Frames (Poetry): Robert Creeley’s “I Know a Man” and the darkness that surrounds us…
At Dowser, we’re interested in the human ingredients behind social change. Why do some people give themselves the permission to challenge the status quo – to speak up boldly when the tide of opinion is going the other way? How are some people able to reframe problems – to see opportunities or patterns that others miss? What kinds of experiences help us to live with more agency?
Artists and writers can help us to reimagine the world – and our place in it. Metaphor and imagery can inform our sense of possibility and help us to see hidden connections. That’s why we’ll be sharing glimpses of art we come across, as well as interviews now and then with artists whose work sheds light on the questions behind social change.
Today, here’s a snippet from a poem by Robert Creeley, one of the 20th century’s most influential poets. Creeley compressed emotional and social topics into short lines. Often associated with the “Black Mountain Poets,” he led a move toward poetry about intimate and personal experience – and away from historical facts – that speaks plainly to the broader human condition. In perhaps his best-known poem, “I Know A Man,” (printed at the Poetry Foundation here), Creeley focuses on a moment that conveys the human attempt to exert control over a chaotic world.
“I Know a Man” wants us to pay attention when we most need to observe and notice the strategies we rely upon (for better or worse). Creeley’s compact lines jolt the reader – and remind us of the self-assessment and awareness necessary to make (enlightened!) change, as he ends the poem:
…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.