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This review is taken from PN Review 219, Volume 41 Number 1, September - October 2014.

The Community of My Own Identity The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley, ed. by Rod Smith, Peter Baker, and Kaplan Harris (University of California Press) hb/ebook US$65

This selection of Robert Creeley’s letters is not the first to bring a part of the American poet’s private correspondence into print, but it gives for the first time a full sense of Creeley’s epistolary range. Reading the present volume through in its entirety, Creeley comes across as a much more various letter-writer than he does in the ten volumes of his correspondence with Charles Olson, for instance, although – at least during the first half of the letters gathered together here – this does not connote any let-up in the characteristic intensity of his personal relations. The list of his correspondents reads like a who’s who of the mid-century American literary avant-garde: at various points, he’s writing to Charles Olson, Edward Dorn, Denise Levertov, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, to name but a few. In his Paris Review interview, Creeley recalled Ginsberg saying that nobody slept when Creeley was in town. ‘I can’t let anybody sleep because I don’t want to miss anything,’ Creeley agreed, ‘I want it all, and so I tend at times, understandably, to exhaust my friends – keep pushing, pushing, pushing […] I so love the intensity of people that I can’t let anything stop until it’s literally exhaustion.’

That push is an integral part of personal relationships mapped out in these letters, and also in the projective poetics that they do so much to define. Much has been written about the importance of Creeley’s correspondence with Olson with respect to this. The scale of the push undertaken in ...

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