The Edge Summary (Robert Creeley)

Robert Creeley


The insistent inspection and dissection of linguistic possibility for which Creeley was known reaches a kind of peak in “The Edge.” The very short, elliptic word-unit common to Creeley’s style throughout his writing life is fused into compact three-line stanzas, which are linked by a continuing focus on edges or boundaries in thought and action, poetry and life. Each stanza has a tentative hold, and then a release into the next one; a hesitancy that occurs after almost every unit of meaning.

Creeley suggests that the poem itself is unclear in its way or course, “this long way comes with no purpose,” just as the life it expresses seems unsure of its direction as the poet continues seeking, experimenting, testing, trying, and measuring language and form. Uncertainty does not preclude action, however; the poem’s tentativeness is not an indication of paralysis but of an effort to discover a true course after many missteps. The poem itself expresses the poet’s desire to construct or discover meaning through the repetition of small actions:

I take the world and lose it,miss it, misplace it,put it back or try to, can’tfind it, fool it, even feel it.

There is no end to this, and the poem does not have an ending, only another thrust further into being, as the poet proclaims “This must be the edge/ of being before the thought of it! blurs it.” As Charles Molesworth aptly observes, poems such as this one are “a dramatization of the limits of Creeley’s existential, improvisatory stance,” statements where language and thought shift perception even as it occurs.


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