Penelope, Robert, books and bookshelves.

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One of the many things Robert and I had in common was a sense of domesticity. It is interesting to me now to think I was up a ladder hanging a picture, when the call came that changed my life. Robert and I hung pictures together in many, many places, as we moved and moved, made home where we found ourselves. Hanging pictures was one way we did it. Another, equally or more important way was making bookshelves. Robert, it turned out somewhat to my surprise, was a master bookshelf-builder. It came from years of practice, long before I ever showed up, that was driven by a need for order, and a need to keep his beloved books safe, sorted, out of harm’s way.

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I have some recollection too of Robert’s telling me the first book he ever published was a small volume about poultry, perhaps more specifically about pigeons, which had been his childhood love. (When Robert went to boarding school at 14, he took his pigeons with him)

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Sometimes Robert wished he didn’t have to ever open a book at all, even take off its shrink-wrap. He would say so with a laugh and a shrug, but there was truth to it too. He loved the perfect pristine fact of a book, its elegant containedness, its sense of pure potential.

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For him the books had become a beloved record of his life. They contained the ideas, the thoughts, the speaking breath of his friends. He did not write in books, but he kept things in them. Letters, announcements, tickets, brochures, mementos of contact in the world with increasingly scattered, always dear friends. These were his book marks. These were the books wherein he had found his life. One of them was a copy of Pound’s Cantos. He had taken it with him to the Second World War. To Burma. Another was a book handmade by Robert Duncan and Jess Collins. The tape of the box cover they had made for it was fragile, yellowing, but the handwritten poem inside was unfaded. I understand now why we sometimes had to rush home from the beach if a sudden thunderstorm was threatening and we weren’t sure we had closed the windows before we left. A whole bookcase full of books was ruined one winter when the door adjacent blew open while we were away. They were soaked, warped. Robert was hurt, hurt.

 

 

Fragmentos del ensayo que escribió Penelope Creeley para el Symposium: Robert Creeley’s Library de la Univesirty of Notre Dame, el 7 de febrero (que será transmitido en vivo aquí).

Texto completo aquí.

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