Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

As the title For Love indicates, many of the poems in Creeley’s first collection were written in an attempt to understand, express, or locate love in a world of confusion, threat, and loneliness. The poem “A Form of Women” is part of a larger context—not an interlocked poetic sequence, but a group of poems that cast light on one another and that move from an elliptical anger toward a more relaxed lyricism. As critic Robert Kern points out, the “quest” of the book is toward a sense of grace, which Creeley has powerfully evoked in the later poem “Oh Love” (from Mirrors, 1983): “Oh love,/ like nothing else on earth!” The lyrics toward the end of For Love are “grateful celebrations” of “love and domestic conditions,” but “A Form of Women,” at the center of the collection, is more of a projection of those possibilities.

The transformative power of love is conveyed by the seventh stanza, in which the poet speaks of the most personal qualities (face, hands, mouth) as no longer sufficient to define the self. Those features which are still “his own” cannot encompass the full range of consciousness, since the relationship with another has added the weight of “a thousand years” to his features. The poet’s recognition of this power leads to a faith in its capacity to transcend the abstractions of existence, to make the physical presence of another an actuality as a means of fulfillment. The...

(The entire section is 513 words.)