but--could act in all
of its various terms, seemingly,
and could . . .
yes, were very stylish and very--
despite the obvious horrors of some of the
were, as poets,
Well, what about your poems' measure?
What do your poems measure?
I guess that
one echo might be the
sense of "to see the world in a
grain of sand."
That scale really in
Zukofskys', in some ways,
despite also that Zukofsky wrote a long poem indeed.
Nonetheless its focus,
is very akin to mine.
I don't know. I was a piece worker;
I liked the sense of, not so much poem, poem, poem;
but I like the sense
of having these
various things or facets or reflections,
all of which could be
started over and over.
Clemente made this charming remark--that
unlike the painters line,
the poet gets the
chance to start his or her line new
What's the prosody of that?
I mean, Zukofsky always talks about the music
of his poetry, and yours seem an extension of a
musical and prosodic idea
that relates to
I love the way it refracts and sounds
in the head. That was to me the
fascination of poetry
early on, its
unexpected resonance. I remember one time with Robert Duncan . . .
We were thinking,
particularly, how long something
would sound after it . . .
Not, how long it
would hang in the air--
but if one said
'boo' as the opening sound, let's say, how
many other syllables
or units of sound
could then one add, and still have 'boo'
resonate, if it came back 'true'? You know?
something uncanny in your work,
which I'd say is like the sound of thinking.
I sometimes hear thinking sounded
in the way that, in Walden, Thoreau talks about--
sounding the bottom of Walden Pond to get its shape, but also
the sound coming in time.
I'm thinking of the poem
"Whatever" . . . .
Robert Creeley and Charles Bernstein
See also LINEbreak audio program on Creeley
What I did was work the day shift, 7 to 3, at a grinding wheel, grinding the glaze off the bottoms of cups as they came off the kiln cars. A thousand cups a day: Jose cups, Caprice cups, Mark cups, Conservo cups. Dozens of colors and designs: black spray mist, red 245, Newport gold, Bar Harbor, White Tower. What I did at night was go to U.B. night school. I had some vague interest in poetry. There were Beatniks in Mad Magazine. I found On The Road in a drug store. Jack Clarke was teaching Modern Poetry. In between sips of Red Barrel beer, he told us to check into Creeley. Well, hell, I thought this is easy homework. I was never at a poetry reading. There were few in Cheektowaga. And rather than class we had to go out and get IT, that is read for IT: the poetry and the reading. We were left to select the means from which to approach IT. So, over in Norton Union in what was Norton Cafeteria, it was Creeley's return from someplace and here is this guy I never heard off in knit hat with his new book: A Day Book. The first poem I ever heard, Do you think that if / I said, I love you, or anyone/ said it, or you did. DO you/ think that if you had all/ you really/ would have to think it all into/ reality, the world, each time, new. Each of the cups then was not a cup in my hand. Each was full for the sipping with an equal full cup being sipped someplace. One million cups on tables somewhere my ears to intimate imaginative endless loving conversation.
from: A little post-apocalyptic suite
with thanks for rhinoOff in Wittgenstein's Kitchen
Endless plunge into precipitations
of density no wise predicted in white
recurring forecasts of post-holiday expulsions
beyond seasonal consolations wracked up
in constant divisions and bullet shattered
need for that jacket or just some vague
top heavy knowing ever denied finally
even trumped up vestiges of
magnificat fallen from the table
we scurry beneath having forgotten
where it's going or why it wants
us bewildered and refolded in blunt
intimations daily waiting a squeak
and rustle announces postman
deliveries of cheap drug and hardware flyer
Photo Credit: © 1996 by Loss Pequeño Glazier
Steve Kuhn & Carol Fredette, Creeley Festival, Buffalo, 1996
This Is the End of Singing III(From In the Analogy, Book VI The Hobbling)
You have to reach
Out more it's
Farther away from
You it's here"
--Robert Creeley, "Here"
Barrier of escheat
have found nothing
--Susan Howe, "Staked to my body..."
I cast futurity away & turn my back upon that void
Which I have made for lo futurity is in this moment.
--Urizen, The Four Zoas
We become present by looking at the Supreme which
Plotinus says contains no Otherness, is our way to
put Otherness--which I got carried away with during
the Reagan years like a lot of us--away, a way to
another kind of Term this night of the New Hampshire
primary which is not Democrats & Republicans but Us
vs. the Conspirators, which gets closer to the Satan
Christ antinomy needed to think out of the man-made
language the black lady at the hospital was given to,
which is what the present gives, not the mushrooms
you can name, unless you are also John Cage standing
on a ladder looking into the light laughing at dream
of Brockden Brown Sleep-walker ever since conditional
Revolution of Blake's helping Deist Paine to escape.
We spent the morning and early afternoon reading around in Creeley hoping to find something to say to commemorate his 70th, but first one of us would exclaim "Listen to this" and the other "Listen," and the day disappeared inside his poems instead. The fact is that we again were reading his work as we had done 15 years ago and continue to do so now with awe, delight, reverence, and human care. In the past decade Bob has also been our teacher, advisor, and family friend. But finally, as he always insisted, it is the work that matters, for the man whose table we visited was as much a construction for each of us out of his own words as the person who stood before us in his poems. Or the words are curiously more his person than they ever were. He is a great & abiding spirit, a no-nonsense conveyor of everyman's art, all heart.
Dear Bob, Cheers!
Peter Gizzi & Elizabeth Willis
Santa Cruz, CA
H e r e
for Bob Creeley
Loss Pequeño Glazier
Creeley RewriteFor everything else
This for words
For what other
would this be
For words once
Are and always were
Let's GoLet's go ....
good and sweet
sweet and good
Roll it up
Vincent S. Gregory
About I Know a Man
Yes, he knows me
& I am his friend. But let
straight, he is kind of
quiet, & John is my real
name. It wasn't night or
dark but sunny &
bright. He sd nothing in
particular, was happy &
everything. He was against
nothing. We were in his
new car, big, they
were all big in those
days, he had just
bought it, was showing
me the car. I did say
something but not what he
wrote. I sd can I drive
it. He let me drive
it. Another thing is
swear. As i sd to
him, because i am
always talking, i am the one
who's always talking, Bob, I
sd, which is not his name,
it's his nickname,
i just love the way
you make things up.
Photo Credit: © 1996 by Loss Pequeño Glazier
Creeley & Dine, Creeley Festival, Buffalo, 1996
Emerging Fragility--On Robert Creeley
Robert Creeley, both the man and the poet, seems acutely attuned to fragility. The way a form we mold out of the domestic turbulence of our dailiness can wash away. The way a form that is not washed away, but moves to some sort of completion, will yet be washed away. The way a form holds within it its own tottering state.
(Nods to Tom Raworth.)
drive, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going
We are threatened by physical capriciousness: cars out of control, the glass from the windshield in the eye. The eye worn as a badge for his fragility, and ours. Hence, compassion. Compassion for a Dutch boy with his finger in the dike's hole all night not, as we often think, out of determined heroism, but out of a quaking fear that he would be shamed/blamed. We are accidents all, all as fragile as an accident. Truth is a scrawl. We love out of fragility. An entire poem reads And Ebbe/with love. Think of the and in this poem, and how it implies multitudes.
So the art is sometimes a controlled playfulness, an arena where at least the pen, the paper, the body behind the desk can be assumed, are reliable givens: Words are pleasure. So we can at times wonder about numbers as would a child. A section in Pieces entitled Five begins
in the middle
or else at
In the security of the writing situation the few words open to pleasure. Yet confined to short, controlled lines. Extravagance leaves the fragility open.
Fragility can get messy, particularly when we feel threatened.
For love--I would
split open your head and put
a candle in
behind the eyes
This stanza is partly bravado, the rhetoric of the dashing, dangerous young male lover. (The book from which it is taken is entitled For Love.) But it is more. It is vengeance recoiling from persona unmasked, the vengeance that protects a basic fragility. Don't get too close, don't peer around certain corners. Or the words you will encounter as surgical blows, small but additive, punctuated by perfect line breaks. Your body breaks from small words and the poet stands triumphant. For now.
Ultimately, though, when I think of Robert Creeley I think of compassion and graciousness. Without him we would never have launched Poetic Briefs, a magazine that both he and I assumed would have washed away by now. He has my undying gratitude for continuing to care about us young poets even into his seventh decade.
At Elizabeth Burns' father's seventieth birthday Elizabeth read Theresa's Friends, a poem about Creeley's childhood admiration of Irish story telling and, eventually, his learning that the name C-R-E-E-L-E-Y is Irish. This fact meant the stories were now in his, Creeley's, blood. There were many assembled that day, almost all Boston Irish and almost all WWII veterans. Elizabeth told Creeley of the nodding laughs that met the line about Cronin's Bar. Creeley said that he wished he had been there. And he meant it.
Students Will Ask
What's so hot or cool about a red
wheelbarrow? Say it's a rain glaze
beside white. The chickens beside
the point. No one leaves tools out
to rust less something big
is happening. A thin film
penetrates deep into the surface
of things. Rust doesn't have to sit up
all night with a sick
There seemed a
great beast, I
thought it was
by blind men
feeling of it
on a wet black bear.
Take a bough.
Set file collision
ditties of no
chain or box stitch
for stretch or strength.
About the ears
upside the head
Can't we just
get along, little
Untitled for RCSuch is the weight,
or the west
better the west
in a prize
the butter predicted on
caught that attitude
caught it somehow
not a recollection
but old copies of colors
copied as colors
what should be leaving now
must have been sticky as sea
as around it
a face, a first question
the stranger who gains
which explains, may I
skip the rest
Fragment of Largess(for and after Robert Creeley) Is surrounds us what can again do Shall we and it? Matter is spirit reduced to an incredible thinness
Photo Credit: © 1996 by Loss Pequeño Glazier
Creeley at Hallwalls, Creeley Festival, Buffalo, 1996
After IT by Clemente / Creeley1.
Lost in an embryonic lull
where color and speech
are the string around
a finger forgetful
of emergence as such.
Contained in vases
the lull of conversation
that scriptures its way
off yr plate &
into a sun, grayed with
some such wisdom,
Puzzles of gratitude, a shield
of honor, 3 blossoms in
one lion, one secret,
No measure for
a black flower surrounded
by spasms of orange
what rose is this
the depth that goes on
through to hearts
and oracles, leafed
a cannon ball of
simplicity, an illusion
(icy resurrection, that one in a halo
of yellow on a platter of onyx)
This heart the ballooning
of difficult seeds, made jagged
& puzzled in the world
they color with an eloquence
of speech, a circus of daisies
all topsy-turvy with love
of the outer world
beyond such bricks.
Swirling in aghast of
delicate winds, each taking
a vine & twisting
till speech makes literal
all that thought makes
faded, cautioned, and
growing ever the more
beyond the elements
at once in time and thought, absolutely to be "here" mislaid umbrella halts it, absolutely where placed love's mnemonic
In Imitation of For Love(with a Line Stolen from Ted Berrigan)
If he or she is clumsy in places, those are clumsy places
and when he or she says I have a lover or a husband or a wife, we or I feel sad,
or is it just clumsy?
can't one make it simple, or at least simpler?
or why can't it be that way for just one moment?
I am writing this on a hip pocket pad, a waterproof one
but I am not crying, never crying
and it never rains when or where in some northern or southern or western
or eastern city I am writing
to tell you I've got a crush on you
the waterproof cost me extra
the words are extra; they don't come with the pad
the crush, the love is extra
and you are extra.
oh, wake up.
Then There Was The Time
Letters sent from Guatemala
letters received from Campeachy--
a new and more usable history
precisely as intimate as verse is
odd to think of summer footprints on
Watertown down on the Charles
Dogtown high up on her granite.
How they spotted themselves!
Eyes wide open
Out of thirteen numbers and twenty names
the date turns out to be Seven Jaguar
Shoosh Ek caught in the mouth of the bat, sun
between the fistful of seeds and the fork
in the calabash tree
Bolon Balam takes his turn as the owner of night
daimon of the number nine
black jaguar spotted white
a dog sits up on the road of light
greets Lady Moon, eight days ago
her crescent stood over sunset, last night
she turned her back on Death, tonight
a nurse gives light to a boy
on a hill in the town whose Indian name is
away from home even then.
The man with the red beard
short of breath
writes on his ranch under Lobo Peak
given by Mabel from down on Delaware Avenue
corner of North Street, Ganson by birth
married an Evans whose brother's son
purchased a triple-plank schoolhouse in East Aurora.
His favorite cousin, her only child
took his favorite stepfather east to see the Falls
Tony Luhan of Taos.
The man with the black goatee
reads on a campus that looks like eroded adobe
measures his breath, high altitude
we wonder whether he drinks Chianti, eats peyote
why he's not wearing shower shoes
what he might write under Lobo Peak
under Lorenzo's roof
front porch buffalo faces west
phoenix nailed up in a ponderosa
painted by Lady Brett who listens
through the small end of a trumpet
remembers the man with the red beard
ashes mixed with cement to make an altar
reliquary by the door, hinged lid--
typewriter frail, tattered jacket.
Up this creek, they say
Sandia Man butchered a mammoth
chert tools sealed under limestone, and
down the creek, they say
was Drop City South--
you won't find that on any map
acequias don't go there either
Fullerdomes hard to heat
bricks of mud and straw make better homes
rafters of ponderosa
granite runs down to the foothills.
In Nickel City, they say
one way to celebrate
is to run red lights late at night
one right after another, fast
talk your way out of the ticket
tell the cop it's a special occasion
take a good look at his left wrist
admire his Mickey Mouse watch.
Saying goodbye to the Duke City
he reads to a circle of friends on the grass
Siberian elms spread wide by now
each one stands for a National Guardsman
who never marched home from Bataan
the poet speaks of survival on Bay State Road
dark night of the soul--
there is such a thing as getting too close
Late at night in the Black Rock firehouse
everyone else has gone, but
we might not make it home in one piece.
Thanks for putting up with us
and putting us up.
So it is that what I feel, in the world, is the one thing I know myself to be, for that instant.
I will never know myself otherwise.
Intentions are the variabilities of all these feelings, moments of that possibility. How can
I ever assume that they must come to this or that substance?
-- Robert Creeley
It's not that, now, I don't know these words, from the introduction to Robert Creeley's WORDS. It's not that I have not known them. Instead, it is that my not knowing them has been crucial, to my own sense of what a poem might know, and what I might know in relation to it. Which is to say, what I might know.
I have always wanted to know myself, and to know, in relation, what I might know of others. If there's anything that Robert Creeley's poetry--the first poetry I ever gave a damn about--has taught me, it is that a poem is always intimate, however public its address, however final its confusions. A poem, at its best, brings us close, in relation, to what it might be of us that matters. As close, say, as I might be to you.
Which is to say not as close, always, as illusion might dream. I've always wanted to say of the first of Creeley's lines above that it's not RIGHT. I don't know myself in the instant I'm feeling. My feeling is ahead of my knowing, or the other way around. Or not even ahead--just different, wandering, out there, reaching towards what one can only imagine to be. Feeling? Knowing? Words. I don't know myself in the instant that's already gone. I don't know you as I don't know me--and even the AS is a question.
It is, then, the status of knowing itself that Robert Creeley has helped me question. I see his work and know: all such knowing must begin where I do. Where is that? Not a place of containment, control, objectively verifiable phenomena, but one that fundamentally understands that knowledge can ONLY be intimacy. And only a lost intimacy, as only intimacy can be lost. Which is to say that Creeley's sense of knowing IS right. He knows how to know, because he knows what knowledge loses.
A poem, like you, like me, like its lost knowledge, brings the distance close, and extends its intimacy to a endless horizon. Finally that's how Robert Creeley, as an exemplar, for me, of what it means to intimately know the world, knows me in his own lines. I want to cry out "I am lost in you, your work has showed me how to be lost." And in that intimacy one begins again to fashion a world, for love--a world of shattering closeness, that disappears in the intimate distances of the oem, real as we are in constant vanishing.
A Note on RIF/T"Local Effects" marks the last regular-format issue of RIF/T magazine. Beginning with RIF/T 7, the format of RIF/T will change to offer a more compact and more quickly circulated selection of texts. Submissions of poetry for section 1., hypertext fiction, reviews, interviews, and non-standard prose for section 2. are welcomed. Online exhibits from the EPC will be high-lighted in section 3.
Please submit simultaneously to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com via email. HTML format texts are accepted with gratitude.
RIFT06.01 copyright (c) 1997. All rights revert to author(s) upon publication. Texts distributed by RIF/T or the Electronic Poetry Center (Buffalo) may not be republished for profit in any form without express consent of author(s) and notification of the editors, but may be freely circulated among individuals for personal use provided that this copyright statement is included. Public archiving of complete issues only, in electronic or print forms, is permissible provided that no access fee is charged.
Special thanks to EPC Contributing Editors Eric Rosolowski and Celia M. White for help with this issue.
RIF/T Responses, submissions, and queries to: sherwood@acsu.BUFFALO.EDU
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