creeley’s small clear crystals


‘I Know a Man’ seems like a good introduction to the vast opus Creeley, who died in 2005, left behind: thousands of poems, dozens of essays and interviews, a bitter novel, a book of short stories, and hundreds of pages of hard-to-classify prose. Yet ‘I Know a Man’ also leaves out much of what made Creeley notable in each of the three phases of his career: his early focus on lust and shame, the diary-like verse-and-prose books of the 1970s, and the quiet achievements in his late poems of retrospect and solitude. We recognise Creeley’s poems first by what they leave out: he uses few long or rare words, no regular metres and almost no metaphors. The young Creeley aspired to write in Basic English: ‘he very nearly does,’ his friend Cid Corman wrote, except for the slang. Creeley kept for five decades a way of writing whose markers include parsimonious diction, strong enjambment, two to four-line stanzas and occasional rhyme. What changed over his career was not his language but the use he made of it, the attitudes and goals around which the small, clear crystals of his verse might form.

more from the LRB here.