Sunday, January 07, 2018

a creeley weekend

ever wake up with a particular someone or something on your mind.  a someone or something that you haven't thought about in a long while.  but when you look up that someone or something you rediscover why you had fallen in love with that someone or something in the first place.

i awoke on saturday morning with fragments of some very vivid dreams.  i took notes on one of these dreams because i think it might be significant tho i can't articulate why i might think it important since i rarely write about dreams, and i go so far as to deny dreams their importance upon my thinking.  let's just say i've been reading/watching a lot of science of science fiction and my dream about looking thru a telescope to neighboring galaxies, then individual planets, when i knew should i continue to look i would find evidence of life, even intelligent life, might be important to help frame my thinking of late.

but even so, i also woke to the name of robert creeley.  i have several of his books.  i even have that biography by ekbert faas that was published in 2001 that was so awful, so mean, i didn't finish reading it.  creeley was also an early adopter of the web and his 2002 Best of American Poetry anthology is the first, or one of the first, collections of poetry of its kind to take online publishing seriously.  yes, even in the early days of dial-up internet service there were robert creeley videos up on the interwebs.

i wondered if creeley would have embraced social media.  would he have published his poems and essays on a blog/facebook/twitter?  a prolific letter-writer he embraced email and in a 2002 interview recommended an audio streaming site for listening to his beloved jazz.  i can only interject my own preferences.  i do see the flaws and dangers of digital life but i have used the internet as a platform for my own writing.  i long embraced email as a transport of correspondence.  and now that i have a smart phone i have adapted to a media landscape that includes newsfeeds and texts.  i am a social creature.  when i got my phone i emailed several friends and invited them to text me if they have means and inclination. 

but my enthusiasm for digital life is not a complete endorsement of it either.  we are all terribly aware that social media can be used for evil.  it stokes are basest needs and desires.  but i think digital media can be a force for good.  what tool in our human toolbox is not used as a weapon.  a hammer has killed people as it has made new houses.  digital media is a human tool, neither evil or good of itself.  it is only as bad or as good as we make it.

what does that have to do with robert creeley?  well, like i said, creeley was an early enthusiast of the internet.  i feel a certain kinship with creeley.  he was a brilliant poet and mind but a diffident student.  he knew he wanted to be a poet but was impatient with academia, even if he spent his whole life in the academy. creeley dropped out of harvard.  then he taught classes in his own way at black mountain college without a degree.  when charles olson, who was rector of black mountain, awarded creeley a BA he said, about creeley, if he can teach the subjects he certainly is qualified to be awarded a degree in those subjects. 

and later, when creeley needed an advanced degree to continue his teaching, pursued his MA at the university of new mexico.  later in life, he was awarded his MA.  but most important creeley wrote his imitable poetry.  that was the most important to me when i started to read creeley in my early 20s.  i had no idea that i would go to college.  given my background finishing anything much less college would be a miracle.

still, at the age of sixteen i knew i would be a writer.  later in my 20s i discovered the importance of an education.  i was a diffident student too.  not brilliant like creeley --who is? -- but a human being with a passion for language and poetry.  i remember buying my first robert creeley book, windows [new directions; 1990].  i carried that book with me everywhere.  i don't think at that time i read creeley's anthology poems.  i didn't read a lot of anthologies in my late teens/early 20s.  and yet, his abilities with line, breaking it often on an article like 'the' or 'a' or 'an' was electrifying.  i didn't know you could do that with poetry.

later did i learn about robert creeley the student and man.  oh, the portraits of the man had an effect on me too.  a man with short hair, grey beard, glasses [i'm talking about the photos of creeley in later life], his left eye socket sewn shut, reverberated thru me because i was born with a foot defect that required two surgeries, one when i was a baby, the second when i was 19, that left me feeling like a, well, freak.  the loss of an eye or having a ruined foot is not, by example of robert creeley, a scene of diminished humanity but a sign of human beauty. 

that is what we do as human beings.  we find our fellows that make us feel human.  that was what robert creeley, with the loss of his eye, his fractured education, his warmth and humor in his poetry, as well as his friendships in the art of living and poetry, made me feel human.  that is what i woke to on saturday after my explorations of nearby galaxies.  for i have a life-long relationship with robert creeley and like every long living relationship, it ebbs and flows.  but the beauty of these unions of ours is that we fall in love all over again.  i busted out my creeley books and reread some poems.  i pointed my browser toward creeley videos which exist, thank god, in abundance, and i reread that 2002 interview published in the print lit journal bridge [fall/winter 2002; volume 2, number 1].

'drive, he sd,' is not just a command but a way of life.  but for me i think i've accomplished more in my life by staying still.  i never had a grand need to discover myself by traveling the world.  my traveling had been thru poetry.  by reading/watching/listening.  if, as frost tells us, 'the best way out is always thru', and if as thom gunn tells us, 'one is nearer by not staying still', i counter with the best way out is sitting, and one is nearer by staying still.  even so, i have traveled far by poetry.  robert creeley's poetry has been a special fuel in my travels.  he said drive, and by his words i have piloted my craft to the unknown country.  even his language, with the elision 'sd' for 'said' is a rocket ship.  one that i boarded a long time ago.  every now and again, i have to remind myself that i am still on board. 

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