October 14, 2008

To whom can i speak today

Ben Piwowar, New Management

* Congratulations to Paul Krugman.

* April 1998 interview of Robert Creeley. excerpt:

J.M. Spalding: Do you remember, when you were still at the beginning of your affair with poetry, what poems gave you a magical feeling when you read them?

Robert Creeley: First were the poems that either were wild, melodramatic tales, like Alfred Noyes' "The Highwayman," or were simply fun, like James Whitcomb Riley's "Little Orphan Annie." In some real way I am leery of that emphasis "great poetry" because I haven't the least idea whether these poems were such, either then or now. I like Pound's sense, from "Agricola," something like "ut doceat, delectet et moveat"—that poetry affects us either by teaching, by delighting, or by moving us. Presumably, great poems may or may not do that, if the judgement which has so nominated them is only one of isolated interests. Perhaps it makes more sense to stay with Robert Graves' proposal, that one could tell a good poem by the same sense one used to qualify good fish.

J.M. Spalding: Who are some of the up-and-coming writers that interest you?

Robert Creeley: There are always far more than anyone such as myself can keep track of. The old are hardly the best judges for the young. "The old order changeth, yielding place to new." I remember Pound saying years ago that after 50 one can't keep one's eye on all the sprouting corn. After 70 it's hard enough even to see it.

I think quickly of two young writers who interest me and always have: Jennifer Moxley, Vincent Katz. Susan Howe (who I have to remember is not young!) interests me always. Alice Notley, Leslie Scalapino. To you they might seem already too settled. But some writers, as Robert Grenier, are never so "done" as that presumes. They are always at work, on the way. Writers as Duncan McNaughton still wait for a defining audience.

J.M. Spalding: Poets look for recognition and acceptance of their work, which is why they try to publish their work. What was your first experience with acceptance and recognition?

Robert Creeley: Is that why poets write, do you think, "for recognition and acceptance of their work?"

J.M. Spalding: I said, "why they try to publish...."

Robert Creeley: Williams says he'd rather go off and die like a sick dog than be a well-known literary person in America. A poll taken on the streets of Manhattan discovered that less than one percent could tell who Norman Mailer was. Poets write, I do believe, because they have to—it's something nothing else quite satisfies. One has to do it—compulsively. I remember Carl Rakosi saying before we were to teach at Naropa some years ago ( we were musing over just how to proceed): "Well, the last thing poets need is encouragement!" They'll do it come hell or high water. My own "acceptance and recognition" came from peers, as Olson, Duncan, Paul Blackburn, Denise Levertov, Cid Corman—and elders like Williams and Zukofsky. The company is what matters.
J.M. Spalding: Very often a poem is dead as it is being written, or, simply put, despite substance, the poem just isn't good. Every poet has a different theory as to why that is. What is your theory?

Robert Creeley: Williams puts it best in Paterson: "Because it's there to be written...." If one only wrote "good" poems, what a dreary world it would be. "Writing writing" is the point. It's a process, like they say, not a production line. I love the story of Neal Cassidy writing on the bus with Ken Kesey, simply tossing the pages out the window as he finished each one. "I wonder if it was any good," I can hear someone saying. Did you ever go swimming without a place you were necessarily swimming to—the dock, say, or the lighthouse, the moored boat, the drowning woman? Did you always swim well, enter the water cleanly, proceed with efficient strokes and a steady flutter kick? I wonder if this "good" poem business is finally some echo of trying to get mother to pay attention

* "The greatest masterpieces were once only pigments on a palette." - Henry S. Haskins


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