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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Robert Creeley : a writing biography and inventory Novik, Geraldine Mary


Now, in 1973, it is possible to say that Robert Creeley is a major American poet. The Inventory of works by and about Creeley which comprises more than half of this dissertation documents the publication process that brought him to this stature. The companion Writing Biography establishes Creeley additionally as the key impulse in the new American writing movement that found its first outlet in Origin, Black Mountain Review, Divers Books, Jargon Books, and other alternative little magazines and presses in the fifties. After the second world war a new generation of writers began to define themselves in opposition to the New Criticism and academic poetry then prevalent and in support of Pound and Williams, and as these writers started to appear in tentative little magazines a further definition took place. Some, such as Robert Creeley and Charles Olson, worked toward a new poetic which required a stricter attention on the part of the writer to his content than either metered verse or the loose free verse that rebelled against it. Early in 1950 Creeley began to correspond with Pound, Williams, Olson, Cid Corman, Denise Levertov, Paul Blackburn and others regarding a magazine he wished to start. Out of his correspondence with Olson came the two foremost statements of the new writing, Olson's "Projective Verse" and Creeley's "Notes for a New Prose". Out of the pieces of the collapsed magazine came Origin (1951-1957) which, with Corman as editor and Creeley as informal agent, gave the Origin-Black Mountain- poets their first sympathetic publication. The Writing Biography demonstrates that since 1950 writing has been the primary content of Creeley's life and since 1952 his life the primary content of his writing. Using a biographical order, this essay closely follows Creeley's poetry, prose, and writing theory as they develop coincidentally with an alternative writing and publishing system in the early fifties, and records the transition of his own interest from Origin and like magazines, through his Divers Press, to Black Mountain Review—the most significant little magazine of the decade — which Creeley edited from 1954 to 1957. Careful documentation is given for the maturing of his belief that the content (and thus the form) of the writing must be the specific issue of the life momently to hand, and attention is paid to the changes in his life which changed the circumstances of the writing. Above all, this is Creeley's story, and much is told in his own words by using unpublished letters and other works written at the time. The Inventory — a bibliographical catalog in type —records, assesses, interrelates, and otherwise takes stock of the mass of Creeley publications scattered world-wide. It is comprehensive for Creeley's works published from 1945 to 1970 and selective for writings about him. In addition, it lists audio-visual material and many unpublished works. The various editions of Creeley's own books, pamphlets, and broadsides are described in detail and the contents itemized. There is a valuable list of as-yet-uncollected publications and information on his editing, translating, and publishing activities. A separate section gives a publication history (with dates of composition when known) for each of Creeley's poems, stories, and critical notes in the order they appear in his collected works. The writings about Creeley were selected for their usefulness and chronologically arranged within critical groupings. A final section describes letters, manuscripts, and other unpublished works which have found their way into university libraries. Since the Inventory was compiled with the needs of the literary critic and student in mind, cross-references and relationships between publications (and between publications and manuscripts) have been given freely. There is a foreword by Robert Creeley, an introduction, and indexes to names, to poems, and to periodicals.

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