Thursday, January 18, 2007

Form + Content = Robert Creeley

In 1999 I was at the 20th Century American Literature conference in Louisville (I think it was '99), where the featured poet was Robert Creeley.

After the reading, the person in line before me to get his books signed—he had several—asked Creeley if he, Creeley, might write “that famous quote of yours” in one of the books. It had been a long day, and Creeley looked fatigued, and a little distracted, but he wanted to oblige. “What quote?” he asked. “About content and form,” the reply. “Oh, ok,” Creeley said. And then he couldn’t remember it. Finally, after a few seconds, he wrote “Content is nothing more than an extension of form.” Upon hearing him say this as he wrote, I said that he had it backwards. Creeley looked at what he’d just written, quizzically, and then said, “so it is.” And then wrote under it: “or vice versa.”

I think this is a wonderful moment to remember when thinking of form and content in poems.


At 1/18/2007 10:33 AM, Blogger Matthew Thorburn said...

That's a great story! In my experience, "or vice versa" seems to be absolutely true.

At 1/18/2007 2:29 PM, Blogger Andrew Shields said...

Or versa vice?

Being content is nothing but a matter of form? :-)

At 1/19/2007 6:27 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Each to each's own vice, I say.

At 1/20/2007 5:30 AM, Blogger Penultimatina said...

I saw Creeley read at MLA in Chicago...heck, when was that? 2000? 1999? Or vice versa?

I don't have a good story like that, however.


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