Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The persistence of the past into the present is often the burden of Robert Creeley’s song, as is underlined by his very forms—contemporary versions of traditional conventions. First appearing in book form in The Whip, “The Whip” was printed next in 1962 in For Love (Creeley’s best-selling book—within ten years, some forty thousand copies were in print). “Love” itself is the big question: Is it still (was it ever really) possible? Is there more to it than words? What can a pair of lovers share—beyond “uninteresting weight”? Ultimately, Creeley plumps for love, but only while admitting to the leap of faith such a conclusion demands. Creeley was among those who, trying to rid humanity of those portions of the past that are no longer (if they every were) life-enhancing, cultivated the present, the Here and Now. Thus love could best be known, he thought, through its various instances—all else was vain rhetoric, dubious assumption. Of importance to love, however—to lovers, certainly—is continuity. Can there be a continuity free of damaging or even insupportable assumptions? Can there be a continuity that will enhance and not destroy its instances?

For Creeley, as for some other poets, these questions were not a matter for lovers alone, but for writers, too. Because writing commits a continuity, what one writes today will persist for ten, twenty, fifty years or more. Speaking surely is more “natural,” more...

(The entire section is 509 words.)