I Keep to Myself Such Measures . . . Summary

Robert Creeley


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The nature of language and its relationship to the physical world and the individual self (“speech is a mouth,” Creeley exclaims with audacity in “The Language”) is the subject of the poem “I Keep to Myself Such Measures.” The title, which is completed in the second line by the very personal “ . . . as I care for,” is an expression of the poet’s interest in dimensions both in his art and in his daily life.

The completing line of the first stanza, “daily the rocks/ accumulate position,” uses a concrete object to stand for the accretion of experience, but then, in a dramatic reversal, Creeley qualifies the particularity of the rocks by observing, “There is nothing/ but what thinking makes/ it less tangible,” expressing one of his most basic principles: the concern that language is nebulous and that the thought it renders can never be precise or final. Nevertheless, a position is established through the direction ordered by experience, even though that position is never so solid that it cannot be shaken.

The consequence of Creeley’s perception that “thinking makes/ it less tangible” compromises sanity itself, leading to uncertainty as a principle of existence:

The mindfast as it goes, losespace, puts in place of itlike rocks simple markers,

(The entire section is 405 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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.