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The Poetry of Robert Creeley

  • Genre(s): Experimental
  • Period: 1950s to the present
  • Lines: (from "Song")
    if life's a form to be forgotten
    once you've gone and no regrets,
    no one left in what you were—

    That empty place is all there is,
    and/if the face's remembered,
    or dog barks, cat's to be fed.

  • Quote: Form is what happens. It's the fact of things in the world, however they are. So that form in that way is simply the presence of any thing.
  • To approach the world that Creeley creates through his work, the reader must understand what Creeley commits to the page: a pact, the alluring significance beneath his words, and the energy of intent that is transferred within his poems—which are often personal, and which often contain the weak as well as the powerful.

    Each poem is a monument of intent/emotion, the truth held up before his sole poetic eye and examined. Many of Creeley's poems are personal—dedicated to friends, family, and those who have touched him in a significant way. His diction varies, but is often discursive and colloquial. The poem is an artifact with absences to be recovered and fragments to be examined for that which lies embedded. For Creeley, the poem on the page serves as a lens for the poem that transcends words, perceptions, form, and the significance of limitations.    Selected Poems[ Click to Order Creeley's Selected Poems (soft $) ]

    Creeley is a poet who loves syntax and hates grammar, or so it would seem. But this is simplistic, for he uses both in his own way and on his own terms. He inverts/contorts/distorts the sentence (and grammar); he takes the sentence and reconfigures it to his liking in much the same way a sculptor shapes a stone or piece of wood.

    The last two lines of "Chasing the Bird," (Creeley, Collected Poems, 60) convey this reconfiguring: "....My mind/to me a mangle is." While the sentence exists as a complete thought—that the poet's mind is a mangle—the syntax creates a fracture, an absence so that "to me a mangle is" appears to go unanswered. This absence, this fracture created through syntax, is the tangible representation (through language) of the "[mangling]" that exists not only within the mind of the poet, but as the poet's mind.

    Also of importance, the word "mangle," used as a noun in the sentence has the denotation: "a machine for ironing laundry by passing it between heated rollers," (Webster's, 723). Creeley's mind is that machine in which what passes through it (words, thoughts) are pressed, smoothed, freed from wrinkle/distortions. Of course, a "mangle" can "fix" the wrinkles—as anyone who has had shirts professionally laundered knows.

    Ironically enough, Creeley addresses the issue of syntax—or addresses it indirectly as a metaphorical vessel for love—in the poem "The Sentence," (Creeley, Collected Poems, 95).

    There is that in love
    which, by the syntax of,
    men find women and join
    their bodies to their minds

    —which want so to acquire
    a continuity, a place,
    a demonstration that it must
    be one's own sentence.

    Creeley uses the word "syntax" here as a metaphorical vehicle through which he draws a parallel between the joining of words/syntax—the construction of a sentence—and the joining of men and women in love. Although you can examine the syntax of a sentence, how it functions is more complex, hence the vast scholarship and abounding theories on the subject. It is this inability to explain fully the implications of syntax—and to come away with a full understanding of the dynamics through which it operates—that Creeley is invoking with the comparison of love. It is in this way that one can examine the mechanics and physical aspects of sex, but still fail in formulating an adequate understanding of love. The inexhaustible explanations and reflections on the subject love, and the ephemeral quality of syntax are adequate—at least for the poet—to function as subject and tenor in the poetic mode of metaphor. In wanting "to acquire/a continuity," they both function in a transcendence of the physical: the touch of bodies in union; the artifact of text in union with the mind and imagination of reader.

    Creeley writes in his essay "Notes Apropos 'Free Verse,'" (Ibid, 493):

    I am myself hopeful that linguistic studies will bring to
    contemporary criticism a vocabulary and method more
    sensitive to the basic activity of poetry and less dependent
    upon assumed senses of literary style.... I would like see
    more viable attention paid to syntactical environment,
    to what I call crudely "grammartology."

    For Creeley, the manipulation of syntax and grammar from expectation serves as a critical tool in his work, critical in its many denotations: of, relating to, or being a turning point or specially important juncture; indispensable, vital; consisting of or involving criticism; characterized by risk or uncertainty; exercising or involving careful judgment and or judicious evaluation; and of sufficient size to sustain a chain reaction (Webster's, 307).

    At times the syntactical venture by which Creeley operates is enough to carry the poem, but at times it is not. It is at these times, these so-called failures, when one must truly wonder why Creeley allows the poem to make it to print. I believe it is his idea, the envisioning of the poem behind the poem, that Creeley is after (that transcendental intent by which the poem is merely a Post-It Note for poet, and a leap of faith for reader). He is attempting to capture the moment of the poem in the same way a child attempts to contain a lightning bug within his or her clasped hands. These clasped hands are the poem, the form (or the formlessness), the container (or lack therein) of the thing, the essence, the intent. At times, that thing, the essence of the poem, eludes the writer, yet Creeley continues to clasp his hands and say "This is it!" It is the poet's idea (intent) manifested in words. It is the abstract sculpture that serves as an index for the artist; a Jackson Pollack painting in which the "it" is the experience of composition; the splotches of color and motion frozen on the canvas—or, in the case of Creeley, captured on the unyielding page of his mind.

    Creeley quotes Olson in his essay "Poems Are a Complex," (Creeley, Collected Essays, 490): "That which exists through itself is what is called meaning." Creeley adds "poems are not referential, or at least not importantly so. They have 'meaning' in that they do 'exist through themselves.'" I would disagree with Creeley's idea that "poems are not referential" in that they are indeed referential for the poet, either consciously or unconsciously; my evidence is that why else would poetry be composed, but to "refer" to a specific emotion or intention, if not event. I think Creeley means that poetry does not necessarily have to recall a specific narrative event, that—even for the poet—what is composed within the poem is something that "exists" as a monument/artifact of or "through itself." The words that comprise the poem are no more and yet no less significant than the poem itself. Creeley writes in the same essay:

    I think I first felt a poem to be what might exist in words as
    primarily the fact of its own activity. Later, of course, I did
    see that poems might comment on many things , and reveal
    many attitudes and qualifications. Still, it was never what they
    said about things that interested me. I wanted the poem itself
    to exist and that could never be possible as long as some sub-
    ject significantly elsewhere was involved. There had to be an
    independence derived from the very fact that words are things
    too (Ibid, 490).

    To generalize Creeley is to impose a form upon him "through" which he is constantly attempting to break free from. Creeley is not oblivious to form. The word "form" or a derivation of it occurs in many of his poems, as well as the word "measure" or its derivation. Creeley begins "Divisions," (Creeley, Collected Poems, 33).

    Order. Order. The bottle contains
    more than water, In this case the form
    is imposed.

    Here, Creeley attempts to demonstrate the form of that which is formless (water) by that which contains, the bottle. In this way, Creeley is attempting to draw a parallel to poetry. Most critics describe Creeley as a free-verse poet rather than one who works in traditional forms, which he does on occasion [see "A Ballad," (Ibid, 45); and the roundelay "Chanson," (Ibid, 129)]. When the poet writes "the form/ is imposed," Creeley means that the form is "imposed" even when the water—his metaphor for words—appears to be fluid by nature. The bottle—the metaphor which Creeley uses to represent the poem—provides a structure by which a form is created/"imposed." Free-verse in this sense is not "free"; the poet imposes a form on the poem—or else the poet could not represent the poem on the page through words, rhythm, lines, strophes, metaphor, and syntax.

    On the issue of rhythm, Creeley writes "For myself, lines and strophes indicate my rhythmic intention," (Creeley, Tales..., 29). He adds:

    I tend to pause after each line, a slight pause. Those terminal
    endings give me a way of both syncopating and indicating a
    rhythmic measure. I think of those lines as something akin to
    the bar in music—they state the rhythmic modality. They
    indicate what the base rhythm of the poem is, hopefully, to be.

    Creeley concerns himself and the poem with its arrangement, in which the poem serves almost as a musical score. He equates each line of the poem "as something akin to the bar in music." And by music, Creeley means the musical variation of the words so as to create a sense of song through the spoken word.

    Creeley's musical modality as mentioned in the previous quote can best be seen in "Broken Back Blues," (Creeley, Collected Poems, where he combines the spoken word with the rhythm of jazz/blues. He incorporates rhyme as well as sounds that are not easily translatable into language, such as "heh, heh,...." He spells words as they sound, as they are sometimes used in "pop" writing, such as advertising: "nite" for night; "rite" for right; and "yr" for your/you're. He abandons punctuation, such as capitalization and apostrophes; he uses the ampersand (&) for the word "and." Note the musical elements seen in the last strophe, and how it functions to play against itself:

    I havent got a nickle—
    I havent got a dime—
    I havent got a cent—
    I dont have that kind of time
    (all rite for you, friend
    that's the most
    we herewith
    propose a toast:
    It's a hopeless world.

    Creeley sets up the anaphora "I havent got...," and then plays the sound of "dime" in the second line against (through rhyme) the sound of "time" in the fourth line. He follows this rhyme scheme—as he has throughout the poem—in an impromptu-like variation of an abab-rhyme pattern. In the second line of the indented portion, Creeley rhymes "most" with "toast" in the second to the last line of the poem. The last line, "It's a hopeless world," is a statement of irony against the culmination of energy and freedom on the page. This is not a poem of hopelessness, but rather a poem sung in the tradition of the blues in only the way Creeley can write it—as a type of musical score, which includes the carefully used metrics. Also note the representation of certain words: "moo-oove" and "doo-oor." Here, Creeley has indicated the intuitive length and enunciation of the spoken words "move" and "door."

    Additional poems that capture and greatly exemplify Creeley's particular attention the music of the language include "The Names," (Ibid, 179); "I know a Man," (Ibid, 132); "The Rhythm," (Ibid, 265), "Little Time," (Ibid, 455); from In London, (Ibid, 469); and "Sounds," (Ibid, 486).

    The third strophe and part of the fourth strophe of "Divisions," (Creeley, Collected Poems, 33) reinforces the reading of water, form, and bottle as a metaphor for its counterparts in poetry—words, form, and structure.

    To make it difficult, to make a sense
    of limit, to call a stop to meandering—
    one could wander here
    in intricacies, unbelted, somewhat sloppy.

    It is this "[making] a sense/of limit" that the poet attempts. The enjambment of "to make a sense" brings a condition of coherence to the first line, which assumes/undergoes definition and alteration in the next line through the word "limit." "[To] make a sense" carries the denotation of producing reason, but it also carries the denotation of producing a particular sense from the artist's palate of senses through words, images, and—as Creeley seems to demonstrate—limitation/form. In the next phrase, "to call a stop to meandering—," Creeley defines the bottle/poem as a limitation;" the imposition of "stop" to the "meandering"; meandering in the sense of water/words; meandering in the "sense/of limit."

    Creeley expands his metaphor of water and containment in "A Poem," (Ibid, 36).

    If the water forms
    the form of the weeds, there—

    a long life is not by that
    a necessary happy one.

    My friend. We
    reckon on a simple

    agreement,
    the fashion of a stone

    underground.

    The simplicity of this poem dictates/dedicates itself as a monument of the poem's/poet's aesthetic. "[The] water" which "forms/the form of the weeds" is represented/re-created through the image of the weeds (which store water), and also through the lines that represent the linear and jagged nature of weeds. The second strophe is philosophical: "a long life not by that/a necessary happy one." The obvious logic of the two lines on longevity involve: human nature in general; the before-mentioned water stored within the form of weeds; as well as the poetic implications of verse and emotion, in which time cannot transcend or be equated with happiness. "My friend," meaning the reader, "We reckon a simple/agreement"; this agreement, this negotiation, being "the fashion of a stone/underground." The ambiguity of "fashion" being both the verb: to create/to make (a stone); and the noun: a form or style (of that creation), which give the image of the stone a resonance that is tangible and ephemeral simultaneously.

    There is a slight gap or fracture, in which the disparity/absence between the two denotations of the word "fashion" results in/negotiates an arc (of electricity) that charges the poem, as well as the reader's mind. It is only fitting that Creeley end the poem with the word "underground" because it, too, plays into the dichotomy of ambiguities: the literal underground that refers to the stone within earth, and the underground that exists as a psychological state where the poem signifies/or calls attention to itself, where the fashioning of the image associates to the "fashion" of the stone and, therefore, to the formation of the poem.

    When asked about his famous quote "Form is never more than an extension of content," Creeley responded:

    I would now almost amend the statement to say, "Form is
    what happens." It's the fact of things in the world, however
    they are. So that form in that way is simply the presence of
    any thing.

    What I was trying then to make clear was that I felt that form—
    if removed from that kind of intimacy—became something
    static and assumptional. I felt that the way a thing was said
    would intimately declare what was being said, and so there-
    fore form was never more than an extension of what it was
    saying (Creeley, Tales..., 30).

    Creeley makes this declaration of "what" is being said through/and in conjunction with form in Pieces, (Creeley, Collected Poems, 440).

    my plan is
    these little boxes
    make sequences

    The simplicity of intent within this statement creates a sense of intrigue and connectivity with all the little "boxes," "sequences," fragments, or strophes within Pieces, a long work; these "boxes" or "sequences" serve as pieces of mirror that collectively reflect or form what Creeley calls the "thing."

    In the poem "People," (Ibid, 490-495), Creeley also seems preoccupied with form as the subject of the poem. The poem includes the words "shape" and "shapes," "insistent pattern," "size," "form" and "forms," "drop of/water," and "grassblades" (the latter two words invoking the earlier images of water and weeds). The poem itself consists of 51 3-line strophes in four parts, with only one exception—an added line that occurs at the end of the third section: "what's under foot"; one could venture to call this an intended pun on measure, especially with the word "foot" and its usage as measurement in poetry. However, the line contains two feet, creating a deliberate questioning of this reading.

    In "People," the body preoccupies Creeley, who often mentions it, the hands, the skin, the eye, the head, the feet, etc. These are things that re-present the body, but through parts; they signify/recall the whole, yet exist outside/apart from the body so that the hands, feet, etc. are no longer an extension of the self/selves, but rather a separate entity to themselves. The best expression of this separation occurs in the last two strophes.

    I
    fails in
    the forms

    of them, I
    want
    to go home.

    Not only is there a subject-verb disagreement, Creeley has italicized the "I," calling it into question. To Creeley, it is this "I" that "fails in/the forms," but this is not just a failure in "forms," it is a failure in the "forms// of them." To who does the "them" of this poem refer? The beauty or difficulty with Creeley is that who "them" refers to may or may not exist in the body of the poem. Creeley revels in his ability to use references to places—here, there, place, even home as it is used in the last line of this poem—without always defining where that place is. The poem ends in nostalgia: the desire to return home, but again the reader must ask what or where is "home"? To Creeley, things that appear simple can easily turn to show their many flaws, facets, and/or complexities.

    As Creeley uses "home" as a reference to place (or a state of mind as one could read) in "People", he references other places—but with less precision—in many other poems, mostly through the words "here," "there," and "place." These "places" that Creeley references can be actual places he is recalling/invoking through memory, settings for the poem, or states of mind. For example, when the poet writes "Here is/where there/is," in one of his many "Here" poems, (Ibid, 547), he is creating a psychological (dare-one-say poetical) state. The "Here" on the page shifts with the shifting of lines to become "there," invoking a sense of nostalgia for the previous word and line. The use of the verb "is" functions as a means to allow the movement from "Here" to "there" within the poem, and it is also used in and as the last line of the poem. This final use of the verb "is" creates a sense of haunting in the poem (a transgression) for already that line has freed itself from the sense of place (here or there) that it invokes.

    The psychological/poetical state of "here," in which the word is the actual "here" on the page (or as the "here" lodged within the poet's mind as a reference to a concept, a reference by which a thought/the poem is tethered), can best be seen in the last strophe of "Mazatlan: Sea," (Ibid, 435).

    Here now—
    begin!

    It is from this "Here" that Creeley departs into the poem, and yet this is the end of the poem, creating a type of paradox/irony that is not uncharacteristic of this poet. Creeley creates , addresses, and uses paradox and irony in similar ways in other poems, including "The Operation," (Ibid, 128); "The Paradox," (Ibid, 232); and "The Hole," (Ibid, 344). In "Mazatlan: Sea," Creeley's departure through his (self-)referential "Here" calls on the "experience" of which he speaks of in the previous strophe.

    Want to get the sense of "I" into Zukofsky's "eye"—a locus
    of experience, not a presumption of expected value.

    This "locus of experience" being the "sense of 'I' into Zukofsky's 'eye.' "[Locus]" is the central word, the trigger word, for the meaning from/into this poem. The word "locus" means place, locality (a central and reoccurring theme/ issue for Creeley), but this word coexists with "experience," so we are given a place, a locality, "of experience." There is again that sense of nostalgia that pervades Creeley's work; this nostalgia for a "locus of experience." The use of the homonyms "I" and "eye" bring the poet as well as Zukofsky, the great American objectivist, into the realm of this experience.

    Related, yet not so: Creeley has only one eye. The word "eye" as noted in the previous poem appears in several other poems, mostly in the singular form. This is Creeley incorporating himself into the poem, haunting it with his presence. And like the previous poem "Mazatlan: Sea," this sole "eye" is at times associated (if only by existing simultaneously on the page) with the "I," the speaker of the poem, the writer of the poem, the poet to whom the poem addresses as a mirror to its subject.

    One such example occurs in the second half of "The Window," (Ibid, 284).

    ..., a leaf of
    yellow color is
    going to

    fall. It
    all drops into
    place. My

    face is heavy
    with the sight. I can
    feel my eye breaking.

    The movement of the "leaf" as it "is/going to//fall," and the intensity of the last line with the image of "eye breaking" brings something to me as the reader that I cannot easily identify: a sadness, a nostalgia for the leaf, a longing for "all [that] drops into/place." It is a poem I continue to come to for its haunting pain and intense commitment to the self as observer. It is in this way that I become the observer of the leaf as it falls; it is my face that "is heavy/with the sight." However, it is not my "eye breaking"; this is a separation, a fracturing (a "breaking" if you will) of the "me" in the poem (Creeley), from the me/self lured into the poem (reader).

    There is similar haunting or discomfort that occurs in "Some Afternoon," (Ibid, 304), in which the image of the sole "eye" is recalled without naming or identifying the object, but rather it's condition of sight. The fourth strophe and part of the fifth strophe is where this recognition (this knowing/recalling of the poet and his previous work) occurs.

    the tangible faces
    smile, breaking
    into tangible pieces.
    I see

    myself and family,
    and friends,...

    Again, we have the "breaking" as was mentioned in "The Window," but now it is the "breaking" of "tangible faces." "[Tangible]" in that a literal breaking occurs—at least for the poet; he "[sees]" or rather "I see" that fracturing of the face, and so easily do I visualize/"see" that sole "eye" that exists only as an faint echo of a previous poem still lodged within the hollow ear of my mind. I fear that I might be reading too much into this passage, but there is what I "see" as evidence on the page: the space that follows "I see" as the remainder, the object of his sight, is moved/ re-located to the next strophe. It is this space that isolates the line, and allows "I [/eye] see" to haunt the reader with its many implications.

    Creeley has two poems called "The Eye," (Ibid, 248; 367). Here begins "The Eye," (Ibid, 367):

    The eye I look out of
    or hands I use,
    feet walking,
    they stay particular.

    That first line "The eye I look out of," has the ambiguity that empowers many of Creeley's work. It is the literal eye "[he looks] out of," but it also the poetic eye—that lens through which he "sees"/re-presents his work. In that "they stay particular"—the eye, hands, and feet—there is but one through which the external is re-presented or filtered through the mind of the poet; I would say that one is the eye, but there is also the union of the eye and hands through writing, in which the experience is incorporated and re-presented on the page.

    In "The Eye," (Ibid, 248), Creeley compares the eye of the mind with the eye of the moon, invoking a sense of mystery, distance, as well the link between what cannot be represented (the mind) and that which is a representation or symbol of a sole eye (the moon).

    Moon
    and clouds, will
    we drift

    higher
    than that we
    look at,

    moon's and
    mind's
    eye.

    In addition, Creeley asks the "Moon/and clouds," whether the two—"we"—will "drift//higher/than that we/look at"? The "we" refers to both the poet and the moon, and yet the journey or "[drifting]" consists of that which goes beyond the moon, and presumably beyond the self—and therefore beyond the "we." To go beyond what "we/look at," to surpass the limitations of eye ("moon's and/mind's), Creeley constructs an enigma, a paradox, that contorts the mind so that the logical is inverted and the reader is left outside the logic of the "mind." "[We]," the reader, moon, and the writer, have drifted beyond the limitation imposed by our collective selves, and yet, there we remain lodged upon the page and in our selves—an evolution of the mind from that which is known and defined to that which is new and expansive—that which is the poetry of Creeley.

    Creeley talks of this in an interview with Linda Wagner (Creeley, Tales..., 46).

    So when I write, that's what I'm at work with, or that's
    what I'm trying to gain, an articulation of what confronts
    me, which I can't really realize or anticipate prior to the
    writing....if you say one thing it always will lead to more
    than you had thought to say. This has always been my
    experience.

    Here, Creeley acknowledges that when he writes, he is attempting to "work with...an articulation of what confronts me." This articulation being that "which I can't really realize or anticipate prior to the" act of composition. For Creeley, the poem becomes an act of discovery—that which is new and expansive.

    This act of discovery is captured in Creeley's poem "For Some Weeks," (Creeley, Collected Poems, 510).

    Pieces
    fall away dis-
    closing another place

    Here, "Pieces" or aspects/suppositions of the poem erode under the movement/transgression of the poem to reveal/"[disclose] another place." This other place cancels out, yet also builds upon, the former; the poem moves by shifting and changing/resisting that which prefaces it in a type of recovering of absences. That which is at one point is no longer at another; the transient notion of time and space caught within both the vernacular and movement of the poem.

    Creeley's poetry also exhibits space and/or the open/unresolved condition of the text through unclosed parenthesis. In "Love," (Ibid, 19), the open parenthesis "(" is used with its mate—")"—to create a sense of non-closure.

    The thing comes
    of itself
    (Look up
    to see
    the cat & the squirrel,
    the one
    torn, a red thing
    & the other
    somehow immaculate

    The open parenthesis mirrors the open reading of the poem, in which the subject of "Love" skirts between the two images of "the cat & the squirrel." Which of the two—the cat or the squirrel—that is "the one/torn, a red thing," and which of the two is "somehow immaculate," remains unresolved in the poem. The poet has fixed on one, "The thing [that] comes/of itself" to represent love, but the reader must decide. Both the cat and the squirrel are independent and exhibit a type of wilderness; but the cat is noticeable a domesticated animal. Is love a product of domestication? or is it a free and "somehow immaculate" squirrel? The poem asks us to "(Look up," and we alone must look up and decide which animal we see, in what state we view it—torn or immaculate—and why; also we must rectify the images, the animals, with the title of the poem. A riddle, but not so in the sense that riddles have one distinct answer; this poem opens to the reader and it is up to the reader to close it, and thereby apply an intuitive sense of closure—the final parenthesis. Other instances where Creeley incorporates the use of the sole parenthesis, include "Hart Crane," (Ibid, 23); "Le Fou," (Ibid, 111); and "A Song," (Ibid, 112).

    At times, it appears that Creeley has constructed a poem about poetry or the aesthetics of poetry or the arts in general. In "The Riddle," (Ibid, 115), he preoccupies himself with the idea of the riddle/ the question, and in doing so, he constructs an obvious parallel to/commentary on poetry:

    What it is, the literal size
    incorporates.
    The question
    is a mute question. One is
    too lonely, one wants
    to stop there, at the edge of

    conception. The woman

    imperative, the man
    lost in stern
    thought:

    give it form certainly,
    the name and titles.

    This poem is very rich and functions on many levels. The enjambment brings many moments of beautiful groupings, in which two separate units are enjoined and entrusted with the other on the line to form a singular relationship: "is a mute question. One is"; "too lonely, one wants"; "to stop there, at the edge of"; and my two favorites—"conception. The woman"; and "lost in stern." The latter strikes me because of the varying denotations of stern: severe or serious/deliberate and the rear part of a boat (Webster's, 1156). To be "lost in stern," whether a condition of seriousness or a place as in the rear part of a boat/a vessel (the body, mind?), fascinates me. The last two lines appear to be a conscious allusion to poetry, because it is given "form certainly/ and the name and titles."

    "The Pattern," (Creeley, Collected Poems, 294), also confronts and attempts to define the aesthetic of Creeley's poetry:

    As soon as

    I speak, I
    speaks. It

    wants to
    be free but
    impassive lies

    in the direction
    of its
    words. Let

    x equal x, x
    also
    equals x. I

    speak to
    hear myself
    speak? I

    had not thought
    that some-
    thing had such

    undone. It
    was an idea
    of mine.

    Here, Creeley develops an equation for poetry. When he says "Let//x equal x, x/also/equals x," what has changed within this formula is the positioning of the x on the line: an attempt to measure the difference by which x is equal to x and, yet exists in a different state because of its position on the line. Therefore, a true reading of Creeley's poetry would require the careful attention to line breaks and the positioning of words on the line, especially when they are not of the same phrase or sentence; often, this is where Creeley shows his ingenuity through the ambiguity of words with others in close proximity. "[I]mpassive lies," for example, takes advantage of the ambiguity of "lies" in the sense of the word as both verb and noun.

    Creeley also exhibits a great intensity of play in language. In the poem "Sign," (Ibid, 451), that play is quite evident in the following two strophes:

    Come fly with me—like,
    out of your mind is
    no simile, no mere
    description—what "mere,"
    mare, mère, mother
    "here then," is what you want.

    Emily—simile.
    What are you
    staring at?

    The depths to which one can immerse oneself in the study of Creeley's work is as limitless and as fathomable as language itself. To read Creeley is to enter a world self-defined and self-assured. While Creeley admires and pays homage to many poets—including Zukofsky, Olson, Ginsberg, Roethke [via the satire "Just Friends," (Ibid, 163)], Williams, Hart Crane, Ogden Nash, and others—he remains/or rather creates his own place. or rather an absence—a lacunae (a gap or blank place/absence; a small cavity; a discontinuity in...structure)—defined/created through language. In "Medallion," (Ibid, 40), Creeley writes:

    What if the others don't care, what
    is it you want
    (Lacunae


    * This information was originally a research project on Creeley. Rather than cut it down to a simple review, I kept a lot of detailed information in the hopes readers could better reach an understanding of this outstanding poet's aesthetic.




    Links of Interest:

    Creeley, Robert
    Synopsis of the poet's life, with links to selected poems, his homepage at Buffalo, and additional source material.


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