Robert Creeley and Alice Walker

Robert Creeley’s poems were short and sweet, a nice change of pace from the confusion and length of Stein and Eliot and many others we’ve read this semester. I agree with Nelson when she says, “William Carlos Williams was clearly a strong influence, both in form and subject matter, but a Williams poem flows smoothly, whereas a Creeley poem may choose to falter.” Although Creeley’s poems were short and reminiscent of Williams, they did not always flow as one would expect. For example in “I Know a Man,” Creeley replaces the word said with “sd” and you’re with “yr.” He also structures the poem in four sections with three lines each, but in one section separates the word surrounds on to two separate lines. It would makes sense if he was doing this to stick to a rhyme or rhythm pattern but there seems to be no discernible patter or reason for doing this except to purposefully make the poems stutter and falter.

Olson discusses two theories of poetry one focused on the narrator staying OUT and one one the narrator staying IN. Olson argues that Creeley’s poems seem to follow the second theory of poetry saying, “I take it that these stories are of the second way, of the writer putting himself all the way in–taking the risk, putting his head on that block… making it pay, making you-me believe, that we are here in the presence of a man putting his hands directly and responsibly to experience which is also our own.” Olson goes on to say, “But it would be silly to ask any of these poems… to prove anything. They simply do.” It is interesting to me that to make these experiences, and time itself, our own, to seemingly capture life as it is lived, led Creeley to write poems that falter rather than flow smoothly.

The simple structure of Creeley’s poems reminded me of Alice Walker’s poems in Once. For example in a poem titled “The Democratic Order: Such Things in Twenty Years I Understood” Walker writes:

My father

(back blistered)

beat me

because I

could not

stop crying.

He’d had

enough ‘fuss’

he said

for one damn

voting day.

Not only the simplicity of the structure and the halting way she composed the verses, with two or three words on each line, but also the way she, the narrator, seems to be IN the story reminded my of Creeley’s poetry.


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