Hold Still, Lion

In post—World War II America there were several loosely affiliated, overlapping
strands of poets who began publishing—poets rejecting the epistemological and
anglophile models of W.H. Auden and T.S. Eliot. They were known variously as
the New York School, the San Francisco Renaissance, the Beats, and the Black
Mountain poets. They came up on the heels of Ezra Pound and William Carlos
Williams, and along the spur of the Objectivists, aka Zukofsky, Reznikoff,
Niedecker, et al. Robert Creeley was the bridge. He distributed the differences
and sounded parallel concerns. He began corresponding with Pound and Williams
in 1949. He and John Ashbery were seated two desks apart at Harvard. In
Majorca, his Divers Press published Robert Duncan and Paul Blackburn. He
typed Allen Ginsberg's Howl, which was then mimeographed in an edition of
twenty-five. At the now legendary and gone Black Mountain College, he studied
with Charles Olson and "earned" his successorship. At Black Mountain Creeley
edited the Black Mountain Review (initially from Majorca) and picked up the
degree he had managed not to complete at Harvard. Over the years he would edit
works of Charles Olson and George Oppen (and Robert Burns and Walt
Whitman), as well as anthologies of new American writing. His correspondence
was carried on at a rate and level not to be believed. The Olson/Creeley letters
alone consume ten volumes (if e-mail had been available to those two the number
of volumes might have been squared). He wrote tense stories and a superb short
novel along with scores of word-perfect essays. Overall he published in the
vicinity of seventy books. Checking a familiar book site, 227 titles are instantly
identified with his name. His collaborations with artists including Francesco
Clemente, Elsa Dorfman, Sol LeWitt, R.B. Kitaj, and Susan Rothenberg were the
occasion of fine-edition books and traveling exhibitions. His collaborations with
musicians such as Steve Lacy and Steve Swallow were performed for packed, hip
audiences and are featured on numerous recordings. He could and did fill Albert
Hall, but he had no qualms about reading to a crowd of four. No qualms, either,
about talking extemporaneously in lieu of giving the promoted reading. He was
not there to accommodate anyone's prepackaged expectations—he was there to
discover the direction of his own thinking. And in that lies, as he often quoted
William Carlos Williams, the profundity.

Darren Angle