Years ago in Portland, Oregon, I made a little chapbook of some poems. I worked at Powell's Books where I had begun reading Ezra Pound and Charles Olson in the large poetry section there, and I began too to read widely in the great small press section that store had gathered over the years. It was there I started reading Creeley's Collected Poems, and so, with no community of poets, or one that then was growing slowly, I sent my chapbook with an admiring letter to Creeley's address at the University of Buffalo. I passed out a few other copies to the handful of people with whom I had conversation in those days. Later that year I would move to San Francisco, attending the New College of California, and a new life awaited me there. But in Portland, trying to piece together a future life of poetry was complex and murky, to say the least. It was based on instinct and hope, not certainties nor expectations. And it was with some surprise I received weeks later an oversized post card from Robert Creeley, typed in full with encouragement and insights to my work. It was enough to see me through 10 years of hard work, an encouraging sympathy I'll never forget. In other ways since then, he has remained a figure of absolute power to my growing imagination of the craft and life of poetry. And so to hear of his passing in Odessa, Texas, this morning stops me cold. What's left but the work now, and to honor it. Our own and his. "Onward," as he would say.
For my part, if there is any way of getting a melancholy satisfaction out of life, it lies in dying, so to speak, before one is out of the flesh; by which I mean putting on the manners of ghosts, wandering in their haunts, and taking their views of surrounding things. To think of life as passing away is a sadness; to think of it as past is at least tolerable. Hence even when I enter into a room to pay a simple morning call I have unconsciously the habit of regarding the scene as if I were a spectre not solid enough to influence my environment; only fit to behold and say, as another spectre said: "Peace be unto you!"