Robert Creeley

Recording of Robert Creeley's responses to Martin Duberman's questions about Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College

We at PennSound are grateful to Jeff Davis for helping us make this recording available from the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, with permission from the Creeley family. The recording was made apparently in the late 1960s. It is available on PennSound's growing Robert Creeley page.

What brought you to Black Mountain? (1:17): MP3
In what capacity were you there? (2:32): MP3
What were your first impressions? (5:43): MP3
Did they subsequently change? (3:22): MP3
Who among the faculty or students impressed you? (2:17): MP3
Is it accurate to refer to a Black Mountain school of poetry? (8:44): MP3
What were BMC's particular strong and weak points? (4:55): MP3
Anything about the school's tone or procedures you wish were otherwise? (2:32): MP3
What satisfactions and tensions resulted from living at such close quarters?(5:07): MP3
What accounts for perennial faculty splits at BMC? (3:34): MP3
Did good relations exist between the college and the community? (9:40): MP3
Why did the college finally close? (1:07): MP3
How would you evaluate BMC's influence on your artistic growth? (11:16): MP3

Robert & Bobbie Creeley: Placitas phone log, 1968

A day in the life

(109:38): MP3
Among the reel-to-reel tapes in PennSound's Robert Creeley archive, we found a phone log Bob had made of a day in the life, the life being lived at the time in Placitas, New Mexico, in the late 1960s (let's call it 1968, but exact date not known as yet), where Creeley was  living his wife Bobbie Louise Hawkins and their children. The log captures everyday life, that great Creeley theme, from a daughter asking permission for sleep-over to a brief conversation about an overdue phone bill to a long chat with Bob's life-long friend photographer Elsa Dorfman. In an age of email, this time capsule gives a sense of the phone conversation as both a space of intimate exchange and quotidian commerce.

Creeley reading at CUE Art Foundation, January 18, 2005

screenshot of video of Robert Creeley reading at CUE in 2005

The recording of this reading was segmented into thirteen poems just yesterday. Go here to see the special PennSound page devoted to this event:

When I Think (2:22): MP3
War (0:59): MP3
Talking (1:08): MP3
Paul (1:49): MP3
Old Song (0:53): MP3
Oh, do you remember (2:22): MP3
Mediterranean I (1:17): MP3
Mediterranean II (1:39): MP3
Jumping with Jackson (1:23): MP3
Shimmer (4:01): MP3
Sad Walk (1:32): MP3
The Red Flower (2:54): MP3
Old Story from The Diary of Francis Kilver (1:13): MP3

Digitizing Creeley's reel-to-reel tapes

Robert Creeley and son Will (photo by Bruce Jackson)

Will Creeley sent us at PennSound this great note after hearing a PoemTalk episode about one of his father's poems:

I saw word of this latest episode via PennSound's excellent & useful Twitter feed, and figured it was a good opportunity to say thank you again to Al, Charles and everyone at PennSound & Kelly Writers House for taking in our big cardboard boxes and digitizing the reel-to-reel recordings inside with such care and precision.

Creeley near the end

A beautiful late reading given by Robert Creeley, CUE Art Foundation, January 18, 2005. We at PennSound provide the video and also the audio-only recording of this event.

"When I think of where I come from....of what a life is, or was...," begins the first poem in the reading. Creeley died in March of '05, just a few months later.

PoemTalk update

Who's counting? Well, but...Who's counting? Well, but... Here are the most often listened-to PoemTalk episodes in the last two weeks: 1) W. C. Williams, 2) Robert Creeley, 3) Wallace Stevens, 4) Jaap Blonk, 5) Cid Corman, 6) Allen Ginsberg singing Blake, 7) Amiri Baraka, 8) Ezra Pound, 9) Barbara Guest. I'm not counting the new Vachel Lindsay show; it received the largest number of hits but was just released, so its traffic resulted in folks responding to a widespread announcement. We'll see next month if people are still listening to the Lindsay. I certainly hope so.

Because I am always talking (PoemTalk #16)

Robert Creeley, "I Know a Man"

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Robert Creeley's "I Know a Man" is in many ways a signature poem. Few poems we choose to discuss on PoemTalk are such. Many are downright unrepresentative. This one might indeed be unrepresentative but if a person knows just one Creeley poem this is probably it.

It's been much written about. In The San Francisco Renaissance Michael Davidson explores the "Beat ethos" with a detailed reading of "I Know a Man." Similarly, PoemTalkers Randall Couch, Jessica Lowenthal and Bob Perelman find beat here--but also its counterargument, and/or a rejoinder to its dark depth and to the beat propensity for driving nowhere (or somewhere) fast. Robert Kern in boundary 2--a 1978 essay--finds postmodern poetics in the Creeleyite anthem: in a nutshell, composition as recognition. Cid Corman (himself the topic of an upcoming PoemTalk) finds and commends the "basic English" of the poem, comparing it with a "more refined" and less effective poem on a similar topic by Louis MacNeice. Walter Sutton back in '73 drew a line of influence from Charles Olson's poetics to Creeley's "laconic" and "spasmodic" lineation and rhetoric.

The PoemTalkers talk about this remarkable instance of eloquent stammering. The stammer is perhaps the apt way--since form is never more than an extension of content, and vice versa, after all!--of heading into the surrounding mid-1950s darkness, only to be brought up short by the actual needs of the actual American road. It is not a resolution and not a capitulation, but an assertive and possibly ironic (funny, anyway) means of bringing up short. Or, in short: more stammering.

I Know a Man

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.

Our friends at the Poetry Foundation have listed and linked all episodes of PoemTalk here. And, as always, one can subscribe to PoemTalk through the iTunes music store; simply type "PoemTalk" in the Music Store search box.

There are, at last count, eight different recordings of Creeley reading this poem - all to be found, along with much more, on PennSound's Creeley author page. Not long after his father's death, Will Creeley brought to us boxes of reel-to-reel tapes, which we have gone through carefully, digitizing, segmenting, identifying poem by poem.

Because I am always talking (PoemTalk #16)

Robert Creeley, 'I Know a Man'

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Robert Creeley’s “I Know a Man” is in many ways a signature poem. Few poems we choose to discuss on PoemTalk are such. Many are downright unrepresentative. This one might indeed be unrepresentative but if a person knows just one Creeley poem this is probably it.

It’s been much written about. In The San Francisco Renaissance Michael Davidson explores the “Beat ethos” with a detailed reading of “I Know a Man.” Similarly, PoemTalkers Randall Couch, Jessica Lowenthal and Bob Perelman find beat here — but also its counterargument, and/or a rejoinder to its dark depth and to the beat propensity for driving nowhere (or somewhere) fast. Robert Kern in boundary 2 — a 1978 essay — finds postmodern poetics in the Creeleyite anthem: in a nutshell, composition as recognition. Cid Corman (himself the topic of an upcoming PoemTalk) finds and commends the “basic English” of the poem, comparing it with a “more refined” and less effective poem on a similar topic by Louis MacNeice. Walter Sutton back in ‘73 drew a line of influence from Charles Olson’s poetics to Creeley’s “laconic” and “spasmodic” lineation and rhetoric.

The PoemTalkers talk about this remarkable instance of eloquent stammering. The stammer is perhaps the apt way — since form is never more than an extension of content, and vice versa, after all! — of heading into the surrounding mid-1950s darkness, only to be brought up short by the actual needs of the actual American road. It is not a resolution and not a capitulation, but an assertive and possibly ironic (funny, anyway) means of bringing up short. Or, in short: more stammering.

The Williams who torques sentences

The William Carlos Williams that motivated a young Robert Creeley was The Wedge of 1944. For Ron Silliman and--he suspects--others among those who "became known as Language Poet[s]"--the key Williams was to be found in Spring & All (1923). They found it in the 1970 Frontier Press edition.

Silliman believes that one of the important distinctions between the Language Poets and earlier avant-garde generations was their "different reading" of Williams - their Spring & All-centered reading of him.

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