The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The title of Robert Creeley’s first collection of poetry from previously published volumes, For Love (1962), is an accurate summation of one of the essential concerns of many of the poems gathered there, but as critic Cid Corman points out, the second section includes “some of the unhappiest love poems of our time.” While Creeley has always maintained that the possibility of love is one of the strongest restorative forces humans can bring to bear against the ruins of time, the poems in A Form of Women were written during the strained, difficult days when his first marriage was moving toward dissolution.

Utilizing a four-line stanza that is like a short quatrain without rhyme, Creeley has created a basic unit that can either advance or “stop anywhere” so that each stanza is both a single meditative block and a part of a larger grouping. The first section, composed of three stanzas, begins with a couplet which presents the poet’s philosophical position—his belief that his previous experiences have so shaped his sense of himself and the world that they will be a dominant factor in any relationship. The next two stanzas amplify this idea, asserting that the accumulation of experience has been driven by the will to probe and question even at the risk of uncovering some disquieting or unsettling aspect of his psyche. These stanzas move toward a pause, leading to the development of a meditative mood as the poet examines his...

(The entire section is 578 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The poem “A Form of Women” is concerned with understanding the self, the world, and the way in which a relationship with another person shapes this understanding. Each of these aspects of existence is a part of the uncertainty of knowing, and the poet’s attempts to describe and perceive the form (that is, the essential nature) of the things of his life is concentrated in his quest for some ways to realize the self through the process of love. In order to do this, he attempts to examine the elusive forms of the woman who has been a part of this process. While he is never so direct as to establish an equivalence between the forms of a woman and such abstractions as love, life, or light, the poem moves tentatively in that direction.

The most specific metaphoric arrangement occurs in the eighth stanza, with the address “Moon, moon,” which is both to the “you” (the woman) in the poem and to a lunar diety as a feminine goddess, an idea which is extended further by the idea of the woman’s removal as the cause of “utter blackness.” The sense of moonlight and love as intermingled is implied by the poet’s plea for care when “the moon shines.” The setting, a walk “to see the moonlight” within a cloak of darkness, emphasizes the intimacy of the relationship and contributes to its mystery. Images of light and dark are employed throughout the poem to render the shifting perspective of the poet toward the woman he loves and toward his sense...

(The entire section is 476 words.)


(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

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.