For the next couple of weeks we’ll be focusing on the poet Robert Creeley. The bibliography on Creeley’s EPC page lists 80 books of critical and creative writing published between 1952 and 1995. It does not include: books published in the last decade of the poet’s life (of which there were many); posthumous publications; broadsides and ephemera; interviews; biographies; published correspondence; and books and periodicals edited by Creeley. I have a copy of Mary Novik’s useful bibliography of the years 1945-1970 in my other office, but of course by the time that book was available to readers in 1973 there were already many new works to be accounted for. A complete Creeley bibliography would be a daunting undertaking, but no doubt a useful one and an important chronicle of over half a century of small press activity in America and abroad.
We’ll be posting a book a day, basically in chronological order. As you can imagine, our collection is wildly incomplete, so if you have anything that you would care to contribute drop us a line and we’ll happily post an image of your book with whatever commentary you may care to make.
The earliest book in my library is A Form of Women published by Jargon and Cornith in 1959. Hard to believe, but at the ripe old age of 33 (my age now), A Form of Women was already Creeley’s 9th book. It was preceded by: Le Fou (Golden Goose Press, 1952); The Immoral Proposition (Jargon Society, 1953); The Kind of Act Of (Divers Press, 1953); The Gold Diggers (Divers Press, 1954); A Snarling Garland of Xmas Verses (Divers Press, 1954); All That is Lovely in Men (Jargon Society, 1955); If You (Porpoise Bookshop, 1956); The Whip (Migrant/Jargon, 1957). A Form of Women was also already the 33rd item from Jonathan Williams’ Jargon Society. My copy came from a used bookstore, inscribed “For Landis | with my best, | Bob Creeley.” My best guess is that this may have been poet Landis Everson (also born in 1926). The promotional copy on the inside of the front cover reads:
A Form of Women offers a collection of Robert Creeley’s poems written since The Whip, (1957) the selected poems from his first five books, all of which are now out of print.
Robert Creeley, as poet and editor of the Divers Press and the Black Mountain Review, is heir to the cohesive functioning of Dr. William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound. Much of the existence of a new poetics in the American idiom is due to Creeley’s incisive attention and impeccable regard for his contemporaries. Without a handful of such men in every generation, nothing could happen.
William Packard wrote of The Whip in the Village Voice: “His words are simple, his images are immediate, his themes are stark and sincere. Before the reader is done with one of his pieces, there has been a laceration committed on the mind which, if it were not poetic, would be cruel. Perhaps this is because we are led by Creeley’s intellect into his own world and there for an instant made to share his honesty and perception and loneliness.”
The jacket design utilizes a photograph by Robert Schiller, of Chicago. $1.50
My guess is that the five books of poems that had already gone out of print are Le Fou, The Immoral Proposition, The Kind of Act Of, All That is Lovely in Men, and The Whip. The Gold Diggers is a collection of short stories and A Snarling Garland was something between a chapbook and a card. The poems published in If You are reprinted here, along with acknowledgments that are something of a who's who of the little magazines of the 1950s: Black Mountain Review, Poetry (Chicago), Evergreen Review, Measure, The Naked Ear, Texas Quarterly, Neon (Supplement to Now), Hearse, Yugan, Coercion Review, Ark II Moby I and Inland. The book is dedicated to then-wife Bobbie Louise Hawkins and the first poem in the book, “Juggler’s Thoughts” is for the poet’s oldest son. The penultimate poem, by far the longest in the book, “The Door” dedicated to Robert Duncan, has always been one of my favorites: “It is hard going to the door / cut so small in the wall where / the vision which echoes loneliness / brings a scent of wild flowers in a wood. // What I understood, I understand.”