The angriest bohemian, who nurtured so many avant-garde careers with his small magazines while pulling The Island and For Love out of his bag of tricks, gets unvarnished but admiring treatment here.
Concentrating on Creeley’s wild unsavory years, the first half of his life, Faas (Towards a New American Poetics, not reviewed) follows the poet as he cuts a swath through the post-WWII literary world much like the one Sherman cut through Georgia. Born in 1926, Creeley knew he wanted to be a writer free from any dampening restraints, but other than that he was pretty much a loose cannon, reports his biographer. Disoriented and with a penchant to “externalize his inner turmoil,” lashing out with a wicked tongue and occasionally his fists, he had a way of making a friend and then having an affair with the woman in the friend's life. Established literary magazines avoided his work, so he started a string of publications, and eventually took charge of the Black Mountain Review. He roamed North America like a pilgrim, absorbing the critical (and fatherly) impact of Charles Olson, accepting the brotherly ministerings of Kerouac, bending the ear of Allen Ginsberg, or Robert Graves, or Kenneth Rexroth (with whose wife Creeley conducted a disastrous affair). His travels abroad left him “feeling very damn young and American, he wanted to kill somebody,” but through the rage he was discovering a compact, localized voice and the “instantaneity of strictly personal experience,” which found expression in his poetry. Faas suggests that Creeley has been riding the success of For Love these many years now and doesn't hide his contempt for the “sentimentally self-reflective and banal” nature of Creeley's current work.
Despite late-career reservations, the account of Creeley’s first 40 years embraces the writer like a comfortable old jacket, and this biography feels a good fit. (Illustrations, not seen)