Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Creeley has a wish for the right

Sometime in 1960, Robert Creeley had three poems accepted for publication in the conservative anticommunist magazine, the National Review. I know enough about the vicissitudes of periodicals' poetry policies to resist any temptation to ascribe ideological meaning or motives for such a convergence. In fact I believe Hugh Kenner was the poetry editor of Buckley's magazine for a while--perhaps during this time (I will check the fact). While Kenner was (later certainly) infamous for his conservative political views, he was of course a great supporter of the avant-garde tradition in modernism and I'm guessing (but should know) that he admired what Creeley was doing right then in 1960. We know that Kenner admired Creeley at least later (see below).

Anyway, in the February 11, 1961 issue of National Review three Creeley verses appeared and one is:

A Wish

So much rain
to make the mud again,
trees green
and flowers also.

The water which
ran up the sun
and down again,
it is the same.

A man of supple
yielding manner
might, too, discover
ways of water. (p. 83)

In 1983, reviewing Creeley's Collected Poems 1945-75, Kenner wrote this lovely and right-on assertion: "But we take pleasure in words that tell us nothing, pleasure in their shapes and sounds, and also in recognizing that we are not alone and that someone else knows it." And added: "The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein would have been astonished by none of this, but it nudges into terrain where he was rigorous." And finally: "The point, of course, is that the words convey no information to anyone present."

Further on Kenner-Creeley: there's a file of letters between the two in the Kenner Papers at the Harry Ransom Research Center, UT Austin.