Whitman’s Words: Robert Creeley Reading “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”

I love listening to poets read other poets. Robert Creeley was a famous Black Mountain poet who died in 2006. He is perhaps best known for short-lined, dynamic poems that chart an elusive psychic distress. Here’s one of his most famous poems:

I Know a Man


As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking,—John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.

Not the most Whitmanian poem, one might think. But Creeley remained a quietly Whitmanian poet to the end.  His last book of poems, On Earth, includes a beautiful, elegiac essay called “Reflections on Whitman in Age.”

On July 4, 1984, Creeley gave a lecture at Naropa.  Allen Ginsberg and many other poets were in the room.  Near the end of the lecture, he read a handful of poems by Hart Crane and E.A. Robinson and, finally, Whitman.  You can sense how moved he is by Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.”  Have a listen:  Creeley reading Whitman

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