Creeley at 70 in Buffalo
a review by
Loss Pequeño Glazier

DATELINE BUFFALO. First night: Eileen Myles, introduced by Creeley, kicks off the 70th birthday celebration in honor of Robert Creeley reading to a packed crowd in the large Hallwall's performance space, with its stage bordered on three sides by the audience. Her figure animated against the somewhat large stage, reading and letting each page of text drift to the floor after reading it. Voice, presence, narrative rang solidly to a thoroughly enthusiastic crowd.

Second day: the formal opening of activities by William Greiner, UB president and Creeley colleague who first met Creeley long-distance while Creeley was in Finland. Then, Gil Sorrentino, fondly introduced by Joseph Conte, reading in the Katherine Cornell Theatre, a good-sized semi-formal spaceship architecture palace space on the edge of Buffalo's tundra-tinged north campus.
Sorrentino read prose from a new piece (I think forthcoming in Conjunctions). A richly written piece, supercharged with irony, purposely laden with the banalities of the wife-swapping (cunt-swapping more accurately by the words of its narrator) personalities it characterized and the revolting misogyny and sexual beasty balls of its less-than-likable narrator. Above this content, the precision of Sorrentino's prose glimmered like a city skyline. Amiri Baraka, originally scheduled to read with Sorrentino, was unable to appear. Creeley therefore gave a preview mini-reading, talking briefly and reading the full text of his The Dogs of Auckland (approximate title) chapbook forthcoming from Meow Press. A gorgeous piece of work.

This reading was followed by a reception in the poetry collection and its great assembly of rare, beautiful, and ephemeral Creeley materials and also a retrospective (mostly small press) of poetry chez Buffalo for the past 50 years. A delirious spread of rare and richly-diverse print artifacts that gave a varied sense of the "scene" as passing in and out and back into the "city of no illusions". Back at Katherine Cornell, next up was the Creeley-Dine event, the room full to the rafters. (So packed the fire marshall was threatening to turn back poetry-goers if they could not prove they had a seat.)

Creeley was introduced at length and eloquently by Susan Howe. Then an extraordinary reading by Creeley. First an explanation of the 1-2-3 method then a 1-2-3 section from Mabel: A Story a prose work dating an early Creeley-Dine collaboration. This was a long piece, at times dropping into choppy Burroughsesque rhythms, other times richly wry and funny, and other times simply sailing along tellingly. A rare treat to witness the performance of this important earlier prose piece. This reading was followed by "Histoire de Florida" a later, powerful, long, languid, pulling out like the tide and the backdrop of all-that-has-happened, rhythmic, emotional, and meditative masterwork.

Next Dine was introduced excellently by Charles Bernstein followed by the Creeley-Dine conversation. Truly extraordinary, to hear these two men talk about a range of subjects near and dear to both art and writing, "tools" of any trade, age and its perspectives, perseverance and its perspectives, the necessities of incessant travel and, well, all in all, what it means to hang in there. This was a primo opportunity to hear both the writer and the artist talk. Creeley and Dine were terrific. It was a particularly wonderful opportunity to hear from Dine, an artist who gets to Buffalo all too rarely, and to hear him speak so openly, honestly, his talk as rich as writing itself, there in the open space where things are stilled for some hours we can all hold for the true celebration of artistic life they are. Hey, this is what it means to hang in there.