Thursday, May 28, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 39.18 (Robert Creeley)

Creeley, Robert
Clark, Tom
Robert Creeley
and the Genius
of the American
Common Place

Purchased at Talking Leaves Books a few years back.

Tom Clark, who also wrote a biography of Olson, put together this work. It combines interviews between Creeley and Clark, quotations from various Creeley works, even a section written in the first person (or spoken and transcribed) by his sister, Helen. It ends with Creeley's own written and quite brief autobiography. It's one way I might imagine a biography written by Olson could look, having as it does the feel of something very much still in process, i.e., the living poet at the heart of the book, rather than that of a polished, authoritative statement on the poet's life. It doesn't really fall into any of the previously noted categories of literary biography, which is probably why I like it.

"Backward" (aka, the Foreword):

The seemingly endless genetic progression spiraling back into the past is the determinate prologue against which the complex but common fable of individual fate plays itself out. But no exegesis of the generation is ever finite, as is demonstrated every time members of several generations of a family sit around talking. Which traits of physique and disposition and character come from which side of the family? We think we know the cards we are dealt, but do we?

Robert Creeley's Autobiography, a remarkable text in the Puritan self-exegetical tradition which goes back through D.H Lawrence ultimately to the seventeenth century and the first spiritual biographer, John Bunyan, provides valuable insight into the way this poet's family and local origins have contributed energizing tensions to his work and life. But the very concentration and intentness of Creeley's effort to wrest a serviceable self from the past ought to alert us that as much as any of his concentrated, intense, self-reflective poems this autobiographical essay is a literary work, not merely a "description of the facts" -- even if it were intended as such. When we readers of his work pursue the same effort, driving through the autonomy of the writing as through a looking glass that turns out to be merely the surface of a deep pool, other lights illuminate the same details, new facets appear.

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