Creeley, Pollock and Laubiès: The Early Years by Joshua Watsky

Creeley, Pollock and Laubiès: The Early Years
Joshua Watsky

In 1998, as curator Elizabeth Licata was working to prepare a catalogue for the traveling exhibit, “In Company,” she interviewed Robert Creeley for the history she would write of his collaborations with artists. In the very first paragraph of the resulting essay, Licata addressed the question of early influences on Creeley’s work, stating that “Robert Creeley’s connection with art is central to his writing. It began in 1953, when Creeley first saw the work of Jackson Pollock at Fachetti Gallery in Paris” (Licata 11). Much has been made of this “it,” the formative influence that Pollock’s work had on Robert Creeley, and its centrality to what Licata describes as one of the essential aspects of Creeley’s career, “the symbiosis between poet and painter, each acting as the other’s ideal audience” (11). That Creeley hungered for a “company” of like-minded peers is understood, a life-long quest that began in the late 1940s and early 1950s when he first made contact with fellow men of letters, Cid Corman and Charles Olson. However, questions regarding Creeley’s earliest encounters with abstraction and the people who influenced him are perhaps not quite as settled. Unpublished letters that Creeley wrote to the French painter, René Laubiès, as well as to Charles Olson, suggest that stories of inspiration brought on by viewing Pollock’s work in 1953 may well be apocryphal.

In “Memories of John,” Creeley wrote

In retrospect, the closest any friend also a painter from that world ever got for me was René Laubiès, a singular man in all respects whom Pound had directed me to… but again I was far more interested by a small show that Pollock had at his gallery, Paul Fachetti’s, at that same time—a veritable letter from home. (The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley 435)

However, beginning in late 1951, Creeley’s letters to Laubies shed a different light on their relationship. These letters reveal an intense friendship, in which Laubiès played the role of mentor to the young poet, as well as a relationship that resulted in professional collaboration practically from the very start of their correspondence. And, unlike some of Creeley’s later reflections on this early phase of his career, such as the selection quoted above, the letters make it clear that it was the work of René Laubiès that inspired the poet and provided him with his first substantive introduction to abstraction; and, as Creeley and Laubiès began to collaborate more and more intensely, this prompted some of Creeley’s earliest writing about a subject which would be so central to his career.

Creeley’s letters to Laubiès also make clear the fact that the completion of The Immoral Proposition, published in the autumn of 1953 by Jonathan Williams, was not the start of Creeley’s collaborations, as is suggested in the “In Company” exhibition catalogue, but rather the tangible culmination of an extended, formative process. While Elizabeth Licata does credit Rene Laubiès for his contribution to Creeley’s opus, she only begins her history of their friendship and collaboration from the point of publication. Of The Immoral Proposition, Licata writes, “The book Creeley and Laubiès produced is a powerful and beautifully balanced pairing” (12). By Licata’s account, though, Laubiès’ role in this seems mainly to have been “a suggestion that (he) could provide ‘inks’ for a series of poems Creeley had just finished” (11). She also implies that the choice of Jargon Press to print the book was deliberate rather than by default, though four other presses, including Creeley’s own Divers Press, were unable to do the job. In reality the collaborative efforts of these two men had begun in earnest almost a full year even before the October 1952 publication of Creeley’s first book, Le Fou, and these efforts, including Creeley’s relationship with another artist, Ashley Bryan, epitomized Creeley’s search for a “company,” the shared artistic struggle from which peers, colleagues and friends drew their energy, pleasure and inspiration.

This first collaborative process with René Laubiès, predating the publication of both Le Fou and The Immoral Proposition, rather than any epiphany brought on by his initial contact with Pollock’s work, would be the incubator from which Creeley would emerge, becoming the publisher of Divers Press during his time in Mallorca, and then a formidable author and partner in so many collaborations. And, while the work undertaken with Laubiès from late 1951 until 1953 did not lead directly or quickly to publication, the sincerity and depth of Creeley’s contemporary communication with Laubiès indicates that this was a crucial relationship in the poet’s professional and emotional development.

Also writing in the “In Company” catalogue, John Yau addresses the question of collaboration and influence in his essay, entitled “Active Participant: Robert Creeley and the Visual Arts.” In this essay, he writes of Creeley’s response to Rene Laubiès’ work, though Yau emphasizes the “links connecting Creeley to the Abstract Expressionists,” (51) and the changes that would take place in the late 1950s as he “begins underscoring the materiality of words in his work” (51). In his effort to connect Creeley to this particular group of American artists, though, Yau’s essay does not explore the degree to which Creeley’s collaboration with Laubiès prior to the publication of The Immoral Proposition would influence all that would follow. Moreover, Creeley’s letters throughout the 1950s to two of his most intimate confidants, Olson and Laubiès, do not support any explicit intention or effort on Creeley’s part to link himself professionally to this movement or to any of its personalities. In this desire to stress Creeley’s early connection to Pollock, Yau joins Licata, in spite of the fact that Creeley’s response to Jackson Pollock, at least prior to the artist’s death in 1956, was at best dismissive.

*****

The Creeley family left for Europe in May, 1951, and Robert Creeley’s first letter to Charles Olson from France is dated May 28 of that year. In it and in subsequent letters that spring and summer, prior to making contact with René Laubiès, one dominant theme is Creeley’s sense of isolation. He speaks often of his sense of estrangement in a non-English speaking culture, explaining, for example, that “finally, the only hitch is, with this present place, at least for me: that I miss, language, miss free play of talk, & tho, say, 4 months might have me speaking sd French, even so: for what? I.e., remains NOT english. And I can’t get along without same, too damn long” (Olson-Creeley: 6, 48). Other than visits with their friends, poet Denise Levertov and her husband, Mitchell Goodman, then living in Puyricard, nothing but writing to Olson seemed a palliative. This would change after Creeley met Ashley Bryan and René Laubiès, later that summer and fall.

Elizabeth Licata notes that “Pound had introduced the artist (Laubiès) to Creeley before Creeley moved to France with his family” (12). In fact, in October 1951, the Creeley’s were living in Fontrousse, France, when a letter arrived there from Ezra Pound referring to “a good guy named Rene Laubiès” (Olson-Creeley: 8, 55), and the two began to correspond shortly thereafter. Creeley’s letter to Olson on October 19 notes, “letter in from M. Rene Laubiès. And he sounds ok. Offers all possible help re Cid, has an in with les Cahiers du Sud…” (Olson-Creeley: 8, 66).Creeley was of course, at that time, more or less unknown, as was Laubiès, working in relative obscurity in Southern France. Nonetheless, Creeley had been corresponding with Charles Olson since 1950, and had had modest success in his efforts to publish in various literary magazines. He had also just begun to work with Ashley Bryan, an important relationship, judging by the way Creeley spoke of him to Olson: “A/s drawings for “The Party,” to me at least, are damn fine; I so much like his cleanness, and all his stuff is very damn good. He made about thirty or so, and I can’t see how he’ll manage the picking, etc., but it’s his biz. I know not one damn thing about any of it, etc” (Olson-Creeley: 9, 22). With Laubiès, to whom Creeley had begun writing in the fall of 1951, there was an immediate affinity, a new “company” to take him out of what Creeley variously described as a “killing,” a “dulling,” a “greyness,” and a hunger for the solidarity that prefigures much that would come later: “Do keep writing,” he asks of Laubiès, in December, 1951, “it gets me out of this deadness. And keep well, and hope the exhibitions don’t beat you down. Spit on them. Kick them. What else” (Letter, private collection, 5 December 1951).

The two men begin to network following their very first exchanges. Creeley writes to Laubiès about William Carlos Williams, Olson and Cid Corman, and responds to Laubiès’ overtures regarding various publishers and translators. To Olson, Creeley writes of Laubiès in November, 1951, I “do think he will be the one to count on in this damn swamp, etc.” (Olson-Creeley: 8, 117). By December of 1951, the two men are exchanging work and sharing the solitude and misery of the impoverished author’s life as if between old friends: “About it, mostly holding on still; I haven’t been able, yet, (or so I say it) to get to anything. It’s cold, and somewhat flat. But I can’t worry much. Do keep writing; a real hold” (Letter, private collection, 10 December 1951).

In January, 1952, come the first concrete efforts at collaboration. Creeley expresses his hope that Laubiès will be able to meet Rainer Gerhardt, the German publisher of Fragmente when he comes to Paris, having already written of him in December, “Anyhow, you will certainly hear from him (Gerhardt), though it may take a little time. I hope to hell he does get in here, if only selfishly. It would be so damn great to get something going in the way of a small press…Well, to be dreaming. But it’s clear enough it will have to be some such thing…But it could be so great. (Do those ‘black-inks’ & we’ll make a damn book 8 x 8 – feet)” (Letter, private collection, 5 December 1951). This palpable sense of possibility and potential and the hopeful optimism that Creeley expresses in his early letters will be emblematic of his contacts with Laubiès.

In mid-February, 1952, Creeley writes a letter that is among his earliest attempts to give voice to a nascent passion for abstraction, as he reflects on Laubiès’ paintings and drawings:

It isn’t at all simple for me to say, quickly, what I am hit by, and what not – and with painting, or work in this character so much not my own – growing up, I don’t think I ever saw anything, or never saw any instance of this art, call it, which could catch me or make me, in any way, stop – it’s that much more difficult. Not to make it an excuse – really, what hits, here, hits very damn hard, because it comes through that literal blank I’ve confronted it with. (Letter, private collection, 16 February 1951)

Creeley exhibits a striking openness in these early letters as he ponders the challenges encountered in trying to come to terms with art so new, so unexpected and so forceful.  His response to Laubiès has a visceral, honest and even jejune quality, permitting us to gain a truly palpable sense of the poet’s struggle with this art which, as he says, “hits very damn hard.”  Creeley’s reaction to it and his grasping for words to confront this new “force” make clear that his prior exposure to art had been at best minimal, though there had been no dearth of writing about the Abstract Expressionists in the American press during the late 1940s and early 1950s.   Creeley’s own recollections in a Paris Review interview suggest that it was not only his quest for a “company,” but also his discovery that painting could provide a path for his own energies that attracted him:   “… I liked Laubiès extremely. It wasn’t really the painting as something done that interested me. It was the painter, or the activity of painting I was really intrigued by. About that time I began to look at things” (Creeley, 1968). Perhaps this is the sense, then, of his comment concerning “that literal blank”:  Laubiès art had opened up a new way of seeing for Creeley, a window on an eloquent, wordless universe of energy and force.

Days later, he writes to Olson regarding Laubiès, “All of this, I hope, will come to some sort of collaboration, I mean, something that could get us moving…” (Olson-Creeley: 9, 163).  This last letter to Olson also includes a draft of the essay that Creeley had agreed to write about Laubiès “for an exhibition he’s going to have in Freiburg” (Olson-Creeley: 9,161).  Just prior to writing this letter to Olson, Creeley had written to Laubiès, saying, “damn well honored by your asking for some note, etc.  I sat down & wrote the enclosed” (Letter, private collection, 22 February 1952).  In the Freiburg essay, reproduced at the end of Creeley’s February 21 letter to Olson, Creeley describes Laubiès’ work in terms of “acts” and “force,” and exhorts the reader to reject the temptation to reduce abstraction to something too simple. Creeley ends by saying “I don’t know it all, I know very little as it happens. If a work of art, like they say, isn’t force, isn’t of that order of the animate, – what, then, is it? Why do we ever bother to look? These paintings are not ‘M. Laubiès’ – not a ‘school’ or any part of even a procedure (so many, much too familiar). Either make a thing that good – these paintings – make it to stick just so, implacable, or else give it all up” (Olson-Creeley: 9, 166).  Indeed, given that Creeley was in effect professing his inchoate notion of abstraction in this essay, as well as elsewhere in his correspondence, the young author must have been genuinely struck by Laubiès’ work for him to write with such conviction. Regardless, it is at this moment that Creeley first lends his voice, without relying on external references or influences, to the “animate” quality and the “force” of this act of creation that are hallmarks of post-war abstraction.

John Yau’s essay in the “In Company” catalogue stresses the importance of Creeley’s early interest in non-figurative art, and the way it moved him “away from both Pound and Williams and their use of concrete images, towards the practice of abstraction” (47). He goes on to say that Creeley’s Freiburg essay “formally marked the beginning of Creeley’s testing of his poetics against visual art” implicitly lending support to the notion that Creeley’s exploration of this topic took hold without the influence of Jackson Pollock (51). In any case, the first opportunity that Creeley would have had to view Pollock’s work in Europe was not until March, 1952, when the artist had his first solo exhibition at the Studio Fachetti, a period that coincides with Creeley’s trip north to Freiburg and Paris. Yet the implication in Yau’s essay is that somehow the Freiburg essay arose out of Creeley’s familiarity with “the trajectory towards abstraction,” and “his antipathy to ‘representation,’” and seems to confuse Creeley’s earliest encounters with abstraction with his later experiences (51). Simply put, Creeley’s Freiburg essay was offered at the time to Laubiès as an expression of collegial support and as a tentative exploration of this new stimulus, no matter how prescient his words may seem to us now from our present day vantage point.

Mr. Yau rightly points out that the Freiburg essay was written before the publication of The Immoral Proposition, giving Creeley credit for his acuity, noting “although he was still struggling with his poetry, prose, and poetics, the Laubiès essay can be said to anticipate the course both Creeley’s writing and much American art…would take in the first decade after Pollock’s death in 1956” (52).  But what does not receive attention is the way in which Creeley and Laubiès came to terms with the issues that would be central to Creeley’s conception of collaboration in the decades to come.

One might think, reading Mr. Yau’s essay, that Creeley came to the notion on his own that “the writing should extend from the art, not be reactive to, or descriptive of it…without it becoming either subservient or appropriational” (48). Yet here the young poet writes to Laubiès in June of 1952, in a vivid expression of his evolving definition of collaboration, saying,

your lithos are by no means illustrations in the horrid sense of “art work”, etc. God strike anyone dead who thinks so! For once in my own damn lifetime, I’ve seen two instances, in different media, making a like force – and it’s what you’ve done, & it seems to me very very wonderful. In other words, the stories are, of course, one thing, and the litho/s another – but what is the miracle, that together they are something else, and more, I like to damn well think, than either is, separate. Hence my own insistence on a unit, a clearly set unit; once joined, like this, it would be hellish loss to see them broken apart, etc. (Letter, private collection, 27 June 1952)

This is a privileged moment for us to witness, a window on the earliest interactions between two young, untried artists as they first consider the syncretic power of creation greater and more powerful than the sum of its parts.

Years later, though, Creeley himself seems to have contributed to the misperception that Laubiès might only have been a peripheral figure in the poet’s apprenticeship. In On the Road, Creeley’s 1974 collection of reminiscences, he appears to be rather dismissive of Laubiès, when he writes that Laubiès’ work was “an extension of the usual school of Paris preoccupations” (as quoted in Yau, 51). This hindsight seems to contradict Creeley’s own enthusiastic response to this art, back in 1951, as he wrote to Laubiès, saying “You scare me with those black-inks…But I like it, I like it very damn much; stupid to say otherwise” (Letter, private collection, 10 December 1951). Creeley would later repeat this language in a letter to Olson, writing about Laubiès’ inks that “they scare the hell out of me, to have it that deep & clear…I think he is very great indeed” (Charles Olson Papers, University of Connecticut, letter, 19 February 1953). The cause of this apparent contradiction is difficult to ascertain. Perhaps it was a simple act of forgetting or neglect of the extent of his old friend’s influence due to the passage of time; it is plausible, as well, that it was an attempt by Creeley to distance himself from his early years abroad in order to more effectively embrace his own uniquely American persona.  He later remembered:

…because I was an American living in Europe, having left the New Hampshire farm, I was particularly intrigued by the Americanism of certain painters, like Pollock, obviously, and other friends, like Ashley Bryan… I was fascinated by the condition of life these guys had… that they were loners and peculiarly American, specifically American in their ways of experiencing activity, with energy a process—like Pollock’s ‘When I am in my painting.’… In writing, everything was still argued with traditional or inherited attitudes and forms. (Creeley, 1968)

Yet,  Creeley’s own words to and about Laubiès, written a decade or more earlier than these recollections for the Paris Review interview, clearly attest to something more formative, crucial and passionate  in his relationship with the painter that is missing in his later reflections.

Laubiès’ voice is also conspicuously absent from the 1998 “In Company” catalogue, even though Creeley was actively involved in its conception and numerous other collaborators were interviewed for a chapter entitled “The Collaborators Talk.” In an unpublished letter written in 2006, just six months before he passed away in Kerala, India, Laubiès reflected on his long friendship with Robert Creeley, saying

I was very touched by his solicitude for me and by what he wrote about art…I stopped writing to him and Jonathan Williams for some 20 years. I was traveling and in India but when I saw Bob again he was the same loving and warm friend. There was a misunderstanding (in Guatemala) and I was stupid, and unconscious of his love. Platonic love is more intense and painful than sexual love and leaves a bitter taste! But one can say that of all relationships in western society. (Letter, private collection, 14 May 2006)

Laubiès himself was aware of the “In Company” exhibit, but never offered an opinion as to why he had not been contacted for an interview. Unfortunately, this somewhat cryptic letter only hints at the way in which his relationship with Creeley may have evolved, and does not adequately explain why Laubiès did not have a greater voice in the 1998 exhibition.

By March of 1952, following Creeley’s trip to Freiburg and Paris, plans were beginning to take shape for an edition of his stories that would only come to fruition with The Gold Diggers in 1954. The two men had been in touch with Rainer Gerhardt, who accompanied Creeley back to Lambesc, where Creeley had moved with his family, and they were exchanging ideas and brainstorming ways to effectively (and cheaply) reproduce Laubiès’ inks: “I’ll keep you in touch re what might be possible – would so much like to have them in any edition of the stories, – tho everything mostly wish” he wrote to Laubiès, adding, “Continue to be very excited w/your paintings, -damn well movement which I can hold to” (Letter, private collection, 21 March 1952).  This, again, is a far cry from Creeley’s own contention years later that he felt “gauche and heavy” around Laubiès’ work (as quoted in Yau, 50-51).

And what to make of John Yau’s emphasis in his essay on “Creeley’s understated distinction between Laubies’ and Pollock’s approach to art, with the former trying “to realize a thing in mind” and the latter’s concern with the “energy inherent in the materials?” (51) Perhaps this artistic parsing occurred later on, as Creeley moved back to the United States and continued to develop his appreciation and understanding of abstraction. But in early 1952, the work of Jackson Pollock does not appear to have been a concern for Creeley; what emerges most clearly from various primary sources, in fact, is the portrait of a young writer, together with his friend and mentor, grappling with new concepts and a language of abstraction without reference to influences or movements.

In fact, Creeley’s letters on these topics to Laubiès and Olson in 1952 are as notable for what they omit as for what they reveal. Nowhere during this time, does Creeley write of Jackson Pollock in his letters to Laubiès. To Olson, though, he writes on April 4, 1952, “Or like Pollock, seeing a show of his in Paris, etc. That is damn well sophistication of the gratuitous; mismanagement of the ONE damn chance. If they have to hang people for being UN-american, etc., why the hell don’t they nail him” (Olson-Creeley: 9, 225). At about the same time, Creeley composes his poem, “The Painters,” dedicated to Laubiès, in which he speaks of painting past, “grotesque and abnormal forms,” (Olson-Creeley: 9, 327) and then of Laubiès, painting present, “You otherwise. This success is foremost in my mind your own”(327).  In that same April 4 letter, he even goes so far as to pay Laubiès what might be considered the ultimate compliment, saying of him that he is “in some damn ways, almost the first ‘American’ painter”(225).  Moreover, Creeley had already written to Olson back in October, 1951, going so far as to say about Pollock that “when the paint passes from brush to work without the hand’s control, it is not art” (Charles Olson Papers, University of Connecticut, letter, 10 October 1951). These views simply do not square with the many implicit and explicit connections Yau, and others, draw between Pollock and Creeley, as in this passage: “Living in Europe, and exchanging letters with Olson, Creeley’s encounter with the work of Pollock and others not only made him feel less alone, but provided him with the belief that there existed what he calls a “company,” a group of individuals working towards shared goals” (Yau, 54).

To his other correspondents, such as Irving Layton, little is said about Pollock during the painter’s lifetime. What is written tends to be of an anecdotal and even sardonic nature as in this letter from late 1954, in which Creeley tells of an encounter Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock had had with the police that summer: “When the police came, Kline & Pollock (who was with him & who went thru the windshield I think) were pulling themselves together, and Kline sez: of course you know Jackson Pollock, Great American Painter, etc. Police answer: yes, we got a record on him. So that was that” (187). Creeley’s as yet unpublished letters to Olson also support the argument that neither Pollock particularly, nor Abstract Expressionism generally, were motivating for Creeley before his return to America. In light of this record, this insistence on the Pollock connection takes on a somewhat strained quality even though, as the 1950s drew to a close, and following Pollock’s lurid, untimely end, it seems only natural that Creeley, returned home and living in New Mexico, might well have needed to embrace his own ‘landsleit’ and distance himself emotionally from the “stultifying” weight and “precise history” he had found in Europe (Olson –Creeley: 6, 52).

In April, 1952, Creeley writes to Laubiès about their book project, with Creeley commenting, that “the main damn thing anyhow IS the BOOK” (Letter, private collection, 17 April 1952). By this time, it would seem that Laubiès had become both catalyst and mentor to Creeley, an example of Licata’s “ideal audience,” a guide to help the poet frame the new relationship he recognized between poetry and abstraction. Besides the book of short stories and ink drawings they hoped to have published by Rainer Gerhardt, a mere 6 months after first making contact with one another, there was also talk of submissions they were preparing for the three literary magazines Vou, Origin and Intro. In a seminal letter dated 26 May 1952, Creeley offers his comments on Laubiès’ work, making a clear connection between his efforts as a writer in search of a language to describe Laubiès’ abstraction, and comparing the art to his own quest as a poet. One is struck again by the intimate and confessional nature of Creeley’s emotional and intellectual response to what he has seen:

Whole character is very great; formalism of the process against your central method is wild. Even enjoy dimensions; a damn well complete pleasure…. Honestly hard to find an exact vocabulary, – that is, it is that surface, now, such a plane, etc., and on that, or really in it, play of the divers structures. It interests me very very much; it is damn close to much of what I try to do but can’t say I at all get to do so very damn well. I mean, to have this clean sharp preciseness in literal character of medium; and then, with that, damn well wild intensities of your structures… (Letter, private collection, 26 May 1952)

As the spring of 1952 drew to a close, plans for his book with Laubiès were well underway. Creeley writes to Olson with news on May 27, saying “I get hit by Laubiès’ work (litho/s for this book just now in) because he can acknowledge it- not simply as fright. What he did for “3 Fate Tales” is a more deep acknowledgement than what I did in writing it; I mean, I wrote it down, and he acknowledged it to be there. He made it of, or from, his own character; it is a damn deep thing” (Olson-Creeley: 10, 117). These sentiments echo and reinforce those expressed in the May 26 letter, where the poet speaks of Laubiès’ work as abstraction of intensity and clarity within the movement of different structures, a profound recognition of something personal and essential. This art is not seen as part of some larger movement, and Creeley does not seek to identify its source of inspiration or its antecedents, but rather sees what Laubiès has created as a force unto itself. Or, as Creeley himself wrote in 1954, “It is his art, if you will, to begin here, at this point of things as yet unrecognized, without more reference than themselves. It is his purpose to effect these things as form, as a painting, simply there. So that we are involved unmistakably—like a sound perhaps, which no ‘language’ has yet found ‘words’ for, may affect us nonetheless”(Creeley, 381).

As the summer of 1952 approached, the two men were waiting to hear from various publishers about their project, but neither Emerson, Gerhardt nor Corman would commit. Creeley would soon move to Mallorca to begin a new chapter in his career, and the long suffering book project would continue to be a topic of their letters and their efforts for nearly an additional year. By February of 1953, Creeley was deeply involved in a variety of projects for Divers Press, though the Immoral Proposition was not far from his mind, explaining “haven’t yet been able to actually start ours, what with O/s in press. But figure we’ll be clear soon; covers on Blackburn, & booklist, will be done with O/s. I figure to do Larry’s by other way. And so on” (Letter, private collection, 8 February 1953).

In the end, it was Jonathan Williams who published The Immoral Proposition. On 3 November 1953, Creeley writes, “J/sent book, and god knows I have no kicks. Only thing I wd have done differently (and this after staring at it for several days) wd be to have put that cover in black – so as to keep ‘casualness” constant thru-out. But anyhow, I like it very damn much – and wildest part is, very obviously, your inks. God knows I do damn little to deserve that company” (Letter, private collection, 3 November 1953). The two men would continue their correspondence and collaborations, brainstorming and networking as Creeley took on the responsibility for the Black Mountain Review, and eventually returned to the United States.

Beginning in the mid 1950s, the letters Creeley wrote to Laubiès would become increasingly focused on news of family and career, and less on the business of collaboration and publishing, and time lengthened between exchanges. If Creeley had by then come to embrace the work of Jackson Pollock, this attitude is not reflected in his letters to René Laubiès, nor for that matter, in his letters to Charles Olson. Only one anecdotal reference is made about the man who would slip into legend just five months later, in a letter dated 27 March 1956. Creeley had been in New York, where he met Philip Guston and Willem De Kooning. He writes to Laubiès that “there was a party after (Guston’s) opening at Motherwell’s, and Steinberg and Baziotes were there, also Rothko, Pollock – who is very funny, and usually drunk” (27 March 1956). He goes on to comment on Kline’s work as well as on De Kooning’s, saying of the latter “I never realized what a crazy painter he was.” Of Jackson Pollock, though, we read nothing more.

Works Cited

Cappellazzo, Amy, and Elizabeth Licata, eds. In Company: Robert Creeley’s Collaborations. Greensboro: UNCP, 1999.

Creeley, Robert. “The Art of Poetry Number 10.” The Paris Review, Fall 1968.

Creeley, Robert. The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley. Berkeley: UCP, 1989.

Creeley, Robert.  Letters to Rene Laubiès. Private Collection.

Layton, Irving and Creeley, Robert. Irving Layton & Robert Creeley The Complete Correspondence, 1953-1978. Montreal: McGill UP, 1990.

Licata, Elizabeth. “Robert Creeley’s Collaborations: A History.” Cappellazzo and Licata 11-21.

Novik, Mary. Robert Creeley, An Inventory, 1945-1970. Kent State: The Kent State UP, 1973.

Charles Olson Papers. Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Olson, Charles, and Robert Creeley. Charles Olson & Robert Creeley: The Complete Correspondence. 10 vols. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1987.

Yau, John. “Active Participant: Robert Creeley and The Visual Arts.” Cappellazzo and Licata 45-82.