114 Panola St, Water Valley, MS 38965
Yale University, 38 Hillhouse Ave, New Haven, CT 06520
Columbia University, 116th St & Broadway, New York, NY 10027
1607 Pinehurst St, Jackson, MS 39202
Lakewood Memorial Park Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi, USA
Hiram Hubert Creekmore Jr (January 16, 1907 – May 23, 1966) was an American poet and author from the small Mississippi town of Water Valley. Creekmore was born into one of the oldest Southern families of the area but he would grow up to embody ideals very different from the conservative Southern principles by which he was raised. In addition to being remembered for his own literary contributions, Creekmore was immortalized by William Jay Smith's To Hubert Creekmore: Who died in a taxi on his way to the airport on his way to Spain.
Through internationally acclaimed works of "serious" literature published at midcentury, novelist Hubert Creekmore and Thomas Hal Phillips and playwright Tennessee Williams crafted wily individuals challenging the precepts of heterosexual normalcy.
A gay-themed novel was published in 1948 by an author from Water Valley, Mississippi, a gay author whom William Faulkner not only knew but had once even endorsed to his then-publisher Harrison Smith. In 1948 Hubert Creekmore published The Welcome. Creekmore attempted to move to New York in 1930 but returned to Mississippi in the early 1930s. His attempt to move to New York was motivated by a manuscript for a novel he wrote in the years after his graduation. It appears he showed this manuscript to William Faulkner and his old friend Phil Stone because of deep connections between Stone, Faulkner, and the Creekmore family from even earlier, in the first years after Faulkner returned from the war.
The late 1920s and early 1930s found Creekmore in Oxford working on a novel he would title The Elephant’s Trunk. Faulkner read The Elephant’s Trunk—in fact, he seems to have offered to recommend it to his own publisher. Proof that Faulkner read Creekmore’s first novel comes from a letter that Creekmore wrote to Phil Stone, and the background that led to that letter might well answer both questions, at least as far as speculation allows for making reasoned inferences.
Hiram Hubert Creekmore Jr. was born in 1907 in Water Valley, the third son of an established family (his father, Hiram Hubert Creekmore, was a judge). Hubert attended Ole Miss from 1923 to 1927. When Hubert made his own attempt to conquer New York in 1930, with a manuscript of a novel in hand, he turned to Faulkner for assistance. During Creekmore’s tenure on campus from 1923 to 1927, Faulkner was in and out of Oxford, and no evidence remains of a meeting between the two in the Tea Hound or the post office, but Creekmore did contribute to and eventually assistant edit the campus humor magazine The Scream, to which Faulkner contributed three drawings in 1925. He also joined the Marionettes and acted in several of their productions.
By 1930, three years after his graduation, Creekmore had completed a novel and wanted to sell it to a publisher in New York. Notably, he did not turn to Ben Wasson, a former SAE with connections to the Marionettes and also active in the Southern Protective Association in New York. Wasson left Greenville for New York in 1927, the year Creekmore graduated. From 1927 to 1930, Wasson spent little time in Mississippi. Still haunting Oxford himself, Creekmore befriended Phil Stone and William Faulkner, friends of his brothers from SAE and literary men with whom he could discuss the latest literary trends and share drafts of his novel. In fact, in The Welcome, Creekmore depicted Stone’s influence on his writing in the character of Horace Saxon, the town newspaper editor. The reading list is curious, of course, because of its similarities to the one Stone also shared with a young William Faulkner in the 1910s and early 1920s. Significantly, Horace Saxon’s name blends two influences, though it suggests a third. The first, Lyle Saxon, was the central figure in the Southern Protective Association in New York in the early 1930s. In 1930, Creekmore was headed in Saxon’s direction. The second, Phil Stone, appeared in Faulkner’s fiction originally as the character Horace Benbow, though he reappeared later and much more fully as Gavin Stevens. Stone was the man in Oxford who was trying to help Creekmore make his big move. In the reference to Stone, however, William Faulkner’s presence emerges. Horace Benbow was a central character in Faulkner’s 1928 novel Flags in the Dust. The bridge between Saxon and Stone is Faulkner. He was also the bridge between Mississippi and New York. As Creekmore finished his manuscript, Stone asked Faulkner for help introducing his new local protégé to the publishing world in New York. Faulkner apparently read Creekmore’s manuscript and offered to introduce the young literary vagabond to Harrison Smith. Faulkner’s role in this relationship was to play the mediator between Oxford and New York. He took an interest in Creekmore and seems to have offered to help smooth his transition.
Creekmore studied at the University of Mississippi and graduated from Ole Miss in 1927. He then went on to study drama at the University of Colorado and play writing at Yale University with George Pierce Baker. In 1940, he was awarded a Master's degree in American literature from Columbia University. After finishing his education, he was sent to serve in the Navy during World War II. He actively served in the Pacific for three years. Some of his earlier works as a poet (such as The Long Reprieve) were written while he was stationed in the Pacific.
Recommendation aside, Creekmore’s first and eventually his second manuscripts would not be accepted for publication. He would spend most of the 1930s in Jackson, Mississippi. He would publish poetry, if not fiction, including selections in a 1933 volume Mississippi Verse, where his poems would appear alongside a selection of Faulkner’s poems.
Due to the fact that he was a closeted homosexual, Creekmore experienced conflict regarding living in Mississippi. He felt that Mississippi was not a proper environment for a poet such as himself and that the cultural depravity of rural, small-town Mississippi would not allow him to reach his full potential as a literary artist. He worked for the Mississippi Highway Department while he also wrote scripts for local theatrical productions. During the Great Depression, he was able to involve himself with the Federal Writers Project, a program created by Franklin Roosevelt to help support writers during the economic downturn. The program also encouraged writers to compile local literature and folklore, much like the Brothers Grimm had done in Germany almost a century before. Although Creekmore thought Mississippi a bit droll, he did have a circle of educated friends with whom he could associate. The closest and most important among these was the famous Mississippian author Eudora Welty, who was related to him by a marriage in the family. He often discussed literature with Eudora, especially concerning the role of women in the rural South. Creekmore was under the impression that women hindered themselves in society by molding themselves to a standard which women of the time believed men desired. Eudora, on the other hand, felt that male dominance in society played a bigger part. Creekmore, Eudora, and a few of their close friends formed a small club whose entire purpose was to sit up at night, watching the cereus flower bloom, meanwhile discussing the literary arts. It was called The Night-Blooming Cereus Club. Local people who planted the flower would often invite the club to their houses, sometimes going as far as printing the invites in their local newspapers.
Creekmore eventually made the decision to move to New York in an effort to further his career. During his time in New York he served as an editor, a literary agent for publishing company New Directions, who also published fellow Mississippian Tennessee Williams, an author, a critic, a translator, a librettist, and a poet. Not only did he write, he was also quite musical, sometimes playing the piano with singers to entertain his friends at parties, at such parties he was described by one friend as being an avid bourbon drinker. Creekmore wrote mainly about the situation of white Mississippians in the grip of religious fundamentalism and of black Mississippians under the strictures of the Jim Crow laws. He also wrote about the theme of homosexuality and marriage in the South. Most homosexual men in the South chose to marry and keep their sexual preference hidden from the world so that they would not be ostracized by the public. Because of the themes which he often chose, he was generally disliked by most Southern readers. A few examples of his works are The Fingers of Night and The Welcome. In Fingers, Creekmore writes of a southern girl who is dealing with the problems caused by intense religious fervor. The Welcome focuses on the problems gay men in the South have when trying to accept their sexuality. He was a prolific translator. He translated various works from European languages, but most specifically he worked on classical pieces written in Latin. His most famous translations include the Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis, the Erotic Elegies of Albius Tibullus, and Lyrics of the Middle Ages. All of his translations can still be found in print today.
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