The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley

The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley

The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley

The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley


Robert Creely, Wilmington, N.C., June 29, 1981: There is a sense of increment, of accumulation, in these poems that is very dear to me. Like it or not, it outwits whatever I then thought to say and gains thereby whatever I was in saying it. Thankfully, I was never what I thought I was, certainly never enough. Otherwise, when it came time to think specifically of this collection and of what might be decorously omitted, I decided to stick with my initial judgments, book by tender book, because these were the occasions most definitive of what the poems might mean, either to me or to anyone else. To define their value in hindsight would be to miss the factual life they had either made manifest or engendered. So everything that was printed in a book between the dates of 1945 and 1975 is here included as are also those poems published in magazines or broadsides. In short, all that was in print is here. I'm delighted that they are all finally together, respected, included, each with their place--like some ultimate family reunion! I feel much relieved to see them now as a company at last. I'm tempted to invoke again those poets who served as a measure and resource for me all my life as a poet. But either they will be heard here, in the words and rhythms themselves, or one will simply know the. This time I am, in this respect, alone these are my poems. We are a singular compact. Finally, there's no end to any of it, or none we'll know that simply. But I'm very relieved that this much, like they say, is done. So be it.


Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon’s roar;—
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.

— oliver wendell holmes

Even to speak becomes an unanticipated drama, because where one has come to, and where it is one now has to go, have no language any longer specific. We all will talk like that, yet no one will understand us.

When I was a young man, I felt often as if I were battling for the integrity of my habits of speech, my words, my friends, my life. W. C. Williams had put it most clearly, and with the expected emphasis of that time: “When a man makes a poem, makes it, mind you, he takes words as he finds them interrelated about him and composes them—without distortion which would mar their exact significances—into an intense expression of his perceptions and ardors that they may constitute a revelation in the speech that he uses.” in the furies, then, of the war and the chaos of a disintegrating society, I felt a place, of useful honor and possibility, in those words.

As though one might dignify, make sufficient, all the bits and pieces one had been given, all the remnants of a family, the confusions of name and person, flotsam, even the successes quickly subsumed by the next arrival.

This was originally published as the preface to So There: Poems 1976–1983 (New
York: New Directions, 1998). On July 1, 1998, Robert Creeley wrote to Peggy Fox
of New Directions about his use of italics in this preface: “The paragraphs in italics
are simply to have a variation of ‘voice,’ the italicized sections being more reflective,
reacting to the subject or thought in mind, the non-italicized sections being the for
ward statement, so to speak. Otherwise quotations are in quotes.”

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