30 March 2005

Robert Creeley: 1926-2005

Maud Newton and Ron Silliman report that Robert Creeley has died.

It was in college that I discovered Creeley -- not in a class, but rather on my own, trying to educate myself about contemporary poetry. I liked him for his lines, his famous short lines, the lines that felt just right to me. I was young enough to think I'd been waiting all my life for his poems, as if the words and lines were set in some special code just for me. I've now read too much to return to that feeling, but the memory is potent.

Creeley went to high school at one of the main rivals of the school where I work. Fifteen miles from where I sit right now. I wonder how many people there have even heard of him? I hope many. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the teachers gave each student a big piece of chalk and sent them out to scrawl Creeley poems on the roads and pathways, on the sides of the buildings?

I haven't kept up with Creeley's most recent work. Somebody told me his lines got longer, and so I never looked at the books. There are enough long lines in the poetry world; I've always been most fond of the short ones.

His poems were often the sort of thing that could only be done once, and only by him. Done again, done by anybody else, they would have had no power to sucker-punch with the surprise of what comes after the end of a line. Sometimes he imitated himself, but I never blamed him. Who else was there left for him to imitate?

The End of the Day
by Robert Creeley

Oh who is
so cosy with
despair and
all, they will

not come,
rejuvenated, to
the last spectacle
of the day. Look!

the sun is
sinking, now
it's
gone. Night,

good and sweet
night, good
night, good, good
night, has come.