From the Author’s Note to A Form of Women by Robert Creeley: Jargon 33 published in conjunction with Cornith Books (1959).“Having not spoken – my uncle said, still waters run deep – until I was fourteen, I then developed a habit which has lasted me beyond other equally emotional attachments. I have lost women, so to speak, and perhaps the children which were theirs also. I have rarely lost my voice, however: but it has been much altered by circumstance, from time to time, like the donkey braying in the woods. Having such a sound to make, it is hard to decide where it should best occur.
But the sound occurs no matter. The first poem in this book is for my oldest son, David – in no real hope that he will ‘understand’ it, but that the forms which it is contrived will follow him in his own life as they have in mine.”When I was in college and on the threshold of becoming a book collector, my father would send me books he found during his lunch hour in Waterbury. John Bale Books was the store and it was just down the street from his office. At the time, I was still searching for who I was as a collector, probably more so than as a man. That would not come for years later. In terms of collecting, I was adrift. I had no focus, no direction. I was dabbling, experimenting. Collecting was yet to be a way of life. Burroughs was just on the horizon, literally only months away.
The books my father sent were almost all books of poetry by New England poets, like Robert Lowell and Robert Frost. He also sent me Pieces and A Day Book by Robert Creeley. For years, I thought this was because Creeley, like the other Bobs, could be viewed as a New Englander. Now I tend to doubt it.
My father was not so much trying to get me to collect as trying to engage me in conversation. Just like a New Englander, talk did not come cheap for him. “Still waters run deep.” Frost and Lowell. There is a madness (insanity, passion and anger) in these voices. My father was trying to tell me something about his inner life. Likewise, I believe my father saw something of his own manner of speaking in Creeley’s poems. Speech choked with passion and emotion. Tight lips holding back a scream. Possibly my father had no real hope I would understand what the gift of these books was saying. I think I am beginning to understand it now. Or maybe I am reading into them a fiction that I need to live by and live with. Without a doubt, the book as form, the book as object has followed me in my entire life. Creeley’s A Day Book, a paperback version signed by Creeley, has become something of a holy book for me. I have almost no photographs of my father, but I often find myself taking this book out of my bookshelf, often late at night, when I want to see my father. He could never have given me The Form of Women. That would have been to speak too openly; he would not let himself be so exposed. It is a powerful thing to see your father naked.