Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Consider the statement made by Robert Hass that Robert Creeley way “has been to take the ordinary, threadbare phrases and sentences by which we locate ourselves and to put them under the immense pressure of the rhythms of poetry and to make out of that what dance or music there can be.” How would you reconcile what Hass refers to as “the ordinary, threadbare phrases” used in everyday life with the odd rhythms and line breaks in Creeley’s verse that seem anything but “ordinary”? What does this mixture suggest about the individuality of Creeley’s poetic voice?

Creeley lost his left eye very early in his life. Is it possible that this physical loss affected Creeley’s intellectual take on the world around him? How might such a notion influence the way readers view his poems?

How do the poems “Plague” and “Age” build upon each other as works focused on taboos? Do they move readers to think solely of mortality and how to deal with it on a daily basis, or does each poem serve to alleviate the fears that society commonly associates with death, loss, and aging?

Creeley is best known for his experimental uses of rhythm and language. Choose three of his poems and discuss how they differ in form from one another and from other poets from Creeley’s era.

Creeley’s most famous statement is, arguably, “form is never more than an extension of content.” Discuss this statement as it may pertain to the poems you have read. How do form and content influence each other in any work or art?

The bulk of Creeley’s best-known poetry was written during the 1960’s and 1970’s. How does his work handle or deal with the historical changes that took place in American society during these years?