Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
As one can see in much of Creeley’s later poetry, age and, more specifically, death take center stage. Of course, there is no fear in the poet’s voice. Rather, there is a conscious attempt to define and question the sorts of estrangement one comes to in old age. The first line, “Most explicit,” alone makes readers aware of the speaker’s devotion to adequately exploring his aged condition. The following nine or ten lines make up the metaphorical significance of that condition “as a narrowing/ cone one’s got/ stuck into,” and “any movement/ forward simply/ wedges once more.” In other words, time and age only move forward, and humankind must move with them despite any reticence to do so.
This realization naturally leads to further questions and eventually, in lines 20-34, the speaker meets a sort of communicative hopelessness; that is, how can the young, who are on the “other side all/ others live on,” ever be made aware of the harsh realities and health struggles they too will have to face in life? There is no way to exactingly address such communication or answer such a question, as signified in the ellipsis at the end of line 34. Lines 35 through 45 move readers away from such personal experience into a wider, albeit more difficult realm of thinking: the solitary nature of knowing one’s own mortality. Oddly enough, these lines usher Creeley’s audience into the more hopeful aspects of the poem’s subject matter, the companionships one is graced with in life: “you, you, you/ are crucial,” the poet professes to his “love.” What matters more than “fears when I may/ cease to be me,” however, regards how one comes to any conclusion on such morbid matters through “talks and talks” in the last line.
“Age” is, at length, much less cryptic than many of Creeley’s later poems. Some critics argue that “Age” is narrative based rather than language based, as most of his poetry is. Regardless of such arguments, however, it is a poem that is at once frightening and drastically realistic. Creeley was noted as saying, “The world is our physical lifetime.” There are few other quotes that can accurately describe the attitude of Creeley’s later works and of this poem in particular.
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Allen, Donald, ed. Contexts of Poetry: Interviews with Robert Creeley, 1961-1971. Bolinas, Calif.: Four Seasons, 1973.
Clark, Tom. Robert Creeley and the Genius of the American Commonplace. New York: New Directions, 1993.
Edelberg, Cynthia. Robert Creeley’s Poetry: A Critical Introduction. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1978.
Faas, Ekbert, and Maria Trombaco. Robert Creeley: A Biography. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 2001.
Ford, Arthur. Robert Creeley. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978.
Foster, Edward Halsey. Understanding the Black Mountain Poets. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.
Fox, Willard. Robert Creeley, Edward Dorn, and Robert Duncan: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989.
Oberg, Arthur. Modern American Lyric: Lowell, Berryman, Creeley, and Plath. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1977.
Rifkin, Libbie. Career Moves: Olson, Creeley, Zukofsky, Berrigan, and the American Avant-Garde. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000.
Terrell, Carroll, ed. Robert Creeley: The Poet’s Workshop. Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, 1984.
Wilson, John, ed. Robert Creeley’s Life and Work: A Sense of Increment. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1987.