Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Creeley, Robert (1926–2005)
Author:
Smeller, Carl
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Robert Creeley, one of America's foremost post-World War II poets, is best known for his association with Black Mountain College, the experimental North Carolina college whose faculty and students included some of the most innovative writers, composers, choreographers, and artists of the 1950s and 1960s.

Like other poets in the 1950s, Creeley found in Leaves of Grass a model that enabled him to break through the aesthetic dominance of T.S. Eliot's "objectivity" to forge a poetry of personal emotions. Just as important, Creeley gained access through Whitman to the American literary tradition of attention to place and to physical detail. In the introduction to his selection of Whitman's poetry (1973), Creeley also cites Whitman's formal influences on him: the thematic organization of Whitman's poems as "fields of activity" rather than "lines of order," Whitman's variable prosody and structural repetitions, and his flexibility of diction and openness of tone (Introduction 13–18).

One of his few direct references to Whitman, Creeley's poem "Just Friends" (1958) parodies Whitman's famous lyric with the opening line "Out of the table endlessly rocking" (Collected 163). Creeley's poetry bears little overt resemblance to Whitman's but takes from Whitman the insistence that only by speaking in an "intensely personal" voice can a poet come to what is common to all (Introduction 7).

Bibliography

Creeley, Robert. The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley: 1945–1975. Berkeley: U of California P, 1982.

———. Introduction. Whitman: Selected by Robert Creeley. By Walt Whitman. Ed. Creeley. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973. 7–20.

Foster, Edward Halsey. Understanding the Black Mountain Poets. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1995.


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