"Almost fifty years ago Robert Creeley and I sat almost side by side at Harvard in a course on the eighteenth-century English novel. Not quite together, since the students were seated alphabetically and between us was one named Berlin. We never spoke -- Creeley was much too forbidding-looking for me to attempt that, and perhaps I was too, but one of my keener lesser regrets is that we never sat down together and thrashed out the relative merits of Pamela and Joseph Andrews. At any rate, Creeley -- we also participated in a poetry workshop where the future novelist John Hawkes was also a student -- was a memorable presence on campus, though he didn't stay there long. Later on when one heard of him one realized that one knew one was going to all along.
I don't remember Creeley's poems in the workshop and wish I could forget my own, but we may well have realized then that we were on opposite sides of the poetic fence: me so European and maximalist, influenced by Auden and Stevens; he so American, with perhaps an Asian conciseness gleaned from Pound, stemming obviously from the Pound-Williams tradition to which Olson's presence would soon be added. Yet I've never been able to think of Creeley as a minimalist, which some have called him. If cramming as many possible things into the smallest space with no sign of strain or congestion is minimal, then maybe he is a minimalist. But what strikes me most about his poetry is a sense of richness and ripeness, beautifully contained in a vessel which was made to order by the circumstance of writing the poem. As he writes in "Some Place":
I resolved it, I
found in my life a
center and secured it.
And lest we misinterpret his accuracy for pride, he adds farther on:
There is nothing I am
nothing not. A place
between, I am. I am
more than thought, less
No one, I think, has ever stated what it is to be a poet more cogently and, yes, more succinctly than Robert Creeley. But his succinctness is like the unfettered flashing of a diamond."
-- John Ashbery, introducing Creeley at a reading at the New School in 1995. Copied from Ashbery’s Selected Prose (The University of Michigan Press, 2004)