by carl wilson

Robert Creeley: Of Some Lost Thrush

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Other notes wait in the wings, but I was saddened this afternoon to learn that Robert Creeley died yesterday morning at the age of 78. Others can and will no doubt eulogize him more roundly than I can, but I can say that when I was younger, I was dismissive of Creeley's work, which I thought too full of the mundane for poetry. It took age to appreciate the music of it, its high fidelity to the awkward stutters in which the mind feels thought. Its low fidelity to ease, like a four-track language. He said that the inarticulate is what poetry has as its own now, the way that jazz after Coltrane had the fracture of melody as its material, its home ground. The best way to read him is to hear him, I think, in his creaky voice, suffused with pain and anger and tenderness: You can find examples in abundance at Linebreak. Musicians, of course, heard the tuneliness of his work, as he did of theirs (jazz was a long inspiration): His poems were set to music by Mercury Rev, former students of his at U Buffalo; as well as by Steve Swallow on Home, with vocals by Sheila Jordan; Courage (Steve Swallow, Chris Massey and John Wills) on an album called The Way Out Is Via The Door; another band with Swallow and David Torn and others, on an album called Have We Told You All You'd Thought to Know?; and many times over the years with the late great soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy (read Pierre Joris' fine liner notes to one Lacy-Creeley album, Futurities). You can hear more of Creeley reading here at Kelly Writer's House in Philly.

An NPR obituary for Robert Creeley is here. There's the very moving sight of people exchanging favourite Creeley anecdotes and pomes, as if gathered under a streetlamp, on Metafilter, and an array of links to mourn with at Wood S Lot. A review by Tom Clark of Creeley's book Life & Death, and an appropriate poem:

A Song

I had wanted a quiet testament
and I had wanted, among other things,
a song.
That was to be
of a like monotony.
(A grace
Simply. Very very quiet.
A murmur of some lost
thrush, though I have never seen one.

Which was you then. Sitting
and so, at peace, so very much now this same quiet.

A song.

And of you the sign now, surely, of a gross
perpetuity
(which is not reluctant, or if it is,
it is no longer important.

A song.

Which one sings, if he sings it,
with care.

News | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, March 31 at 4:31 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)

 

COMMENTS

There is also a decent collection of Creeley reading at PennSound:
http://www.writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Creeley.html

His voice is my favorite.

Posted by amy c. lam on April 1, 2005 10:41 AM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson