Meditation and Poetics – 49 (Robert Creeley)

AG: Then Peter (Orlovsky) and I went from (Alfred) Stieglitz‘s wife, Georgia O’Keeffe, (a) great painter who had simplified and clarified her sight, to Robert Creeley‘s house in Placidas (New Mexico) , where  Creeley gave me a book of new poems (Creeley also being a student of (William Carlos) Williams.) So I thought this same recovery of our own space in Creeley’s work has equivalent terminology. His word, I always thought, for space was “place” (like, he’s got a little poem about “when we get to heaven we will all have places, they’ll be a chair for everybody and everybody will sit with a smile on his face” [Editorial note – the poem that Allen is referring to is “Oh No” – “If you wander far enough/you will come to it/and when you get there/ they will give you a place to sit/ for yourself only, in a nice chair,/and all your friends will be there/with smiles on their faces/and they will likewise all have places”] – but everyone will have a place – a place for his own perceptions, say – but, anyway, Creeley’s language, as far as I know it, from the early (19)60’s, or maybe earlier, was “place”. And I think that was parallel to the way we’re using the Buddhist term “space” (or a rough equivalent).

The fruit of all the preoccupation (is) a 1977 poem. Since you’ve read all that Williams now, just to carry it a couple of decades later, here’s Williams’ child, or student and appreciator of Williams in our own time [1978] – a book called Later – Later –   He said he would like to have that on his tombstone! Later – his latest joke. [Allen reads from Robert Creeley’s volume] – “(9) – Sitting up here in/newly constituted/ attic room ‘mid/pipes, scarred walls,/ the battered window/adjacent looks out/ to street below. It’s fall,/sign woven in iron/ rails of neighbor’s porch;/”Elect Pat Sole”/ O solo mio, mother,/thinking of old attic/ West Acton farmhouse,/same treasures here, the boxes,/ old carpets, the smell./ On wall facing, in chalk:./Small world of these pinnacles,/ places ride up in these/ houses like clouds,/ and I’ve come as far,/as high, as I’ll go/ Sweet weather, turn/now of the year…”/ The old horse chestnut/with trunk a stalk like a flower’s/ gathers strength to face winter./The spiked pods of its seeds/ start to split, soon will drop./The patience, of small lawns, small hedges,/ papers blown by the wind,/the light fading gives way/ to the season.School’s/started again. Footsteps fall/ on the sidewalk down three/ stories. It’s man-made/ endurance I’m after,/it’s love for the wear/ and the tear here,/goes under, gets broken, but stays./ Where finally else/in the world comes to rest -/ by a brook, by a/view with a farm/ like a dream – in/ a forest?In a house/ has walls all around it?/There’s mor always here/ than just me, in this room,/this attic, apartment,/ this house, this world,/ can’t escape.” – (Similar. Similar mind, similar view). 

Then, the last poem (in the book)… [Allen is temporarily distracted by a child’s cry, young Max Corso, in the classroom, but continues]  – “(10) – In testament/to a willingness/ to live, I,/Robert Creeley,/ being of sound body/and mind, admit/ to other preoccupations – /with the future, with/ the past. But now – / but now the wonder of life is/ that it is at all,/ this sticky sentimental/ warm enclosure,/ feels place in the physical/ with others,/ lets mind wander/ to wondering thought,/then lets go of itself,/ finds a home/on earth.”

So if you’ve been following what we’ve been doing all along, with breath and mind wandering, it’s amazingly natural that Creeley should come to a very similar statement as (to the one) Williams came to, as Buddhists came to ( as probably Reginald Ray came to, in his exposition of Vipassana). It’s actually basically nature we’re talking about, or the nature of mind, the nature of the world, the simplicity of the world.  But it was interesting. I read this last night and thought this would be a very good specemin to bring in to finish the Vipassana (teachings), to show that this Vipassana focus on  detail of the physical world (which as an aesthetic style in America, begun at the turn of the century, (and) still goes on as an ongoing preoccupation – just like the breath)  

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately fourteen-and three-quarter minutes in, and concluding at approximately twenty minutes in]    

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