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Thursday, 4 April 2013

Robert Creeley: So There


Persian lacquer binding, 18th century: cover of Persian manuscript: Collected Works of Ḥāfiẓ: Dīvān-i Ḥāfiẓ [?1799] (Rare Books and Fine Printing Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand)

...for Penelope Highton

Da. Da. Da da.
       Where is the song.
What’s wrong
       with life

ever. More?
       Or less --
days, nights,

days. What's gone
       is gone forever
every time,
old friend's
       voice here. I want

to stay, somehow,
       if I could --
if I would? Where else
       to go.

The sea here's out
       the window, old
switcher's house, vertical,
       railroad blues, lonesome

etc. Can you
       think of Yee's Cafe
in Needles, California
       opposite the train

station -- can you keep
       it ever
together, old buddy, talking
       to yourself again?

Meantime some yuk
       in Hamilton has blown
the whistle on a charming
       evening I wanted

to remember otherwise --
       the river there, that
afternoon, sitting,
       friends, wine & chicken,

watching the world go by.
       Happiness, happiness --
so simple. What's
       that anger is that

competition -- sad! --
       when this at least
is free,
       to put it mildly.

My aunt Bernice
       in Nokomis,
Florida's last act,
       a poem for Geo. Washington's

birthday. Do you want
       to say ‘It's bad’?
In America, old sport,
       we shoot first, talk later,

or just take you out to dinner.
       No worries, or not
at the moment,
       sitting here eating bread,

cheese, butter, white wine --
       like Bolinas, ‘Whale Town,’
my home, like they say,
       in America. It's one world

it can't be another.
       So the beauty,
beside me, rises,
       looks now out window --

and breath keeps on breathing,
       heart's pulled in
a sudden, deep, sad
       longing, to want

to stay -- be another
       person some day,
when I grow up.
       The world's somehow

forever that way
       and its lovely, roily,
shifting shores, sounding now,
       in my ears. My ears?

Well, what's on my head
       as two skin appendages,
comes with the package,
       I don't want to

argue the point.
it changes, gone,
       abstract, new places --

moving on. Is this
       some old time weird
Odysseus trip
       sans paddle -- up

the endless creek?
       Thinking of you,
baby, thinking
       of all the things

I'd like to say and do.
       Old fashioned time
it takes to be
       anywhere, at all.

Moving on. Mr. Ocean,
       Mr. Sky's
got the biggest blue eyes
       in creation --

here comes the sun!

       While we can,
let's do it, let's
       have fun.

Robert Creeley: So There, from Hello (Hawk Press, Taylors Mistake, Christchurch, New Zealand), 1976



 "New life": Lane's Emulsion restores and maintains health: Stanley Davis (1882?-1938), colour lithograph by the Christchurch Press, 1927 (Printed Ephemera Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand)

Maltexo for Growing Greater: New Zealand Railways poster for Wilson's Maltexo, chromolithograph, c. 1935 (Printed Ephemera Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand)


The Great Levante … How's Tricks: poster for Opera House, Wellington, chromolithograph, 1941 (Printed Ephemera Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand)

The Fun of the Fair: poster for New Zealand Centennial Exhibition of 1939-40, offset lithograph by Charles Haines Advertising Agency Ltd, N.Z., November 1939 (Printed Ephemera Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand)

New Zealand Line. R.M.S. Rangitata in Gaillard Cut: poster for New Zealand Shipping Company Ltd, screenprint, early 1930s (Printed Ephemera Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand)


TC said...

It took awhile after Bob returned from this trip to recognize that he had determined, with all his attention and concentration and care, to change his life.

The sense of him as a person comes across very strongly here, in a relaxed, vulnerable, extremely human way that would henceforth characterize his writing -- and allow him to express the generosity of his nature more clearly and directly than ever, in it.

He had moved forward -- or fallen back -- into what he would soon begin to call "the common".

The poet Ed Sanders, a mutual friend, longtime colleague of RC, sends along this back channel comment and poem:


Wow, what a poem, like a salute from eternity!

Here's one of mine, from 2006,
which about sums up my feelings.

Poetry and Truth

Ahh, Robert Creeley, weary of time! Lost and found!
Your verse & your brillliance continue to sound

above the interplay of form and storm
where time may be bent but nothing is spent

Ahh, Robert Creeley, gone to the ground!
Your soul is your voice, it doesn’t repent

You held to the values beyond pale desire
Family & friend, & the music of fire

Ahh, Robert Creeley, source of the foam
No one can mash your heart in the loam

But yet we still wince who knew you so well
Who can’t hear your footstep at afternoon’s bell.


kent said...

Ok, I'm sending my '06 RIP, but only cause it's my only chance in dream only to appear on the same page as RC, TC & Ed/kent

Robert Creeley,
survived by
all three wives,

TC said...


Yes, really.


It was Creeley's practise to write his poems in notebooks, often in a single draft, and often without revision.

For those interested in the process of composition, there is a very interesting set of images of the notebook pages containing this poem.

(Clicking on the images will enlarge them.)

Robert Creeley: So There (holograph ms.)

kent said...

Thanks again, TC, for the daily common life preserver.

andrei said...

Bob Creeley makes you feel OK, and that's a big deal. The only currency is time and it's good to hear it over and over. As Dylan says, "If you can't bring any good news/don't bring any." Bob's poems are always good news, no matter how pissed, so salutations, friend, wherever you are.

Hazen said...

The difference
between what I remember
and what I want to remember
catches me up.
Both come unbidden,
suddenly there at night
in a dark room or
at under a canopy of trees
ablaze with sunlight.
The one—oh, not that again,
but this one instead,
if you please.
But both are
where I lived once
and live again
or live yet.

The recurring image:
moving across a trackless high desert at dawn
with others,
a face.

Dalriada said...

Robert Creeley "outside" of the poems too in discourse is just so interesting and engaging

"I can dig it"

Was this a point Tom in which you think there was a shift in his life?
The Robert Creeley I've encountered has always seemed expansive generous and emotional

My thanks for this poem again

TC said...


No bother, as you know it's merely a small pond.

For the insatiable reader, more by RC:

Robert Creeley: After Lorca

Robert Creeley: I Know a Man

Robert Creeley: Love

Robert Creeley: Mother's Voice

Robert Creeley: Generous Life

Robert Creeley: The Rain

Robert Creeley: The Times

Robert Creeley: Window

Robert Creeley / Ernst Halberstadt: Somewhere

Robert Creeley: For J. D. (Hearts)

TC said...

Sorry all, a bit slow catching up with these lovely witnessings.

Colin, the answer to your question re. the "shift" is, Yes, for sure.

Hazen, might it be we've been moving across that same desert together, in and out of the light, these past and now various and several years?

Andrei, my dear sweet Prince, we both do remember that voice -- securing, restless, searching, truthful, always good news.

Sometimes taking us around in circles or was it we were going around in circles and it was a constant stabilizing point? But anyhow, of course, yes.

Old time.

Nora said...

This is all so great, from the lacquer binding to the notebook images to the response poems down below.

I also just realized (I'm a little slow), that Ed Sanders is the author of Tales of Beatnik Glory. I read the local library's copy of that book to pieces when I was in high school.

TC said...

Nora, yes, same Ed Sanders, great enduring original inventive American genius artist, investigative reporter and language-maker... We were once inglorious beatniks together, when Ed and his lovely wife Miriam lived on Avenue A just above Tompkins Square Park and I dwelt amid the cockroaches on the other side of the Park, on Fourteenth Street between Avenues A & B.

Those must have been the days.

Very happy you share my delight in that Hafiz lacquered manuscript cover; I thought that, as a librarian and artist, you might appreciate that.

It is held in the Alexander Turnbull Library, where, as it happens, Angelica, as a young girl, was known to haunt the shelves.

Here's what the library says about that treasure:

"The cover of this Persian manuscript is decorated with a scene painted in watercolours onto lacquered leather which is then covered with several more coats of lacquer."

Hazen said...

Tom, Yes, in transit conjuntos, though no desert this, thanks to your daily efforts. I'd only add that the light and the visible distances of earthly deserts are lovely, to my way of thinking.

Artemesia said...

Villanelle For Robert Creeley

With words as understated grace
His mind
Illumed his face.

In mythic places
Live his kind
With words in understated grace.

With heartbeat pace
His rhymes
Illumed his face.

In every space
He opened time
With words in understated grace.

He left no trace
No borrowed lines
Illumed his face.

Now the place
He sought he finds,
The word as understated grace
Illumes his face.


As this page has been all about and for Robert Creeley, I thouught I'd add what I wrote a few days after 3/30/2005.

TC said...


Lovely memorial that, particularly the "left no trace" bit -- would that we could all one day have that said of us.


Sorry your poem here disappeared during my afternoon blank-out (long term effects of accident one year ago), and I find yesterday's now missing too -- do forgive me for putting that one back up, if I may:

I believe we can live together

in a kinder way he said burying his head
in his hands The roar of something came over then
darkening the sky
and sucking out all the air . . .

[the Anti-Christ had a fondness for that one, my friend]

TC said...


Claro -- I'm with you across those earthly distances, as I'm pretty sure you know...

De Villo Sloan said...

I'm with Kent. The Creeley, Sanders, Clark line-up has made an early spring day here in the Northeast even better. Great work and discussion. Thanks as ever, TC.

TC said...

De Villo, good to hear from you, and many thanks.

kent said...

This is ridiculous! (Hero-worship wise, that is). Now I have DVS saying, "I'm with Kent."

So, DV, where do we put these guys in the bat order? And who else fills the lineup card? I know it's a day late on the Tomblog, but just hours away from Opening Day in Detroit versus the Murderous Rowmans.

Oh, and TC, have you read the new Fidrych bio?

TC said...


I don't know if I've got what it takes to step up and speak for De Villo, here.

Still, as it's opening day and all...

If I'm Jim Leyland I'm going to sneak back into the tunnel, have a smoke and give that question a long, lean country think, Kent.

Then I'm going to come back, and by the time I'm in the dugout again, I'll have my lineup ready.

My considerations in picking the Tigers I decide to run out are these.

What I want in a Tiger is protection, loyalty, friendship, companionship. Ferociousness. I want that Tiger to protect me, and have my back, to the bitter end. If I have a fight, I want my Tiger to jump in, even if I'm winning, even if my Tiger's only ninety pounds.

I like strong Tigers -- not necessarily a masculine Tiger, but a strong Tiger, say a Tiger that runs a corporation, a CEO of a corporation. I like a strong Tiger with confidence, massive confidence, and then I want that Tiger to be completely prepared to get down to serious country-hardball Tiger work.

I like to watch batting practice like a Tiger watches their prey after they wound them. I want them to know I'm watching. I want them to remember me, in a bizarre way I want them to love me -- and watch them, just watch them. But always from a distance. I want those Tigers to keep a certain distance for at least twenty to thirty minutes before the first pitch.

And then I believe I'll run out these guys, one to nine plus DH.

Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae)

Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica)

Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)

Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti)

Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni)

South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis)

Bali tiger (Panthera tigris balica)

Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata)

Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica)

Liger or Tiglon (Panthera hybrid)

(I'll probably start out with that lefty-hitting Liger against Nova, but you can expect to be seeing Tiglon in there at some point before the night's over.)

Now I know a few of those Tigers I've just named are totally extinct. But so are Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane and Ty Cobb. And you're not going to hear anybody say those guys weren't real honest to goodness Tigers, are you, Kent?

kent said...

Now I think we have a shooting script for "Mr. Clark Goes To Tigertown."

(Not real shooting, of course, that would be cruel.)

I've petitioned Hopwood scholar Bruce Shlain to recount his encounter with sd Mr. Greenburg during the '68 Series (Coming Soon!).

My realest Tiger brushup was about five years ago when Willie Horton walked into my bakery. My friend and counter keeper Jan says, "Kent, do you recognize who this is?" K replies, "The man whose hand I've wanted to shake for most of my life." The kindest manner with the most ruthless tiger-jaw grip you can ever imagine.

De Villo Sloan said...

Kent, I'm with you.

In terms of line-up, some of us think about baseball and some think about politics.

I saw Creeley and was reminded: "Wasn't he someone's running mate back 'round 65?"

I read the blog and thought: "A Sanders/Clark ticket is still possible."

Isn't poetry America's favourite pastime?

(And I'll try to contain my enthusiasm for the heroes of my youth. I suppose it conveys a certain lack of sophistication.)

TC said...

That was Jim Leyland channeling Mike Tyson, by the way.

Upon a certain lack of sophistication all important beliefs are built.

That ticket sounds good to me. But I choose not to run. Even walking is perilous enough.

"The candidate fell on his face (fell down the stairs, was run over, abducted by undiscriminating aliens & c.)"



Just catching up, great to see all this -- I saw RC read from this notebook on Lizzie Ehman/Grace's deck one Sunday afternoon in Bolinas, just after he'd returned from New Zealand (can it be?) -- "It's one world // it can't be another."


light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, birds beginning to call in field
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

motion in addition to which
that moves, “genuine”

in the same way consequence,
will be shown, formed

grey white fog against invisible ridge,
wingspan of gull flapping toward point

Anonymous said...


TC said...


Yes, that was Bob's brief, semi-mysterious, walking-on-air return to town, after the enchanted voyage.