Friday, March 14, 2008

Drive, he sd - or did he???

From the letters section of the London Review of Books, 6 March 2008:

Stephen Burt’s account of Robert Creeley’s famous poem ‘I Know a Man’ reminded me that once, at a time when Creeley and I both lived in Bolinas, Creeley in conversation bridled at the popular appropriation of his line ‘drive, he sd’ (LRB, 21 February). As quoted, it misconstrued the poem, he said, explaining that the word ‘drive’, which occurs at the beginning of the final stanza, was meant to finish the narrator’s musing at the end of the previous stanza: ‘buy a goddamn big car// drive’. So that what followed shouldn’t be read, ‘drive, he sd, for/christ’s sake, look/out where yr going,’ but rather: ‘he sd, for/christ’s sake, look/out where yr going.’ It still puzzles me how so practised a grammarian as Creeley expected any but the former reading, in the absence of a semi-colon, dash or ellipsis after ‘drive’.

Aram Saroyan
Los Angeles

1 comment:

Vance Maverick said...

I found Saroyan's note strange, in that the ambiguity of the speaker of the word "drive" is quite a salient feature of the poem. I have long favored the same reading Creeley preferred, based on the experience of reciting the poem out loud.