If I Were Writing This by Robert Creeley, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
If I Were Writing This

If I Were Writing This

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by Robert Creeley

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"Robert Creeley has created a noble life body of poetry that extends the work of predecessors Pound, Williams, Zukofsky, and Olson and that provides like them a method for his successors in exploring our new American poetic consciousness."—Allen Ginsberg

If I were writing this was the last book of poems completed by Robert Creeley and


"Robert Creeley has created a noble life body of poetry that extends the work of predecessors Pound, Williams, Zukofsky, and Olson and that provides like them a method for his successors in exploring our new American poetic consciousness."—Allen Ginsberg

If I were writing this was the last book of poems completed by Robert Creeley and published during his lifetime (New Directions, 2003). The words that he wrote to describe this book are oddly prophetic: "Age brings experience, not wisdom; age makes time actual—each day another—until there is no more. These poems have been my company, my solace, my feelings, my heart. When they cannot speak it will all be silence." Though Creeley died in 2005, his poems are not silent—they vibrantly continue to embrace life while acknowledging, with no self-pity, the inevitability of death. The message (as he always ended his letters) is "Onward!"

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Creeley won the Bolligen Prize in 1999, a Before Columbus Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, and a Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 following his magisterial, darkly nuanced last collection, Life & Death (1998). This book seems at first like the slightly lighter continuing of that book's themes and modes. Poems linger over friends and pleasures with frequent rhyme while contemplating "the one who's in between/ the others who have come and gone." One of a number of poems for or involving Allen Ginsberg find it has been "No contest./ One's one again. It's done." "Supper," meanwhile, becomes an occasion for darkly celebrating cycles of continuance: "I am ahead. I am not dead./ Shovel it in." The 54 tiny quatrains of "Drawn & Quartered" make their little cuts with serrated precision: " `Man, this stuff/ is rough!'/ `What would you pay/ to make it go way?' " As with Ashbery, who is Creeley's exact contemporary, it is difficult to do more with this late work than to say that no one else could have written it, and that it is marvelous and oddly summative. Some readers will think of Stevens, others of William Bronk, still others of Wordsworth or John Clare at moments. Filled with snapshot-like memories, asides on physical difficulties and explicit exhortations ("Please, don't put/ if you can help it, your loved ones in/ a care facility, they will only die there"), the last few poems depart from Creeley's minimalist implosion to track twined past and present. This aphoristic, playful, loving and sharply focused book gives readers its speaker's precise location: "Physical hill stands my will./ Mind's ambience alters all." (Sept. 29) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A central figure in contemporary American poetry, now in his late seventies, Creeley continues his lifelong concern with "short and clear" perception and experimental openness. Avoiding rhyme and the constraints of poetic diction, the inquiring, spare language of a Creeley poem evokes the dynamic and intricate process of a person thinking. (Typical titles of poems are "Memory" and "Thinking.") As his erudite consciousness plays over "the sweetening dark," the poems take on a "flickering ambience" ("the underthought of language") that is both casual and complex. Representing the actuality of modern consciousness as it confronts an absence of objectively ordered reality ("faint edges of place, things, not yet quite seen") is not only a matter of "connivance" but an act of responsibility to one's self. Full of nuances, Creeley's refreshing recent poems, probing aging, family relationships, identity, memory, and time, continue to challenge readers with multiple possibilities of language and thought. (The best poem in this collection is titled "Possibilities.") He concludes happily, "So feeling all there is,/ one's hands and heart grow full." Recommended for all libraries.-Frank Allen, Northampton Community Coll., Tannersville, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

If I were writing this



Copyright © 2003 Robert Creeley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0811215563

Chapter One


Somewhere in all the time that's passed was a thing in mind became the evidence, the pleasure even in fact of being lost so quickly, simply that what it was could never last.

Only knowing was measure of what one could make hold together for that moment's recognition, or else the world washed over like a flood of meager useless truths, of hostile incoherence.

Too late to know that knowing was its own reward and that wisdom had at best a transient credit. Whatever one did or didn't do was what one could. Better at last believe than think to question?

There wasn't choice if one had seen the light, not of belief but of that soft, blue-glowing fusion seemed to appear or disappear with thought, a minute magnesium flash, a firefly's illusion.

Best wonder at mind and let that flickering ambience of wondering be the determining way you follow, which leads itself from day to day into tomorrow, finds all it ever finds is there by chance.


Edges and disjuncts, shattered, bitter planes, a wedge of disconsolate memories to anchor fame, fears of the past, a future still to blame-

Multiple heavens, hells, nothing is straight. You earn your money, then you wait for so-called life to see that you get paid.

Tilt! Again it's all gone wrong. This is a heartless, hopeless song. This is an empty, useless song.


Marilyn's was Norma Jean. Things are not always what they seem. Skin she lived back of like some screen kept her wonder in common view, said what she did, you could too, loved by many, touched by few. She married heroes of all kinds but no one seemed to know her mind, none the secret key could find. Scared kid, Norma Jean? Are things really what they seem? What is it that beauty means?


Balling the Jack Down the Track Won't Be Back Too Late, Jack

See the rush of light- Time's flight, out of sight. Feel the years like tears- the days gone away.


If it's there, it's something- And when you see it, Not just your eyes know it. It's yourself, like they say, you bring.

These words, these seemingly rounded Forms-looks like a pear? Is yellow? Where's that to be found- In some abounding meadow?

Like likes itself, sees similarities Everywhere it goes. But what that means, Nobody knows.


"Dried roses ..." Were these from some walk All those years ago? Were you the one Was with me? Did we talk? Who else had come along? Memory can stand upright Like an ordered row of stiff stems, Dead echo of flowering heads, Roses once white, pink and red.

Back of them the blackness, Backdrop for all our lives, The wonders we thought to remember Still life, still life.


(1) Speed is what's needed. Move quick before depleted of more than a battered leg will prove. Go for it-as in love.

(2) Hold still, lion! I am trying to paint you while there's time to.

(3) We have common sense and common bond. That's enough to get along.

(4) Have you known each other long? Long before you were born! Have you both been happy in marriage? I think it's proven a commodious carriage.

(5) Are they together? Grandmother and granddaughter? Is there some fact of pain in their waiting?

(6) Am I only material for you to feel? Is that all you see when you look at me?

(7) Image of self at earlier age- when thoughts had gone inward, and life became an emptying page- myself moving toward nothing.

(8) Why not tell what you've kept a secret not wait for it to leap out?

(9) Dear cat, I see you and will attend and feed you now as then.

(10) Here I sit meal on lap come to eat just like that!

(11) There's someone behind black eye covers, smothered.

(12) Closes, as an echo- The shoulder, mouth, rounded head-Two more, to say each wanted it that way?

(13) We sat like this the night we went away- just us two, in this same place, and the boat on the ocean blue.

(14) For years I'd thought such bliss as this could not be bought. While I waited, my desire itself abated.

(15) Something hot to drink. God knows what's in it. Waking or sleeping in no one's keeping.

(16) You displaced me by your singing. My ears were ringing! My fingers were glue as each note rang true.

(17) "Man, this stuff is rough!" "What would you pay to make it go way?"

(18) Still asleep or else dead. Take him to bed. Hell wake up in the morning and I'll be gone.

(19) Angel holding up the roof top- else would fall and kill us all!

(20) One word
I heard you said
you read.

(21) Mabel had come all the way to town to stand as you see her and jump up and down.

(22) Mine it was and mine it will be-

No because and never a maybe!

Mine it was and mine it will be ...

(23) My only horse is dead, who was my whole farmstead, its entire provenance and agent. Life has no further occasion.

(24) Beyond, I hope, desire- free of the entangling fire- I lay me down to sleep. Read it and weep!

(25) "Too deep for words"- My weary hand was poised Above the paper's blank- too white for thoughts, recalcitrant for tears.

(26) What a complicated argument, whether wrong or right! Where's the fun in being simply one?

(27) He says the enemy's won- and we can go home! The drum beats in the empty street.

(28) Somewhere here it said that life is like a river- but look as hard as I can, I never find it again-or anything else instead.

(29) And have you read my verses clear and may I now call you my dear?

(30) All these pages to turn, all the bridges to burn.

(31) What I do Is my own business. No use looking. You'll see nothing.

(32) If music be enough for you lend me ears so I can hear too.

(33) Let me try that too and see if I sound like you- or is it your body's song pulls things along?

(34) When you are done we can play! Outside the day waits until the sun goes down.

(35) Oh little one, what are you eating? Bottle emptied beside you, nought left but your thumb?

(36) It was still in front of them but soon began to be gone. Look, said one, now it's going! Still, they thought, it will come again.

(37) Statue? Hermione's- A Winter's Tale- in the garden fixed sense of beauty's evident patience.

(38) Maybe this uniform's better, Maybe this time I'll be the winner. Maybe I'll shoot straighter. Maybe they'll get dead first.

(39) From the wars I've come, following the drum, cannon's bombast, the military brass asses.

(40) Love's the other in the tunnel- looks back down the track.

(41) Mother of her country, keeping the dullards at bay, forcing the boys to pay, taking the fences away,

(42) It's two o'clock but we can't stop! We couldn't then when we drank the gin.

(43) If I had a cent you'd have it. But I don't. If I knew what to do, I'd tell you.


Excerpted from If I were writing this by ROBERT CREELEY Copyright © 2003 by Robert Creeley
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Robert Creeley (1926-2005) was one of America's most acclaimed and respected poets. Receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Before Columbus Foundation in 2000 as well as a Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 simply confirmed the words of the citation for his 1999 Bollingen Prize in Poetry: "As editor, publisher, traveler, teacher, writer; as mind-worker Robert Creeley has been a seminal figure of the second half of the 20th century."

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If I Were Writing This 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Creeley's Return Quiet as is proper for such places The street, subdued, half-snow, half-rain, Endless, but ending in the darkened doors. Inside, they who will be there always, Quiet as is proper for such people-- Enough for now to be here, and To know my door is one of these. It was on a placard on the A. Can't get it out of my head.