Friday, February 26, 2010

The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley: 1945-1975

Creeley, Robert. The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley: 1945-1975. Berkeley, CA: University
of California Press, 1982.

This volume gathers Creeley's first nine collections of poetry, in addition to several uncollected poems that were written between 1945 and 1975. Poems in his first two books often adhere to a hard-rhyme scheme and contain longer lines that extend the width of the page. For the most part, these traits disappear, or at least diminish considerably, by his third book, titled Words. One characteristic that cross-cuts all, individual collections within this volume is lineated rhythm; or, as Creeley states in the introduction: “the specific lines of these various poems are, in each case, the defining rhythmic unit” that construct “a poem's underlying beat” (x). The poet addresses his concept of rhythm, in both content and form, during the poem “Rhythm,” when he writes: “It is all a rhythm,/ from the shutting/ door, to the window/ opening” and “The rhythm which projects/ from itself continuity/ being all to its force” (265-6). To this extent, for Creeley, rhythm associates itself intimately with form; and therefore, form consistently occurs as content, or the subject matter of his poems. To wit, the poet writes: “The/ mind itself,/ impulse, of form// last realized” (310). If, for Creeley, the rhythm is form, and the “mind” is “form// last realized,” then the lines, or rhythmic units, signal a specific moment of concentration on the part of the poet, and that moment is inextricably tied to the particular breath or music inherent to the rhythm. As such, mind and body meld: a dissolution of the Cartesian binary; in other words: “The plan is the body/ There is each moment a pattern/ ...Plan is the body. The mind/ is the plan/ ...The mind is the plan of the mind.// The plan is the body” (601-2). Other aesthetic characteristics of Creeley's poetry are disjunctive enjambments, such as “The day will/ not be less than that. I/ am writing to you,/ wishing to be rid of// these confusions. You” (337). In this particular example, line breaks either a) break on soft words, b) break at the beginning of a syntactical arrangement so as to create an unbalanced grammatical structure within the balanced rhythm of the poem's formal structure, or c) employs breaks so as to alter meaning when one reads a line as a discrete entity as opposed a component of a syntactical unit. Another aesthetic feature that Creeley begins to explore near the end of this collection, and one that will continue to develop in his post-1975 writing, is the elision of articles, both definite and indefinite. For example, instead of writing “A roof's peak is an eye,” the poet writes: “Roof's peak is eye” (625). Other poetic innovations Creeley uses, albeit not as frequently, can be found in “Hi There!” (61), “Broken Back Blues” (65), and “On Acid” (508). Furthermore, it should be mentioned that Charles Olson's influence can be seen in many of Creeley's early poems, for example, with the use of the unclosed parenthetical statement.

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