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Robert Creeley to be Subject of 3-Day Conference of Scholars

Release Date: October 5, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The life of the distinguished American poet Robert Creeley, former SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetics at UB and a member of the university's English department for 37 years, was celebrated widely following his death last year.

"His colleagues in the English department wanted to do something more," says Steve McCaffery, David Gray Chair of Poetry and Letters.

"We wanted to present not just a personal celebration, but an event that would bring scholars together to discuss and critique his remarkable body of work and also permit us to reminisce about our relationship with Bob."

The result is "ON WORDS: A Conference on the Life and Work of Robert Creeley," to be held Oct. 12-14 and featuring presentations and readings by some of America's premiere contemporary poets, critics, translators, essayists and theorists -- all focused on the literary production of one of their most influential colleagues.

Most of the presenters were personally affiliated with Creeley and his work, and many were featured regularly in UB's "Wednesdays at 4 PLUS" literary series, founded by Creeley and continued by Charles Bernstein when he became Gray Chair after Creeley's tenure.

"ON WORDS" will be held in Trinity Church, 371 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, and in the Special Collections Research Room, 420 Capen Hall, on the UB North (Amherst) Campus. It will be free and open to the public.

The conference will open at 8 p.m. on Oct. 12 in Trinity Church with readings by Rosmarie Waldrop and Robin Blaser.

Waldrop is a translator, and multiple award-winning author of 17 books of poetry, two novels and three books of criticism. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006.

A scholar, teacher and founding member of the San Francisco Renaissance, Blaser is the author of many books of poetry. Creeley brought him to UB frequently over the years to read and teach.

On Oct. 13, "ON WORDS" will move to the UB Poetry Collection for a 10 a.m. address by

Benjamin Friedlander, titled "What Is Experience?" that will be followed at 11 a.m. by a presentation by Alan Golding, titled "Seriality in Creeley's Poetry."

Friedlander received his doctorate in English from UB while Creeley was a member of the faculty, and now works as a poet and literary critic.

Golding, professor of English at the University of Louisville, is the author of "From Outlaw to Classic: Canons in American Poetry" (University of Wisconsin Press, 1995), which won a CHOICE Best Academic Book Award.

At 1:30 p.m., Creeley's longtime friend Michael Gizzi will present a talk titled "Robert Creeley: Music on Words." A published poet, editor and former tree surgeon, Gizzi teaches in the Literary Arts Program at Brown University.

At 2:30 p.m., Peter Middleton will speak to "Creeley Teaching." Rachel Blau du Plessis will follow at 3:30 p.m. with "Death and Sexual Difference in Later Creeley."

Poet and essayist Middleton is professor of English at the University of Southampton in England and studied at UB with Creeley.

Du Plessis is a feminist critic and scholar with a special interest in modern and contemporary poetry, and winner of the Roy Harvey Pearce/Archive for New Poetry Prize, recognizing significant lifetime contribution to American poetry and literary scholarship.

At 8 p.m., two of the country's most inventive and distinguished poets, Susan Howe, Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetics at UB, and John Ashbery, will read from Creeley's work at Trinity Church.

Howe co-founded the UB Poetics Program with Robert Creeley, was a Distinguished Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center and currently is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Ashbery is one of America's most distinguished poets, essayists and critics, and the author of more than 20 books of poetry, including "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror," which received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award.

On Oct. 14, the program will move back to Trinity Church with a 10 a.m. address by Stephen Fredman, "Talk as Action: Robert Creeley, Bob Dylan and the Art of the Interview."

A professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, Fredman is a noted critic and historian of poetry and poetics in America, and a Pulitzer Prize nominee.

At 11 a.m., Michael Davidson will address "'the repeated/insistence': Creeley's Rage." Davidson, author of eight books of poetry as well as numerous historical, cultural and critical works, is a professor at the University of California-San Diego.

At 1:30 p.m., Charles Altieri will discuss "Why does 'Echoes' Echo?" a reference to Creeley's 1993 book "Echoes," in which Creeley speaks of language itself as "This populous village!…the numberless goings on of life."

Altieri taught at UB from 1969-73 during Creeley's tenure. An emeritus professor of English and chair of the Department of Arts Practice at the University of California-Berkeley, he directs that university's Consortium for the Arts.

At 2:30 p.m., Peter Quartermain, publisher of Slug Press and professor at the University of British Columbia for more than 30 years, will present "Momently," a reference to Creeley's repeated observation that the world creates itself "momently"; that is, the way the asphalt and white lines "appear" to us in front of a car and become, in that moment, in our minds, a road.

At 3:30 pm., Marjorie Perloff will discuss "Creeley as Radical Poet." Perloff has written a number of distinguished books on modern and postmodern poetry, including Robert Creeley's. She is scholar-in-residence at the University of Southern California.

"ON WORDS" will close that day at 8 p.m. in Trinity Church with a reading of Creeley's poetry by poet, critic and essayist Charles Bernstein and poet Ann Lauterbach.

Bernstein, who followed Creeley as the David Gray Chair of Poetry and Letters at UB from 1989-2003, is co-founder of the Electronic Poetry Center at UB and currently is Donald T. Regan Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. With Bruce Andrews, he co-edited the important critical anthology "The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book."

Lauterbach is a critically acclaimed poet who is a member of the American Academy of Poets and a fellow of the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

"ON WORDS" is a production of the UB Poetics Program in cooperation with the UB Department of English, the UB Poetry Collection and the UB Humanities Institute.

It is sponsored in part by the James H. McNulty Chair of English (Dennis Tedlock); the Samuel P. Capen Chair of Poetry and Humanities (Susan Howe); the David Gray Chair of Poetry and Letters (Steve McCaffery); the Butler Chair, Department of English; the Curator of the Poetry Collection (Michael Basinski); the College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Office; the UB Foundation; the UB Canadian-American Studies Committee; and the Canadian Consulate.

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