This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Conference looks at Creeley's work

Contemporaries to celebrate life and work of former UB faculty member

Published: October 5, 2006

Contributing Editor

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 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," 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 Oct. 12-14 in Trinity Church, 371 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, and in the Poetry Collection, 420 Capen Hall, North Campus. It is free of charge 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 also is the founder of Burning Deck Press, one of the most influential publishers of innovative poetry in the United States and 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, who brought him to UB frequently over the years to read and teach, called him "a touchstone for all his company, a bond in mind and heart."

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?" followed at 11 a.m. by a presentation by Alan Golding, titled "Seriality in Creeley's Poetry."

Friedlander received his doctorate in English at UB while Creeley was a member of the faculty, and now lives and works as a poet and literary critic in Maine. In 1997 he co-edited (with Donald Allen) the collected prose of Charles Olson, also a UB faculty member, with whom Creeley had an important literary relationship.

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, and of numerous essays on modernist and contemporary poetry.

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 and is co-publisher of Qua Books.

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 and poet Jack Clarke.

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, given biennially to an American poet/scholar who has made a 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.

She is a New Englander by birth and disposition, and the literature and history of that region has been said to "trouble her poetry into beauty." Her "lyric histories" include "My Emily Dickinson," a landmark critical work that won the 1985 Before Columbus Foundation Book Award. "The Birth-mark: Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History" received the Roy Harvey Pearce Award for Work by a Poet and Critic.

Ashbery, a Rochester native, 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. Harold Bloom calls Ashbery "America's greatest living poet" and The New York Times Book Review referred to him as "a national treasure." He is Charles P. Stevenson, Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College and was a guest of Creeley's at UB several times.

On Oct. 14, the action 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. He was the first curator of its Mandeville Department of Special Collections, which holds one of the largest collections of American poetry in the U.S, including work that emphasizes the ongoing "countertradition" in recent American writing-particularly those represented by UB's past and present faculty, and collected in the university's world-famous Poetry Collection: the Objectivist and Black Mountain poets and those of the San Francisco Renaissance, the New York School and the Language School.

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, before us, in our attention to it, the way a the asphalt and white lines "appear" to us in front of a car and becomes, 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 Sadie D. Patek Professor Emerita of Humanities at Stanford University and currently Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Southern California.

"ON WORDS" will close the 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" (Southern Illinois University Press, 1984) and is the author of "Content's Dream. Essays 1975-1984" (Sun and Moon Press, 1986) and 19 other books.

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 C. MacArthur Foundation. She is David and Ruth Schwab Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College.

"ON WORDS" is a production of the Poetics Program in cooperation with the Department of English, the Poetry Collection and the 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 Poetry and Rare Books (Michael Basinski); the College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Office; the UB Foundation; the UB Canadian-American Studies Committee; and the Canadian Consulate.