Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Orhan Pamuk-Robert Creeley and the Nobel Prize

Before he died Robert Creeley- greatest American poet of the last half of the 20th century-- did an interview with my website . I asked him what he thought of the comment by Brazilian poet Regis Bonvicino that Creeley of all American poets deserved the Nobel Prize.

Creeley in his humble New England way refused to speculate. The fact that Creeley died before he could win the Nobel Prize is one of the great tragedies of Literary History. Recently Charles Simic savaged Creeley in a New York Review of Books article which I have not yet read but Simic is not fit to hold Creeley's jock- nuff said.

So yesterday I am driving (actually sitting in traffic) on the way to work and listening to an interview with Nobel Prize winner Turkish Novelist Orhan Pamuk. I have always had a fascination with Anatolia and Istanbul and I have always loved Pamuk's books. Pamuk in many ways is the quintiessential Post Modern Writer. His work fuses old and ancient with new and contemporary in the same way that Phillip Johnson's architecture did when he was alive. Pamuk is the kind of writer that can assume other voices and make them his own.

During the Interview Pamuk spoke about going to his room and sitting writing for 8-10 hours a day. As a person who has to steal an hour to write from 330-430 AM each day I listened with amazement. Most poet's lives are filled with busyness because they cannot make a living at their artform. Most poets I know work full time jobs or teach in academia and so the 8-10 hour writing session is not possible.

This makes the output of many poets small. William Carlos Williams' entire poetic output is three 200 page volumes. Creeley's entire lifework is 1200 pages. It makes you wonder if poets had more time or our artform was marketable how much more poetry would be created? Many poets move into novels, Joyelle Mc Sweeney just came out with a novel as did Sherman Alexie.
If these poets have success as novelists will they return to the original artform or remain where the grass is greener??

I have always said that the difference between Fiction Writers and Poets is that Fiction writers are like cabinet makers they make something useful while Poets are like painters or sculptors the want to make you think and often they are dismissed because our society does not wish to think deeply.

In the end I enjoy Pamuk's work- and I am glad he won the Nobel Prize but the fact that Robert Creeley did not win the Nobel is one of the great injustices among many that befalls poets.


Ron said...

The first truly electric poetry reading I attended was in 1969 -- Creeley, reading from WORDS. Maybe 300 people in attendance -- during the anti-war movement when poets got large avid crowds. I've never found that today's so called avant-gardists, with their savaging of the language for the sake of theory and political crankiness, come close to what Creeley could do so minimally, creaking up the traditional for his unique purposes. I is they, not Simic, who can't hold Creeley's jock. Just my opinion. I likeyour site a lot -- stop by mine at

Johannes said...

Well, there are many deserving people who haven't received the Nobel Prize for variously unfair reasons (they won't give it to Transtromer because he's Swedish, for a long time the academy included a very anti-Catholic guy etc). But part of the reason is that Creeley just isn't that wellknown in Sweden (in difference to Ashbery for example). Of course, this hasn't stopped the academy from giving it to some truly obscure writers over the years.

Raymond Bianchi said...

I would like to spend an evening talking to you- your insights are always interesting

Johannes said...

Yes, lets have dinner. I'm writing you an email.