new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robert Creeley

Robert Creeley's NZ


A Note

Robert Creeley

Originally published in Hello (Taylors Mistake: Hawk Press, 1976).


Coming to New Zealand in our spring (your fall) of 1976 (momently to be my fiftieth year) I knew, intuitively, a time had come in myself for change. I dont mean simply clothes, or houses, or even cities or countries or habits. I mean, all of it whatever it ever is or can be. No doubt ones a poor tourist, so preoccupied but one needs specific places for specific acts, and if the demand be that one step out into space, that life as we say we presume to live, then best it be a giant step, as far from whats known as one can manage.

Thank God you speak English, however no American is quite that daring. My invitation to come was, in fact, from a dear fellow-poet, Alistair Paterson, and it was our common concern for what could be done with the English language in New Zealand or American poems, that resulted in the diverse lectures and readings I gave, either alone or in generous company, the length and breadth of your pleasant land.

But you know that, as I do and what seems far more to the point is to cite, here, such senses of New Zealand as stay put for me. For example, the clouds of your country especially in Wellington are so active and so lovely. I know the wind blows too, often harshly, but those clouds are such a cosmos of possibility. Then theres New Zealand light intense, clear, particularizing, ruthless, unlike any Ive ever previously known. In my own concerns, it brought all things factually to stand in the light, and thats where finally one wants to see them.

Coming from a mainland, with three thousand miles between its eastern and western coasts, your two islands seemed fragile and vulnerable. In humor, but also in a curious seriousness, I wondered if one might not extend oars from either side of each, and row them about in celebration of some appropriate festival. Thus you are out there, humanly, in the vastness of the Pacific, truly a human dream in a seeming eternity of endlessly moving water. I realized that no one of you ever lives so far from it that it is not a daily, substantive reality.

So, too, your mountains. Id ask, at times, in the company of classrooms and the like, if anyone had ever lived out of sight of them. Apparently not. Mountains are one of the two primary dimensions, and you will know, as few others, the human accuracy of, I will lift mine eyes unto the hills whence cometh my strength . . . They too abide.

Finally, people -- so good to me, so often. As now, sitting here, Id particularly like to thank the patient persons of a pub in Wellington who, gamely, attempted to sing with me Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, and that other, deeply instructive old-time hymn, Farther Along. Hopefully Ill be back, and we can continue from where we left off.

Thanks to all, in short to the dear households who accommodated me, to the persons and agencies of the QE II Arts Council and the NZUSA Arts Council who put it all together to those friends of my heart now forever.

Robert Creeley
Buffalo, New York
May 31, 1976


Last updated 25 February, 2002