Sunday, November 1, 2009

I KNOW A MAN / . . . A BRAND / . . . A MAN

Robert Creeley
image/scan from
All That Is Lovely In Men
(Asheville, NC: Jonathan Williams, 1955)

All That Is Lovely In Men
back cover (to the left) and front cover (to the right)
“drive, he sd, for / christ’s sake, look / out where yr going”

As I sd to my
friend because I am
always blogging, –– this post, I

is about Robert Creeley’s “I Know A Man” and two poems published just this year – “I Know A Brand” by Rachel Loden and “I Know A Man” by Douglas Rothschild, respectively – that make something new using the form and/or key components of Creeley’s iconic poem. We’re going to take a little trip, so to say, with Creeley’s poem and two recent, and very worthy, variants on it.

With regard to Creeley’s signature poem, I can’t add much that hasn’t already been said or written. Check around, and you’ll find much on the web about “I Know A Man.”

First, foremost, and maybe period, end-of-the-story is Creeley himself, reciting the poem. PennSound features nine (!) different recordings, ranging from 1956 to 1981, of Creeley reading “I Know A Man.” Listen to them, please, if only to be reminded of how Creeley hesitates (some describe it as a kind of stammer) at the end of each line, particularly in the first two tercets.

There’s also plenty of reader or scholar commentary. Check out, for example, the very brief, decade-old, but still potent Seamus Cooney web-page on “I Know A Man.” It concisely addresses the wonderful ambiguity regarding who – the poem’s initial speaker or the friend – utters the word “drive” in the poem’s last stanza:
drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.
As Cooney points out (and many others have said the same), there are two ways to read or hear “drive.” Creeley explained, more than once, that “drive” is the poem’s initial and primary speaker, the person who suggests buying “a goddamn big car” in the final line of the preceding stanza (and who says everything in the poem that precedes that line).

Creeley further explained, as a corollary to his point about who in the poems says the word “drive,” that the “he sd” in the final tercet does not pertain to “drive” but only to the “for / christ’s sake look / out where yr going” comment which ends the poem. According to Creeley, in short, the word “drive” ends one part of the conversation, and is then followed by the “look / out” interjection.

However, many readers read and hear “drive” as something said by the friend, who then continues with his “for / christ’s sake “look / out” warning. Among those who heard the poem in this way was Jeremy Larner, who titled his 1964 novel (later made into a Jack Nicholson directed film) Drive, He Said after Creeley’s line, thereby giving the poem a presence within our popular culture. With respect to the alternative readings, Creeley’s intention and explanation must be credited, but of course the other possibility only enriches the poem.

The “Modern American Poetry” site, curated by Cary Nelson, also has a page devoted to “I Know A Man.” It features eight excerpts by poets and others about Creeley’s poem. I happen to especially like the first excerpt presented, eleven lines lifted from a 1962 review by Cid Corman. I like it because Corman writes sharply and emphasizes the music of the poem. He remarks that it feels as if Creeley “scored” the words, and “sings” in “I Know A Man.”

There’s also a twenty minute discussion of the poem available on-line, recorded just this year and featuring Randall Couch, Jessica Lowenthal, Bob Perelman, and Al Filreis. It’s a good talk, particularly the way different recited versions are compared, and the short consideration, near the end, of whether the “look / out” while driving warning in Creeley’s poem is at all related to the line “no one to drive the car” in poem XVIII (“The pure products of America / go crazy–”) of William Carlos Williams’ Spring And All.

What I’d like to specially emphasize about “I Know A Man” concerns its words and lines. In the recorded recitations, Creeley says the words in an almost hesitant (some say almost stammering) manner, and the pauses at the line ends, especially after the six lines that make up the opening two tercets, are very noticeable. Of course, the lines in “I Know A Man” almost all end mid-phrase, and the thoughts or statements of the poem’s initial speaker are scattered, and so the hesitant reading and pauses at the line-ends both fit and highlight those characteristics.

But I think there’s also something more going on. The word-readings by Creeley, and the line-end pauses are directly related, I think, to his poetics at that time, one that was directly related to jazz. This is a matter I don’t think is emphasized enough about the poem (though see again the comments of Cid Corman, discussed above). Indeed, the concept of Creeley’s lines as jazz phrases seems mostly hidden, something that might be attributed to the fact that Creeley’s straightforward explanation of his poetics – on the front flap of All That Is Lovely In Men – apparently has never been reprinted, even though the original chapbook in which it was included was only issued in an edition of 200 copies. These days, copies of that book, with that front flap explanation of poetics, are priced around one thousand dollars each. No wonder nobody seems to know about it!

Here’s the first paragraph of Creeley’s front-flap statement from All That Is Lovely In Men (click to enlarge, although I hope you can read it as is):

Yes, Creeley’s “I Know A Man” lines are music, actually jazz, or similar (“complementary”) to it! Be-bop jazz, a la mid-1950s Bird and Miles. Each Creeley line is a series of word (or more fundamentally, phonemic) notes. The pauses at the end of each line emphasize the words as clusters of sounds, of the kind you’d hear blown out from Bird’s tenor or Miles’ trumpet.

An interesting – er, um – side note here concerns the specific tune – Miles Davis’ “But Not For Me” – that Creeley mentions. It’s an instrumental version of a Gershwin tune, recorded by Davis and a stellar group in 1954 and then released on the LP Bags’ Groove (1957) . Since that LP wasn’t released until well after the chapbook in which the tune is referenced, I can only presume that Creeley had heard Davis perform it live.

Unfortunately, there’s no version of Miles Davis’ “But Not For Me” on-line, and the thirty second samples that are available don’t fully capture the play ‘n pause lines of the chorus that Creeley references. Suffice it to say, Miles’ mode of playing mirror the manner in which the lines of “I Know A Man” are written, or at least heard as recited by Creeley, sound-bursts with pauses. Id previously offered here to send a mp3 copy of Mile’s tune to anyone who asked, for educational and noncommercial purposes only, of course. However, it turns out that my iTunes sound file doesn’t play elsewhere, unless you have certain freeware. Sorry about that, and alas, it looks like you’ll have to buy the tune or album if you want to check it out.

Meanwhile, let’s fast-forward fifty plus years, and take a look at two poems published this year that “I Know A Man” and make something new. First up, since it was published first, is Rachel Loden’s “I Know A Brand” (click on the poem, if need be, to enlarge in a new window).

Rachel Loden

image/scan from
Dick of the Dead
(Boise: Ahsahta Press, 2009)

Loden’s “I Know A Brand” uses the same basic structure and most of the words of Creeley’s poem. Specifically, it has four tercets and all but about a dozen words of the original. Relatively speaking, the vocabulary modifications are minimal: Loden changes only approximately one-fifth of the original’s fifty-seven (including the title) total words. But while Loden preserves Creeley’s structure and most of his words, her changes most certainly result in a profoundly different poem.

The direction of Loden’s changes is obvious from the get-go, by which I mean the title, which substitutes “Brand” for “Man.” This signals that the poem will be – compared to Creeley’s – more specifically concerned with consumerism. This supposition is confirmed by the other substitutions, including “market” for “darkness” in the second tercet and the specific “Jaguar XKR” for Creeley’s more general “goddamn big car” in the third tercet.

I find the substitution of “market” for “darkness” a compelling and persuasive change. In part that’s because the existential angst evoked by Creeley’s “darkness” lives within Loden’s “market.” I think that occurs first because of the readerly memory of Creeley’s word when we come to Loden’s. But more than that, “the market” similar to “the darkness” is easily seen or felt as all-encompassing and dominating, a constant presence. Both thus “sur– / round us” and cause us to question “what / we can do against it.” In Loden’s poem, the more metaphysical concern of Creeley’s speaker (i.e., “the darkness”) is replaced with something (“the market”) is similarly nebulous and perhaps even more frightening: economic forces, seemingly uncontrollable except by a prosperous few, that power the buy and sell and profit and loss reality in which we in fact largely live, like it or not.

The changes that Loden makes that really take the poem in a different direction occur in the final tercet. After the poem’s speaker suggets buying a Jaguar XKR, the poem concludes:
floor it, he sd, for
christ’s sake, 4.9
seconds to 60 mph.
In Creeley’s “I Know A Man,” the final phrase “for / christ’s sake, look / out where yr going” can be read as an interjected alternative to the primary speaker’s suggestion that we should, against the darkness, buy a car and then drive, or more generally, consume and go. The friend’s interjected command is for specific attention and full awareness in every moment. It’s a demand that might, in the poem, be life-saving, in that the comment, particularly given the “for / christ’s sake” phrase, implies there’s some immediate danger that must be noticed. But it’s also wise in a more general way. Living fully in each moment, for those who can do so, can be a profoundly satisfying way to be.

In contrast, that said by the friend at the conclusion of Loden’s poem is decidedly less life-affirming or wise, to say the least. In “I Know A Brand” the friend’s interjected comment – “4.9 / seconds to 60 mph” – is but an advertising slogan or sales pitch point that simply reinforces and supports the initial’s speaker suggestion that we buy a Jaguar. If this comment offers any alternative to buying a Jaguar, it’s entirely distasteful: that we speed through our lives, the faster the better.

What a difference from the Creeley! Loden’s poem suggests a world in which people, dominated by market forces, can only think to capitulate (buy a Jag) or race through life without stopping to look (“4.9 / seconds to 60 mph”). This latter approach, of cource, is the exact opposite of paying attention to each moment, the gravaman of the friend’s poem-closing advice in Creeley’s “I Know A Man.” Loden’s take is sobering and pessimistic compared to Creeley’s, but I must say, it feels right: we the people, at least in today’s USA, can easily be seen not as a mindful bunch, but mindless, or essentially so, as we rush through our speed-dialed instant-messaged multi-tasked lives.

Loden’s poem is thus an homage to “I Know A Man” and an updating and tweaking of it, presenting as she does her decidedly more pessimistic take on our existence. Loden’s changes, while made to make a serious point, also strike me as funny, wickedly so. Humor shouldn’t or can’t be fully explained, so I won’t try to do so here. But I will say that I get a kick from how much the poem’s substance or meaning shifts even though there are, relatively speaking, so few changes.

I also get a kick from the fact the Loden’s changes seem to arise almost naturally from Creeley’s poem. After all, “I Know A Man” itself includes – in its “buy a goddamn big car” line – a comment on consumerism. Loden takes this kernel and in her poem grows it out into something completely different.

Finally, I enjoy Loden’s skewering of the Jaguar XKR, accomplished simply by using it as a symbol of ultimate consumerism. The TV commercials for that brand, and in particular the voice-over’s faux-prestigious tri-syllabic “Jag-yoo-ahr,” bug the crap out of me. Henceforth, every time I see on of those things on the road I think I’ll smile, wave, and shout out, “floor it!”.

“floor it, he sd, for / christ’s sake 4.9 / seconds to 60 mph”

Douglas Rothschild

image/scan from
(no place: subpress, 2009)

Rothschild’s “I Know A Man” blows out the structure and much of the vocabulary of Creeley’s identically titled poem. Specifically, Rothschild does away with the four tercet form, and uses only approximately one-half the words from Creeley’s poem.

The large scale changes permit Rothschild to greatly open up his “I Know A Man” compared to the original. The initial speaker or voice in Rothschild’s poem doesn’t say something to a single friend, but to a whole crowd of folks – “the / firemen / the cameramen / the rescue worker / the volunteer / on the scene.” And isn’t “darkness” that “surrounds us.” Instead, we must confront and deal with a particularized, somewhat expansive, although no less troubling set of matters:
the terror
the turmoil
the bomb blast
the bombast
the racism
the rubble
The poem has become, plainly, one that follows from 9 /11. An interesting thing about the list of all that “surrounds us” is that includes both the chaos and destruction of the event (“the bomb blast / . . . / the rubble”) and elements of the national response to it (“the bombast / the racism”).

Then there are the changes made by Rothschild to the poem’s conclusion, embodied here in its final four lines. The suggestion by the poem’s initial speaker, about what to do “what [we can] do against it” comes as a shock, or at least it did for me: he thinks we should just blow it all up; as he puts it, in Rothschild’s memorable words, “why not get a god damn / big bomb & drop it.” It’s a stunning declaration of anger, hate, resignation, and destruction.

As in the original “I Know A Man,” the other speaker in Rothschild poem – it’s a single male who speaks (“he sd”), having morphed or stepped apart from the crowd who the initial speaker was talking to – immediately cuts in to suggest, at least de facto, an alternative. Hearing the idea to drop a big one, “he” scolds, or cautions, “for xrist sake watch out who yr / blaming.”

I love this. The urge to destroy through violence is undercut by a reminder that such action points fingers of responsibility, and that such finger-pointing seems cannot be done with certainty. The poem’s concluding speaker suggests that staking out the moral high ground, or casting any blame, isn’t so easy.

Rothschild’s “I Know A Man” is obviously a post-9/11 poem, written with a New Yorker’s strongly felt emotions. Of course, that day was a national event, and the kind of human-made mass killings, and our response to it, are not limited to that one day. We readers experience such matters almost regularly via the 24/7 information stream. Thus, “the terror . . . ” and all else that Rothschild’s poem states “surrounds us” seems to me as universal as Creeley’s original “darkness” or Loden’s “market.”

In terms of poetic method, maybe the most interesting thing about Rothschild’s poem is how similar it seems to Creeley’s poem even though, as explained above, so much is changed. Using the same title helps, of course, but more important are the key characteristics from Creeley’s poem that Rothschild does use. There’s the “as I sd to” opening, for starters.

Even when phrases are slightly modified (for example, Rothschild rearranges and condenses Creeley’s “ . . . or else, shall we & / why not” so that it reads “. . . & or else why not”) they still sound like Creeley. The reason of course, is both that the words remain the same and even when re-arranged still convey the thoughts of the poem’s speaker in a stammering, hesitant manner.

Both poems also make use of abbreviated words such as “sd” and “yr”. Rothschild, no doubt recognizing that these short-forms are almost indelible markers of Creeley’s poem, not only uses them almost as much as the original, but adds more. His poem has a second ampersand, and uses “xrist” for “christ.” These changes amplify the sense of similarity. Seeing “xrist” in Rothschild’s poem, I had to look again at Creeley’s, even though I’ve read it hundreds of times, to see if it was in the original. Finally, for all its differences, Rothschild’s “I Know A Man” tracks closely the original’s basic premise: a speaker to an other (others), and the other interjecting a response at the poem’s conclusion.

the bomb blast / . . . / the rubble” --------- “the turmoil / . . . / the bombast”

Neither Loden’s nor Rothschild’s take on Creeley’s poem can rightly be called a parody. Parodies exaggerate for effect, imitate to poke fun at the original, often revealing the idiotic within the overly-pompous. Loden and Rothschild do something different with their original. In making their poems, the two poets impliedly comment on Creeley’s poem, perhaps even critique it in certain ways, but there’s no dismissal of it. What I said in this regard about Loden’s “I Know A Brand” must also be said about Rothschild’s “I Know A Man.” Both poems are an homage – and why not, Creeley’s poem is an enduring achievement in words – but also use the original to make something new, something of interest to readers today.

Are there other poems that have written after or in the vein of Creeley’s “I Know A Man”? If you know any, please leave a comment – I’d like to know.

Furthermore, will there be others who, similar to Loden and Rothschild, will write poems using Creeley’s “I Know A Man” as a starting point? As Loden and Rothschild show, the I sd / he sd set-up of Creeley’s poem, its ability to spotlight fundamental matters of utmost concern and how we should respond to them, can be adapted to circumstances or questions other than those posed in the original. And those adaptions, as Loden’s and Rothschild’s poems also show, can stand on their own as thought-provoking, interesting poems. So my guess is that there will be other variants on “I Know A Man.” At least I hope there are. Who’s next?

Robert Creeley
All That Is Lovely In Men
(Asheville, NC: Jonathan Williams, 1955)
(source for “I Know A Man”)


Cy Mathews said...

One of my pet peeves is poets who, in performing their work, read "through" their own linebreaks as if they didn't exist. So it's nice to see the attention given here to their rhythmical importance.

I've recently come to like the analogy between poetry and music more and more. The thing to remember, of course, is that whereas music is a play of sound and silence (to put it simplistically), poetry involves the play of sound (word), silence (line-break and/or white space), and meaning. Which may be significant in regards to the Loden and Rothschild poems. You correctly point out that they aren't "parody" - perhaps they're more in the spirit of a jazz musician re-interpreting a pre-existing piece, improvising a variation on a theme. And as is the case here, this reinterpretation involves more than just repeating/manipulating the style of the original, but playing around with meaning, building on, expanding from, and undercutting what was there in the original.

Cy Mathews said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steven Fama said...

Hi Cy,

Thanks for the comment. I am especially taken with your idea that the variants on Creeley by Loden and Rothschild are re-interpretations, a la a musician doing a cover version of another's tune. That sounds pretty dang exactly right.

And I've sent off the music file -- hope it works, and deleted your second comment, with your personal e-mail address, as you've requested.

Rachel Loden said...

Amazing to wake up and find this! I will quarrel a little with your word "pessimistic." You don't mock what you've given up on. Swift isn't pessimistic in "A Modest Proposal." It's hard to be furious and cynical at the same time. But these are small distinctions to tweeze apart.

gary barwin said...

Excellent post. Thanks. I like how the original echoes through the new versions. Like hearing an echo of line in the Bible in a new hymn, or poem.

And here's something:

I Know a Meaning

words, I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking,— um, I

sd, which was not his
name, meaning sur-
rounds us, what

can we do about
it, or else, shall we &
why not, just say something,

quiet, he sd, for
christ’s sake, let’s just
look out.

Steven Fama said...

Thanks Rachel and Gary, for the cnice comments.

And Rachel, I think you have a good point when you quarrel with my label "pessimistic" for your poem.

The two voices of the poem present a view that, taken as is, doesn't present much hope for our future. But you are correct to remind that the writer of the poem -- and that'd be you and by the way it's just great that you've taken time to write here about what I wrote about your poem! -- can have lots of different purposes in presenting those views, besides simply accepting it, and that one of those other purposes surely is to jab a sharp stick at the gut or butt or even eyes of the culture whose dominant tendencies are presented in "I Know A Brand."

(Sorry for the really long sentence right there.)

Steven Fama said...

And Gary --

That's a good one (your "I Know A Meaning")! Thanks for that!

Rachel Loden said...

Steve, I completely understand what you're saying, because it is a dark poem. Somehow I can sign up for darkness rather than for pessimism, because (to my mind) there's enormous hope in resistance to the darkness. But pessimism signals a giving up and there's no surrender in the worldview that generates the poems. That's the only distinction I'm trying to draw, and I admit it's a tiny one -- a matter of interpretation and possibly not worth mentioning. Thanks so much for another wonderful post.

DglsN.Rthsjchld said...

Dear Steve,
Did Google eat my comment? Or is it waiting administration?

oh well, if eaten....Thanks, what a great feeling to have one's work treated in such a serious & thorough manner. Such a treat.

I have been re-working that Creeley poem (along with a couple williams poems--oops a student has to work)

Rachel Loden said...

I agree with Dgls. It's fantastic to be read so thoroughly and deeply. You inhale poetry and it's a pleasure and a tonic. Maybe that's why I feel that I can enter the discourse -- because I'm being engaged on that level.

Steven Fama said...

Hi Douglas --

Thanks for letting me know you've seen the post, and you're welcome. AS I've said in similar circumstances previously, writing about a poem such as yours is enjoyable for me (writing results in more careful and varied thinking about something), and is about the least I can do as a way to show appreciation for the particular poem(s) I'm writing about.

It was a trip, a good one, to come across your and Rachel L.'s "I Know A . . .") poems within a period of a couple weeks this summer and early fall!

It seems difficult to believe that you two are the first to do something "after" the Creeley poem, but maybe so!

Ed Baker said...

read the lines
(as you posit)
w a full stop

@ the
of each line

and that syncopates
the music of
every wd/every syllable

does it s job
as Cid and others
n o t e

in the entire

I appreciate RC's thrust through and beyond
Doc Williams' "stuff"

every-word readers/writers...

the others you mention, new to me..


DglsN.Rthsjchld said...

ah, student lull, so before lunch...
If Rachel does not want 'pessimistic' can i have it?

i was going to say that my re/writing of poems began back in the early 80's with that thing of william's often called 'red wheelbarrow' but is really just XXX (can't remember the # off the top of my head?)

then in SD with Brian Tennenbaum & Steve Evans i collaborated on a version of 'i know a man' {see below} then in the 90's i worked on more versions of 'this is just to say' 'the term' & 'the great figure' indeed i did not see myself as writing 'parodies' but making 'versions' recording as it were my own sometimes as if recording a verison of 'stella by starlight' sometimes (as with bop) merely 'taking the cord changes' & giving the tune a new name.

i think of 'i know a man' & these other poems, as 'forms' & rework them when i need to--the way some poets write 'sonnets' etc.

thanks again for taking a long look at it.

here's the first stab at the 'man' from about 1985:

As I sd to my
friend, in the John,
because I am always
peeing,--which is not

his name, I sd,
the porceline sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, get a goddamn big cock,

fuck, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going.

Steven Fama said...


Yes, I noticed and am enjoying -- what, two or three, or more> -- No. 5 poems in Theogony, and thought of course of WCW's "The Great Figure" and have been looking for instances of "5" myself but none yet...

I like too your idea of a poem such as "I Know A Man" being a form similar to a sonnet, available to anyone who wants to renew it or give it a whirl. This idea seems similar to the point Cy made above, about these poems seeming like musical cover versions.

And finally, your 1985 stab at "Man" woke my inner boy right up and made him laugh until he dominated my inner and outer everything. Flippin' hilarious!

I love that the first word of final stanza can read or be heard as being said by either speaker in the poem, as in the Creeley. And of course, how the final phrase works word-for-word from the original.

I can't believe I just analyzed a little bit of that one! But I did, so might as well also mention that I'd go for "porcelain" instead of "porceline."

Thanks again!

gary barwin said...

"I like too your idea of a poem such as "I Know A Man" being a form similar to a sonnet, available to anyone who wants to renew it or give it a whirl."

derek beaulieu and I created a book, "frogments from the frag pool" based on variations/translations/retakes/riffs off Basho's famous frog poem. We were trying to do exactly that, to renew it, to give it a whirl, to use it as the genome for an entirely new set of texts. These forms (iconic poems) enter the grammar of the language, they are traces within language's memory, I think.

Ed Baker said...

every kid in 3 rd grade "does" that frog poem

how trite/boring ( mine, I did when I was 65... not much of a poem but
these days

what is? Here is mine.. it is copyrighted by my lit executor.. Paul Zeevatzky:

so many
in one pond

gary barwin said...

"every kid in 3 rd grade "does" that frog poem

how trite/boring"

Well, I'd guess it depends on what you do with it. And with many of these kind of 'variation' projects, a critical mass of material can tip it over into interesting territory. There's actually a quite tradition of doing these conceptual or imaginative frog poem translations -- from bpNichol and Steve McCaffery to jwcurry and Dom S. Houedard.

Ed Baker said...

believe you me
I certainly know...

what passes for "imagination" in our
watered-down present culture is well

at best insipid

which should not be confused w intrepid!

though one should (try to) refrain from using
modifying adjectives...

and stay away from those tricksters and imitators that you mention...

Steven Fama said...

Dear Ed,

I imagine a what I'd call more expansive range of imagination than it seems you imagine.

Hamlet's been re-staged how many times since the Globe?

I like Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" and the Grateful Dead's.

Then there are the many versions - translations, yes, but versions -- Basho, Du Fu, etc. Or the versions of Sappho (many other examples. Or wilder stuff like Steve McCaffery's homolinguistic version of all of Tender Buttons.

These poetic re-doings, excellent on their own terms, also present opportunities, which I tried to point out in my post, maybe more in the discussion of Douglas Rothschild's adaptation, of showing what makes the original "work" as it does.

Ed Baker said...

I don't have noh-thing against it all

xcept that is Du Fu who used to be Tu Fu?
are all of those 12 th senseury mendicant monk-poets sort of like

our present "poets" travelling from University to university begging for degrees/credential/stiphends/ and acknowledgement..

I certainly appreciate your points of view

I am just miffed at all of the mediocrity and crap that we (as a culture) are producing..

just look at what our political leaders are all about! A real Imaginative Bunch of Crap! and they ALL went through our education system.. The University of Fear and Greed.



Steven Fama said...

Since I was in my main post addressing the wonder of the works themselves, I purposefully didn't discuss a side question that some may find interesting, given the flak in the blog-o-sphere recently regarding Zuk's son's assertions on the matter:

What of Creeley's copyright and the poems of Loden and Rothschild?

My verdict: The poems are fair use, and thus do not infringe on the copyright.

The poems, each of them, add something new to Creeley's; they have a further purpose or different character, altering the original with new expression, meaning, and/or message.

In a word -- and this is the relevant legal term -- the poems are transformative.

A number of other factors would need to be considered, legally, but the transformative character of the works is the key one, I do believe.

DglsN.Rthsjchld said...


from Theogony i found:
Christmas Day, 1997 pg. 48
The Golden Mean pg. 67
Epilogue pg. 90

all from WCW.

i don't have any 'unlike a bag' poems in this collection--though i have many elsewheres.

as for the great figure, i even have Pierre Menard type re-writings that came about as i was standing on the corner & saw--among the rain--the figure 5 in gold on a red fire truck...

yes, i think it is key to be able to read 'drive' as coming from the second speaker as well as the first. but creeley's insistance is just a case of an author & his for porceline--that's just bad spelling :]


Every kid in Third
Grade 'does' that Basho frog poem.
How trite, how boring.

nice... :] (i only needed to added 'Basho'. It even has the 'image/commentary' element so often 'lost' in 'hiku'.)


yes, i have always thought merwin's 'vapor trails reflected in a frog pond' is a 'version' of Basho also.


as for paul Z: he can have as much of my expenses for publishing--the re-writing of that silly saw-horse poem from that book (i'd be more specific, but am afraid of a cease & desist order...) which that mean guy wrote--as he wants.


personally i think pz is trying to bury his dad's poetry....but that's a side bar....

thanks again for the interesting thoughts on these poems. & the good spelling suggestion!

yours in poetry,

DglsN.Rthsjchld said...

i had opened the cover picture accidentally & going to close it, realized--the guy in that car has got to be one huge guy.....& you can see some eye glasses.

it's got to be olson.

just another side bar.


Steven Fama said...

Heck of a guess, Douglas, on who the driver is on Creeley cover.

I hadn't even imagined who it might be, other than a vauge sense that it was Creeley.

I just quick-surfed Google images, looking for a photo of Olson with a wrist-watch; the driver on the cover appears to wear one on the left wrist. No Luck. But still, those hands and fingers -- wow -- are huge, and yes I agree there are glasses too....

Pris said...

Fascinating post. Fascinating discussion. I, too, like the connection of the pooem to music and the stops read as stops at the line breaks,

Now, about that frog, Ed....

Ed Baker said...

I dipped the frog
an egg and flower wash
an deep French-Fried the

between two slices of Wonder Bread

all that America stands for!

Cy Mathews said...

The best "version" of Basho's frog haiku I've ever read was included, oddly enough, in a novella printed in a back issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (It was meant to be an example of "Old Earth" poetry):

Old pond
Frog jumps

Back to the topic: interestingly, Silliman in linking to this post describes the two new poems as "translations" of Creeley. I'm not too keen on that use of that word, but it comes down your definition of "translation."

Ed Baker said...

frog jumps
into hot grease
Eat Him!

Pris said...

Sorry for the one more comment off topic, but those frog ones are great, Ed, and in the spirit of the discussion.

Wonder Bread??:-)

gary barwin said...


I do like your frog poems. Here's a little prose piece 'translating' the frog haiku:

I think one can explore both form, as in this haiku:


as well as content, as you have with your haiku translations. My personal favourite 'translation' of the Basho is bpNichols


where the line of the Q is the path of the frog into the O body of the Q which is the pond.

Joanna Fuhrman said...

Thanks for posting this. It's funny timing because I assigned the three poems to my poetry students just last week.

Steven Fama said...

Hi Joanna Fuhrman,

Thanks for the note; I'd really enjoy being in your class when the Creeley, Loden, and Rothschild poems are talked about. Unfortunately, there are about 3,000 intervening miles, assuming I've got it right that you teach in or around the lower East Side Manhattan and/or New Jersey . . . .

I'll bet the students really enjoy this assignment! If you care to share back here any interesting insights, or even point your students here in case they'd like to say something themselves, please do. Thanks again.

sandy witch said...


Hey there. I am really enjoying looking at your blog and am happy to contribute another take on "I Know a Man" by Edmund Berrigan. I hope he doesn't mind my transcribing it here for you. It is from Eddie's latest book called "Glad Stone Children" published by Farfalla Press.
Karen Weiser

Blood Glove

"Glove," I sd
involving blood.
"The dark blood,


& so

glove blood."

"Watch Out," he sd,

Steven Fama said...

Hi Karen,

Thanks for taking to time to share Edmund Berrigan's "take" (my word) on Creeley's poem. An interesting variation, with its concision, but with stuttering or stammering still in it, and the ending with "watch" in place of "look / out . . . ."

Thanks again, and I regret not knowing about this poem when I did up the post -- I would have definitely included it!