May 21 – Robert Creeley’s Birthday

Robert Creeley – Photograph by Allen Ginsberg – [Ginsberg caption: “Robet Creeley one-eyed poet at Naropa Institute poetics commune house, summer session July 1984, he sat patient with me across supper table before his lecture, old friend

Robert Creeley‘s birthday (he would have been ninety years old today). Previous birthday salutes to Creeley on the Allen Ginsberg Project here, here, here and here

Further Creeley postings (on the occasion of the recent publication of his Selected Letters) here

Today, we hear him speaking on the subject of first meeting Allen, and reading two of his favorite poems (of Allen’s) – “Transcription of Organ Music and the ever-beautiful “Song”.
RC: Coming into that company in San Francisco was the most delicious surprise of my life and I came in by this bus that..yeah, let’s see now, I came by bus and then from Albuquerque I went by train out to San Francisco, and, at some point, you, effectively, leave the train and you come by bus, actually, into the city. And then I managed to find (Ed) Dorn)’s apartment, he and his wife they drove me around a bit to give me a quick sense of San . We went. Then he (was working as a baggage clerk at the Greyhound bus station, from midnight to, say, seven in the morning, and the other person working there in the shift just before that was Allen, both working as baggage clerks there, so, when Allen realized that I was coming (I’d never met him before nor had we had any real acquaintance with one another, I certainly knew of him, but hadn’t as yet really published any..
So he came directly from the job up to Ed’s apartment, and we talked most of the night. And he became, really, a very close and dear friend of my own life (I really date it from that time forward.

And “Howl”, as yet, hadn’t been published. I remember walking around the city with him and Phil (Whalen) and every place we’d stop, waiting to cross the street, Allen would open this big black binder notebook, you know, and begin reading from Howl. I, frankly, typed up copies of the manuscript for him, and, modestly, I was trying to make a living, and so there is extant a manuscript of that typing, before it was published. Lawrence (Ferlinghetti) had it in press, in Villiers.. Sankey’s, John Sankey’s uncle’s press in London, (or) wherever it is. And then (Jack) Kerouac was there and had published On The Road, and so on.

Well, one of the poems that stays in my head, which stays in my life, literally, with extraordinary resonance (in fact, I was talking to him about it about a week ago that the.. what one wants to call the numinous, or the locus of continuing feeling that finds itself in this poem is to me extraordinarily valuable. We were talking about abstraction and he was fearing that. that one could get so involved with plays of the mind that.. “mind trips”, or, however to qualify them, “mind games”, that you’re simply contributing endlessly to the chaos of human relationships through this constant fantasizing and abstraction of the literal condition of experience. So, I had in mind this poem that he’d written years ago which really is beautiful, called “Transcription of Organ Music”,and it’s written from the situation of his then..he was then living in Berkeley, in one of those.. down to the shore, on one of those streets that, like, that run parallel, and living in a modest cottage (and I think Phil Whalen then continued to live in it , it’s where.. Gary Snyder was at times In and out of it, it’s the cottage where, I think it’s qualified, or spoken of, in Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums – (the one not out in the country, but the one in Berkeley). It’s a lovely poem (and) awfully hard to do justice to it (or to any of these people).

[Creeley then reads “The Transcription of Organ Music ] (“The flower in the glass peanut bottle formerly in the/kitchen…”…”And the Creator gave me a shot of his presence/to gratify my wish, so as not to cheat me of my yearning/ for him” – ( I really love, no, I really love that poem. I mean, that’s Berkeley, 1955, you see.)
Then.. I’m trying to think.. there’s so much.. and one I really love – “The weight of the world..” – This one called Song” – [Creeley then reads “Song’] – “The weight of the world/is love..”… ‘yes, yes,/that’s what/I wanted/I always wanted /I always wanted /to return/ to the body/ where I was born.”

Robert Creeley and Allen Ginsberg

One comment

  1. I was there in July 1984 when Allen took this photo of Robert Creeley during the Summer Writing program at Naropa. here Phi Betta Kappa where I cooked that summer for the poets and other conferences. That summer Peter Orlovsky had gone with his then girl friend Juanita Lieberman back to NYC. Allen somewhat bereft along with faculty ate lunch an dinner there for a month. He won me over with his good manners and inquisitive chit chat in the kitchen. Jacqueline Gens

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