News from Acton

If there’s a poetry prize that makes me feel warm and fuzzy, it’s the Robert Creeley Award, given each year since 2002 in Acton, Massachusetts. This is the town — it was West Acton, actually — where Creeley spent much of his youth. Some background on the prize is given at the website for the Robert Creeley Foundation:

Acton rediscovered Creeley’s connection to the town through his chance meeting with Acton resident and poet Robert Clawson in late 2000. On April 11, 2001, Creeley returned to Acton to read to and interact with students in the Acton Boxborough Regional High School. Acton officially proclaimed this day to be “Robert Creeley Day,” and thus began the annual awarding of the “Robert Creeley Award.” Each year, the award winning poet reads to a community audience and a student audience.

Photo by Matthew Modoono

This year’s winner, announced in September, is Gary Snyder, and last week he gave his reading. There’s a newspaper story on the event at, with a YouTube video attached and five photos by Matthew Modoono — including the one to the right, which shows Penelope Creeley and Snyder embracing. From the story:

Underneath a large photo of her husband in a moment of mirth, Penelope Creeley — Robert Creeley’s wife of more than 30 years, and a member of the Robert Creeley Foundation — introduced poet Gary Snyder, Pulitzer prize winner and the 10th annual recipient of the Robert Creeley Award.

In an emotional greeting punctuated by applause, she invited audience members to pay their respects at Creeley’s grave at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. “He’d be delighted by the company,” she said.

Snyder’s association with the NPF has been much more attenuated than I would have expected given his Poundian imprint, but several fine essays on his work have appeared in Sagetrieb. Here’s an excerpt from Tom Lavazzi’s “Pattern of Flux: Sex, Buddhism, and Ecology in Gary Snyder’s Poetry,” from 1989:

Ontologically, Snyder’s poetry presents patterns and figures of flux. … In “Night,” the sleeping lovers lying with “Twined legs” and “hair all tangled together” unconsciously mimic what Wilhelm Reich called “orgonomic functional thinking …  frozen motion”: form as movement, which was often expressed, for Reich, in the “basic form” of the “sexual embrace.” In the poem, this interlocked state is only temporary; the sun is soon “hitting the shades”; a record has been left “soundlessly spinning,” suggesting that beneath any formalized musical expression, is the essential mandala rhythm of movement and change, combinations and recombinations, like legs crossed and recrossed as lovers turn in sleep. The music stops, but the movement, the rhythm, continues. The voice of the poem, which slips out of the individual consciousness of the sleeping poet-lover, holds both images in mind — the intertwined bodies and the spinning record — and threads through the whole scene and series of events (the night of lovemaking, the house left in disarray, the first strands of morning light), pushing toward a larger synthesis: the knowledge that we are only temporary gatherings of energy (the sex/love continuum is only one of its manifestations) and that at every moment we are part of a larger entity that flows through us and that we ultimately flow back into.

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