Creeley was raised by several women after his father died, including his mother, his grandmother, and a slightly retarded woman named Theresa whom his father had brought home to work as a maid. Creeley came to think of her as an “emotional ally” who was not as severe as his family and who needed his friendship in her alien condition. Among the poems Creeley wrote about his family, “Theresa’s Friends” is a reminiscence that excludes some of the complex emotional intensity that sometimes almost overwhelms the poet so that here he can enjoy his reflections without feeling forced to wring nuance from every particle of memory.
“From the outset,” he recalls, he was “charmed” by the soft, quick speech of Theresa’s friends. Typically, it is their use of language that captivates him, the “endlessly present talking” that gave him his first sense of being Irish, which included the cultural mix of “the lore, the magic/ the violence, the comfortable/ or uncomfortable drunkenness.” Each of these features is a source of recollective pleasure, not an element to be worried over, and as the poem narrows in focus, an ironmonger is depicted patiently telling the young man “sad, emotional stories/ with the quiet air of an elder.” This is a feature of the oral tradition that informs Creeley’s work as a poet of sound and speech, and the relaxed, conversational pace of the poem—more like a narrative than most of Creeley’s works—sets the structure for a concluding insight that is especially dramatic because of its sudden increase in emotional pitch.
After the gradual preparation he has received from Theresa’s friends concerning his cultural heritage, Creeley’s mother tells him “at last when I was twenty-one” that “indeed the name Creeley was Irish,” including him officially in the community of tale and mood toward which he has been drawn. The information comes with the effect of revelation, certifying all that Creeley had instinctively sensed about his origins, his destiny, and his gifts. In an unusually traditional concluding stanza, Creeley raises the level of language to inform and convince the reader/listener fully of the depth of his feeling:
and the heavens opened, birds sang,and the trees and the ladies spokewith wondrous voices. The power of the gloryof poetry—was at last mine.