Preferred Citation: Creeley, Robert. The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1989 1989.

Notes for a New Prose


"The reason why, at this juncture of time, one fights so hard for prose is that it enables him to get in, to go by, that head of his, to let it play over his things, outside objects  . . ."

To go back to Joyce. To that mistaking we have made of him; and you may document this for yourselves or look to find who has made of those books something beyond the man who may have written them. Oddly enough, the most exact criticism of these things appeared at the same time that the books themselves did. At least, that first interest prevented the fatal preoccupations with the 'purpose,' of Joyce, with his own use, as symbol. At least for a time.

Speaking of James, Pound had written that the logic of the pieces


the former had written for the Yellow Book group was that need to push beyond the curve, in order to establish it. So, generally, position is established in prose, and intention. Hence, this idea of the assumed obliquity, itself a way of placing something, in the context. Is prose roundabout? It's not that question which should be asked. Any way could be the right one. What is got to, what is placed, would be the better thing to be asking, after it's done.

Again—de Gourmont's sentence, " . . . d'écrire franchement ce qu'ils pensent—seul plaisir d'un écrivain  . . ." And could it be less, granting it must be more?

A new prose . . . Better to think of this, only, as what may now come. I think we can hang on to those who have left us something strong enough to carry over into this time. Prose cannot exist free of its ability to apply; it can't be faked. So it would be that Stendhal can still give us the sense, or one sense, of the order, the 'form,' not to be taken as the form of poetry, nor as we come back to it, that more basic form of prose. There is the fact that the more correct translation of Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground must be—"Notes from Under the Floor," or, "Out from the Cracks Like Any Roach."

Perhaps it will still be necessary to point to the fact that, while poetry will be the clear, the fact of the head, prose will be the coming, and going. Around. It is there that it can hit, beyond poetry. It is not a matter of better, or worse. There is no competition. The drift, in prose, and the way, of the swing, the reach—we have the necessary evidence, or I must believe we have.

   I am very old today, the sky is grey, I am not very well.
   Nothing can prevent madness.
   As an honourable man who abhors exaggeration, I do not know
what to do . . .

We begin, or end, there.


Notes for a New Prose

Preferred Citation: Creeley, Robert. The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1989 1989.