Besides being one of the most prolific American poets of the second half of the twentieth century, Robert Creeley (1926-2005) was a natural collaborator, and he worked extensively with artists in a variety of media. In the late '90s he began to collaborate with bassist and composer Steve Swallow. They created three albums, the last of which was So There, which Swallow scored for bass, piano, and string quartet, accompanying Creeley's reading of 18 of his poems. Most of these poems are short, so Swallow's compositions generally act as long introductions that evocatively set the mood. Creeley's readings are precisely figured into the pieces, so they emerge fluidly out of the musical textures and never feel like intrusive interjections. Each of the pieces has its own distinctiveness and integrity, and could stand independently of the poetry, but the addition of the human voice and the specificity of the words add to the richness of the experience and the emotional impact of the pieces.
Swallow's mellow jazz creates the ideal environment for Creeley's easygoing, loose-jointed poetry. Swallow and pianist Steve Kuhn provide the biggest musical contribution, but the string scoring, sometimes delicate and sometimes astringent, played by the Cikada quartet, broadens the possibilities of sound worlds that support and reflect the emotional range of the poems -- humorous, poignant, nostalgic, angry, or bemused. The selections flow seamlessly together, making it possible to experience the album as a single, satisfying musical journey. The CD booklet includes only the texts of the poems. Given the uniqueness of this kind of collaboration, it would have been intriguing to have interviews, or an essay describing how Creeley and Swallow worked together, and how their interaction affected their creativity.