Be wet with a decent happiness


Robert Creeley (1926-2005) was one of the darker poets of his generation, and also one of the best. He experienced hardship early on, losing his father, and also his left eye from an accident, by the time he was 5. The death of his father, a doctor, straitened the family’s circumstances. But the character of his darkness probably has more to do with New England — Hawthorne’s “grave and dark-clad company” — than anything else. It’s a severity of outlook that underpins the work of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, as well.

In Creeley’s poetry the bleakness often finds its expression in a tortured self-regard, an almost panicked need for engaging experience, usually interior experience, by enacting it in language, syllable by syllable, line by line. One often feels while reading his work that if there is any misstep, any syllable or stress put wrong, not only the poem but its maker will either go up in flames or disappear down a black crevasse. This is the drama of Creeley’s defining work, and that drama never feels calculated or inauthentic.

more from the NY Times Book Review here.