In the poetry Robert Creeley wrote during the 1980’s, he began to turn back to the early stages of his life, placing his present thoughts in a larger perspective through reflection on decisive moments of the past. The recollective sense of “The Company” is immediately established by the first word, “Backward,” which is instantly qualified by the phrase “as if retentive,” suggesting how experience accumulates. Creeley’s placement of the well-known line from William Wordsworth’s “My Heart Leaps Up,” “The child is father of [Creeley says “to”] the man,” then gives the poem specific direction; a dual track from childhood is drawn in terms of “use” (or personal choice) and “circumstance” (the outside world). The first quatrain, written in open verse in a flowing line dense with information, is followed by three similarly shaped stanzas that examine the implications of this formulation. The poet draws conclusions from his experience, summarized in terse, almost aphoristic form. The randomness of existence and the difficulty in determining the presence of any form or meaning in most human actions are posed as a central theme, as the “great expectations” of the “next town” repeatedly turn into an “empty plate” in actuality.
The fifth stanza epitomizes this situation. The poet looks back at the young men such as himself who were reaching maturity in the historical moment of World War II. The war pulled them out of...
(The entire section is 472 words.)