If I were writing this
"I am ahead. I am not dead./Shovel it in," writes Robert Creeley with verve and a dark bravado in the last stanza of his "Supper." The poem might be called "The Last Supper," but is not, as the poet continues to "Shovel it in."
Creeley's starkly robust new collection, If I were writing this, from his publisher of forty years New Directions, is a moving engagement and lively reckoning of friends, family (the people he has loved dead and alive), and literature itself as it lives on through more literature. The mode and mood of the collection is elegiac, as Creeley corresponds with his contemporaries again both living and dead: Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Keith and Rosmaire Waldrop, Kenneth Koch, and his beloved sister Helen to name some.
Creeley won Yale University's Bolligen Prize in 1999 (previously awarded to such major 20th century American poets as Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery). He also received a Before Columbus Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, and a Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 following his acclaimed collection, Life & Death (1998). The new poems in If I were writing this are a majestic and down-to-earth amplification of Creeley's well-known expressive minimalist aesthetic. At their most engaging the poems offer alchemy of innocence and experience, which recall William Blake at his most stirring. Again, in the poem "Supper" Creeley writes:
The poems to poet friends who have recently died are a gloss both on their work and Creeley's own. In one of the two poems for Allen Ginsberg, "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer..." Creeley writes:
In the poem entitled "For Gregory Corso," he writes:
The poem ends:
In the poem "For Kenneth" of Kenneth Koch, he writes:
The poem "Possibilities," shows Creeley's ability to flawlessly fuse the optimistic (innocence) and shockingly stark (experience) mind-set when he mentions his dying mother, which also echoes Objectivist poet Charles Reznikoff. He writes:
These late Creeley poems are emotionally charge and as engaging as Creeley has ever been. In "Conversion to Her" he writes:
In his introduction to the Selected Writings of Charles Olson, Creeley writes: "We are not here involved with existentialism, Camus may speak of a world without appeal, but the system of discourse he makes use of is still demonstrably a closed one." To say little of the metaphysical, for Creeley physical experience offers its own guide of the perplexed. He ends "Conversion to Her":