Raising pigeons and chickens on a farm in Littleton, New Hampshire, Robert Creeley heard, through “a fluke of airwaves,” poet Cid Corman’s weekly radio program from Boston, “This Is Poetry.” Inspired, Creeley read on the program during a weekend in 1950 when he was showing chickens at the Boston poultry show. And so began a network of literary friendships that inspired a generation of poets (“A knows B, B knows C, and there begins to be increasing focus. And I think that we were curiously lucky that that focus was not literally a question of whether we were all living together or not.”). Galvanized, Creeley tried unsuccessfully to start his own little magazine, but ended up giving Cid Corman at Origin much of the material he had collected, including work by Denise Levertov, Paul Blackburn, and Charles Olson, to whom the first issue of Origin was devoted.
Charles Olson, Mayan Letters (1953 ).
Against this background it is not surprising that Creeley, called “The Figure of Outward” by Olson, whom he met through Corman, would himself venture forth as a publisher in 1953 with Martin Seymour-Smith’s All Devils Fading
. In addition to two volumes by Paul Blackburn and one each by Larry Eigner and Robert Duncan, in 1954 Creeley issued a volume of poems by Canadian poet Irving Layton and Japanese poet Katué Kitasono’s self-translated poems, Black Rain
. The last volume he published, in 1955, was American novelist Douglas Woolf’s “painful rite of passage,” The Hypocritic Days
. Creeley published his own The Kind of Act of
in 1953 and A Snarling Garland of Xmas Verses
and The Gold Diggers
, both in 1954. In 1982, Creeley wistfully remembered the serious, edgy nature of the press: “I don’t recall that the Divers Press paid anybody anything—it was my first wife’s modest income that kept any of it going—and so our choices had to be limited to writers as existentially defined as ourselves.”
“What I felt was the purpose of the press has much to do with my initial sense of [The Black Mountain Review] also. For me, and the other writers who came to be involved, it was a place defined by our own activity and accomplished altogether by ourselves—a place wherein we might make evident what we, as writers, had found to be significant, both for ourselves and for that world—no doubt often vague to us indeed—we hoped our writing might enter… there had to be both a press and a magazine absolutely specific to one’s own commitments and possibilities. Nothing short of that was good enough.”
— Robert Creeley, Introduction to the AMS Press reprint (1969) of The Black Mountain Review
Divers Press books include
Blackburn, Paul. The Dissolving Fabric. 1955.
Creeley, Robert. The Gold Diggers. 1954.
Creeley, Robert. The Kind of Act of. 1953.
Creeley, Robert. Printing Is Cheap in Mallorca. 1953.
Creeley, Robert. A Snarling Garland of Xmas Verses. 1954.
Duncan, Robert. Caesar’s Gate: Poems 1949–1950. 1955. Cover collage by Jess (Collins).
Eigner, Larry. From the Sustaining Air. 1953.
Kitasono, Katsué. Black Rain: Poems & Drawings. 1954
Layton, Irving. The Blue Propeller. 1955
Layton, Irving. In the Midst of My Fever. 1954.
Olson, Charles. Mayan Letters. 1953 .
Robert Duncan, Caesar’s Gate: Poems 1949–1950 (1955). Collages by Jess.