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Christopher Rizzo

An Extensive Body of Work: Robert Creeley’s Poetics of Affect

Section 1

In 1945, Charles Olson began writing Call Me Ishmael, which, in effect, marked the end of his political career. Three years later, William Carlos Williams wrote him in response to receiving a copy of Olson’s “Grandpa, Goodbye” in manuscript, in which Olson terms Ezra Pound “the ultimate image of the end of the West” (Collected Prose 147). With the ascendency of Truman, Olson took leave of a governmental regime that would not only authorize the strategic use of atomic weaponry during the war — which, in effect, devastated Olson — but would also attempt, in strategic ways, to invigorate the postwar economic market through imperial expansionism. By 1973, a significant but unruly study by Daniel Bell appears, in which he argues for the emergence of an interstitial postindustrial culture after World War II, as evidenced by significant developments in the sectors of finance, health, research, education, government and so on. The postwar rise of theoretical knowledge weighed in on a service economy that burgeoned, wherein technologies of management or control were foregrounded.


Contemporary thinkers on culture, namely Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, both note significant postwar changes as well, perhaps the most salient of which we find in “Postscript on the Societies of Control”: “‘Control’ is the name Burroughs proposes as a term for the new monster, one that Foucault recognizes as our immediate future” (Deleuze 4). And it is this problematical “monster” of control that Olson himself took as a matter of inquiry as early as 1950, a matter that, coyly, he only suggests in his 1970 Paris Review interview: “I think both Eliot and Pound were after something rather different than us who came a little later” (7). The “us,” of course, includes Robert Creeley.


In his New York Times review of The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1975-2005, Charles Simic shows us how the problematic of control can go overlooked with disturbing ease. He tells us an occasionally plausible story that glissades over the surface of Creeley’s project writ large and, in doing so, he also mistreats perhaps the most fundamental proposition elaborated upon by postwar American avant-gardes. Ron Silliman comments: “Simic’s content-centric reading of ‘form is nothing more than the extension of content’ is a profound misinterpretation.” Although Silliman is right, Simic’s rhetorical strategy allows one to feel confident in the ostensible fact that we are in the hands of one who has mastered the material at hand. In short, Simic does not speak from behind the didactic podium of power—that would prove too stilted—but from Longfellow’s fireside rocker. We find the moral in his conclusion, namely, that Creeley “felt the need to remain faithful to ideas about composition long after it became clear that they not only were limiting him but were a dead end.”


Obviously, our cultural milieu has changed since “Projective Verse” was first published in 1950—perhaps more so than Creeley, on a New England farm, could have imagined—but the deceptively simple heurism that form is never more than an extension of content has survived the twentieth century, despite Simic’s wishes to the contrary. Across an extensive body of work, Creeley develops a poetics of affect that unremittingly interrogates Burrough’s “new monster” of control. Such an interrogation, as it turns out, is not at all “a dead end.” Simic so significantly misconstrues the work of Robert Creeley that one is left to wonder if any explanation would, if you will pardon the cliché, fall on deaf ears.


In 1921, Pound clearly states an axiom to which he would adhere throughout the entirety of his career: “Our own consciousness is incapable of having produced the universe” (Selected Prose 49). The immediate post-World War II era finds Pound, in the Pisan Cantos, grappling with the notion “that the drama is wholly subjective / stone knowing the form which the carver imparts it / the stone knows the form” (74.187-89). The drama of history had Pound by the throat, as it did Mussolini, and it is was this ubiquitous and quite unsolvable problematic of subjectivity that ultimately powered the poetry.


“It is no accident,” writes Olson at the end of “Projective Verse,” “that Pound and Williams both were involved variously in a movement which got called ‘objectivism’. But that word was then used in some sort of necessary quarrel, I take it, with ‘subjectivism’. It is now too late to be bothered with the latter. It has excellently done itself to death, even though we are all caught in its dying” (Collected Prose 247). Commentators, though relatively scant in recent years, often overlook the final passages of Olson’s essay, most likely due to the seemingly disingenuous focus on “getting rid of the lyrical interference of the individual as ego, of the ‘subject’ and his soul, that peculiar presumption by which western man has interposed himself between what he is as a creature of nature (with certain instructions to carry out) and those other creations of nature which we may, with no derogation, call objects” (Collected Prose 247). It is here that Olson elaborates upon an special relationship between form and content that understands the individual as, radically, an organism. The two phenomenological realms are that of the human and that of the earth. The problems for poetics, as Olson and Creeley understand them, do not so much stem from the potential relationships between the two, but rather from the formal interactivity between poet and environment without the interventions of the noumenalism so predominant in Pound, which took essentialities as a priori propositions.


In a fantastic film by the Lannan foundation, Creeley recalls Robert Duncan pointing out that, in poetics, “the body again becomes phenomenal.” The ramifications of Simic’s opinion that Creeley “ends up espousing is a form of solipsism which holds that the primary reality for the self is the mind and its sole truth is the immediate and unshared experience that occurs there” does not go unnoticed by Silliman:


With a single word, solipsism, Simic dismisses the broader phenomenological tradition into which Creeley’s work fits. For what it’s worth, Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty all refuted this same equation (their point being that phenomenology doesn’t cancel out descriptive objectivity, but rather fixes depiction very close to the observer) but it’s a position that continues to pop up in the literature.


Only at times does Simic sound akin to a neoliberal who bemoans the historical fact of Abstract Expressionism, but despite any slippery tone, he does, indeed, misrepresent the work in unproductive ways. Creeley could very well speak of his own work when, in praise of Ed Dorn, he writes that “the range and explicit register of Edward Dorn’s ability to feel how it actually is to be human, in a given place and time, is phenomenal” (Collected Essays 169). And it is such affectivity and sensation—actual experience in spatiotemporal contexts or environments—that engages Creeley.


In 1955, Duncan visited Creeley in Majorca. “I can remember riding in this trolley and Robert looking at me and saying with that crazy smile,” recalls Creeley, “‘You’re not interested in history, are you?’ I thought, well yeah, I’m interested in history, buy yes, as you say, I’m not interested in it decisively as a way of learning” (The Special View of History 6). Creeley’s work, by and large, bears out such a statement. What was Creeley interested in “as a way of learning,” then?



Belly’s full
of rubble.

(Collected Poems I 624)


We can either read this complete form as a solipsist jotting, or we can consider the phenomenological function at work here. Anyone who has ever written anything knows that such an experience of sickness calls attention to itself, so much so, at times, that one’s proprioceptive faculties are heavily involved in the task of determining one’s physical status. One is informed, in due course, that one feels almost too ill to write. In such a situation, Creeley’s task as a writer is at one with the physical circumstances of writing. The extended description of logical cause is forgone in the light of negative capability. It does not matter whether such illness stems from either bad fish, or a bad review. The brevity of form arises not from habit, but from a specific occasion of phenomenological knowing by an “actual, willful man” (The Special View of History 16).


“A time denies itself in thinking of time — the place is a similar escape if it be left there, and not used,” writes Creeley in “The Release,” “It is a theme of use, and how one can come to fix on any thing some signal of his own existence” (Collected Essays 31). In “Sick,” Creeley’s inner attention is focused on the literal thing of himself. Later in his collection Away, Creeley writes in “Than I”: “The months, years, / / enclose me as / this thing with arms / and legs” (Collected I 606). The “I” does not indicate the philosophical ego of the lyric tradition, as Simic is so ready to assume, but rather, to borrow a phrase from Whitehead, the “brute fact” of “some signal of his own existence.” When faced with such signals, the problem is how to relay measure in the emergent event of writing sans a priori forms of organization.


Which leads us to an interesting notion if we take the title of Thirty Things into account. They are, indeed, thirty emergent forms or structures of activity. The writer and the written are the same kinds of things. The question of formalization turns on the field of relations—not as reference points but as articulations—between such things or objects to each other. It is this point, among others, that Simic entirely misses when he accuses Creeley of solipsism, which leads him to critique Pieces:


American poetry is full of daybooks, poets who report everything they see and think and who keep doing the same thing for years, but they usually pay better attention to what goes on around them than he does, filling their poems with nicely observed details and memorable stories. Not Creeley. He doesn’t gossip, doesn’t confess secrets, doesn’t have a rich imaginative life, doesn’t write about nature or cities, and has nothing to say about history.


American poetry is indeed “full of daybooks,” but American poetry — and criticism — are also filled with what Harry Frankfurt accurately terms well-developed programs of producing bullshit (On Bullshit 51). At bottom, Simic’s complaint suggests to us that Robert Creeley is not cut from the same cloth as Robert Lowell:


When we were children our papas were stout
And colorless as seaweed or the floats
At anchor off New Bedford. We were shut
In gardens where our brassy sailor coats
Made us like black-eyed susans bending out
Into the ocean. Then my teeth were cut:
A leveled broom-pole butt
Was pushed into my thin
And up-turned chin —
There were shod hoofs behind the horseplay. But
I played Napoleon in my attic cell
Until my shouldered broom
Bobbed down the room
With horse and neighing shell.

(“Buttercups” 24)


Lord Weary’s Castle is difficult to term a “daybook,” but Simic’s aesthetic requirements squarely profess a neoliberal agenda. As he himself shrewdly points out, “there is always a theory,” and his amounts to that of the literati: an ethos awash with bathos. The “filling” of poems or forms “with nicely observed details and memorable stories” requires, in the main, a Platonically underwritten romantic imagination that ruminates over a subordinated earth in the logocentric name of progress. This has been common knowledge for nearly sixty years. Simic is right to say that “form is not an abstract idea” — not always already, anyway — but the “filling” to which he refers indicates as much.


Form, as it turns out, proves an abstraction built upon the premises of organization rather than those of diction. And organization is the activity of abstraction itself. Lowell negotiates with standard grammar and elides the proper construction of “as colorless as” to maintain the pentameter: “And cólorléss as séaweed ór the flóats.” Such are the immediate issues for a writer of Lowell’s aptitudes, that is, of one who understands abstraction in the traditional terms of generalization, rather than in terms of particularization.


To say that form is never more than an extension of content is as much to say that forms are understood as emergent events, wherein abstraction amounts to the particularities of organization. It is also to say that poems are, indeed, written in a formal situation of emergency, squarely situated within the problematic of control. Among other figures, Lowell employs what rhetoricians term pragmatographia, or the mere description of action or event, which Puttenham records in his Arte of English Poesie (1589). Of course, what happens in the English Renaissance does not always stay in the English Renaissance.


In 1978, Duncan writes uncommonly of Creeley. The opening paragraphs of “After For Love” speak cogently about Creeley’s voicings, but Duncan soon touches upon his core point. “It was not only in order to trace Creeley’s style that I referred to his concern with Dante’s sonnet addressing Guido,” Duncan writes, “I had in mind also Creeley’s continued association of the poet with the Tuscan tradition and, further, his ever-returning subjects, the hero and love, with the cult of Amor, and back of that with a line of poet love-heroes” (236). His read of Creeley’s For Love is powerful, especially of “The Whip.” Duncan reads “another woman” as a powerful imaginative construct informed by, but not equal to, a troubadour aesthetic. On the other hand, Simic characterizes “The Whip” as a poem about an “invariably screwed-up relationship”: “This is love poetry of constant self-doubt, of guilty feelings, both real and imaginary, that, at least in this one poem, make for a nice bit of domestic comedy as the husband snoring away next to his wife dreams of another woman.” Simic reduces a quite serious line of poetics, the development of which we can trace across the entire history of Western culture, into “a nice bit of domestic comedy,” as though we were reading a Woody Allen script rather than a poetics informed through Pound. As Duncan notes — and rightly, I think — “old orders of feeling are brought into his own new orders” by the poetics of For Love . How to control such “orders of feeling” is at issue.


Simic states flatly that “Creeley is not an erotic poet. He has more in common with poets of courtly love than with Ovid or Catullus, who wrote explicitly about the naked body.” Although we can argue the biases of eroticisms here, I propose we locate the erotic in Creeley’s vernacularity and, simply, in the sensitivities of his attention — not only to the tradition of which Duncan speaks and to the formal intricacies of the poems, but also to affectivity and sensation. Consider this section of “The Woman,” in Words:


I have compounded
these sensations, the
accumulation of the things
left me by you.
Always your
tits, not breasts, but
harsh sudden rises
of impatient flesh
on the chest — is it
mine — which flower
against the vagueness
of the air you move in.

(Collected Poems I 291)


Catullus roll over, but one has no fundamental need to “eroticize language” and write “explicitly about the naked body” with descriptive figures to write an erotic poem. Creeley’s ear is so tuned to the physicality of language itself that the “harsh sudden” rise of the vernacular “tits” is of the right register in this particular instance. Creeley’s uncommon ear is able to control the very shift of the poem into “not breasts,” which leads him to qualify his own hearing as well as question both propriety and property with the dashed-off interjection of “is it / mine.” Description is eschewed for the immediacy of the physical act itself, not simply of writing, but of the experience of “sensations, the / accumulation of the things” by “The Woman” who is particular yet left unnamed. And by “things,” the poem does not suggest a phallic silver bullet of red-tipped lipstick left on one’s nightstand, but rather sensations themselves.


In his 1986 review of John Wieners’ Selected Poems, 1958-1984, Creeley speaks at length about process:


The poetry of John Wieners has an exceptionally human beauty—as if there ever were any other. There is in it such a commonness of phrase and term, such a substantial fact of a daily life transformed by the articulateness of his feelings and the intensity of the inexorable world that is forever out there waiting for any one of us. Charles Olson spoke of it as “a poetry of affect,” by which I took him to mean a poetry that is the process of a life being lived, literally, as Keats’ was, or Hart Crane’s, or Olson’s own.

(Collected Essays 183)


Creeley aptly titles this review “How Is It Far If You Think It?” So far as I can see, he takes the phrase from Pisan Cantos, which Pound repeats throughout the poem. Duncan notices the poetic routes that Creeley’s For Love travels, as we have seen, and Pound’s question here reiterated speaks specifically to the phenomenon of sensory data affectively energized. And I stress reiterated. Pound may have intuited the salability of information, for instance, but he was unaware of its potential importance in the development of a cosmology. Creeley is quite aware of information, however:


The you imagined locates
the response. Like turning
a tv dial. The message,
as one says, is information,
a form of energy. The wisdom
of the ages is “electrical” impulse.

(Collected Poems I 496)


What Olson calls “a poetry of affect,” which Creeley ultimately uses to speak of the sympathies between his own work and that of Wieners, deals specifically with the possible relationships between matter, energy, and information, out of which emerge the “intensity of the inexorable world” which is itself “a poetry that is the process of a life being lived.” In In London, “The you imagined” is itself information that arises coextensively with an affective state, which has everything to do with not only biorhythms, but also the emergent arrangement of those rhythms into a structure by way of the precise articulations that breath powers. In this sense, we can recall Creeley on the subtle attentions of Ed Dorn. “Charles Olson used to speak of Edward Dorn’s Elizabethan care for the sound of syllables,” Creeley writes, “That is, he was very respectful of this poet’s ability to make every edge of the sound in words articulate” (Collected Essays 168). Such articulations are not so much a matter of elocution, but rather one of information. From this perspective, we focus upon sound as an articulatory event, wherein attentions are tuned to, say, changes in respiratory patterns rather than the strictly communicative and thus strictly social elements of the text.


Interestingly, Olson discusses articulatory events in “Quantity in Verse, and Shakespeare’s Late Plays.” He suggests that speech rhythms measure or quantify affective variations in the articulatory event of poetic structure, which has nothing to do with the regularization of syllable counts or ideal iambic patterns. In this sense, Olson and Creeley both understand communication as that which extends and thus serves as the control of formal articulatory events. Consider Olson’s “The Kingfishers”:


We can be precise. The factors are
in the animal and/or the machine the factors are
communication and/or control, both involve
the message. And what is the message? The message is
a discrete or continuous sequence of measurable events distributed in time

(Collected Poems 90)


Despite the apparent echoes of Marshall McLuhan’s infamous observation that the medium is the message, Olson draws upon the opening passages of Norbert Wiener’s Cybernetics, in which he defines the message: “a discrete or continuous sequence of measurable events distributed in time—precisely what is called a time series by the statisticians. The prediction of the future of a message is done by some sort of operator on its past, whether this operator is realized by a scheme of mathematical computation, or by a mechanical or electrical apparatus” (8-9). Wiener coined the term “cybernetics,” which he derived from the Greek kubernetes, or “steersman.” From the end of World War II, Wiener worked to elaborate a theory of messages and from this work arose information theory. The distributed series of measurable events in time can also serve as a general definition for the activity of writing, which Olson clearly understood. In the case of Lowell’s early work, to measure is to quite literally subordinate the decision making process to a set of general laws foreign to the occasion of writing itself. Olson observes Wiener’s attempt to define a set of general laws for emergent decisions, and this is what draws him to the work, for in such emergency, one needs to know what to do. Wiener arrives at this question through the problem of feedback or, as he says, “the property of being able to adjust future conduct by past performance” (Human Use 33). The writer of projective verse must steer for themselves and, to do so, s/he must base future decisions on those of the past.


We have, indeed, already seen a series of measured events that occur based on past decisions in “The Woman” (“Always your / tits, not breasts, but / harsh sudden rises / of impatient flesh // on the chest — is it / mine — ”), wherein the formation of a syntax depends upon previous decisions of organization. In this sense, the poem is not a record of a priori knowledge. As with the final stanza of “Memory” — in fact, the final stanza in Memory Gardens as a collection such forms radically depend on their human source: “Only us then / remember, discover, / still can care for / the human” (86). To “care for” existence is not merely a matter of recollection, but, more important, the constitution of continued attentions premised upon past events. In Creeley’s work, ontological crises must answer to the heurism that form is never more than an extension of content.


In his overview of American poetics, Kenneth Rexroth locates “the beginning of a great change” in postwar milieu. He suggests that this radical change occurred coextensively in the visual arts, wherein the artwork was “no longer a picture of something, but a painted surface, an object in its own right” (American Poetry 160). Not only had the status of representation changed, but the status of the object had changed as well. Art was “no longer a picture of something” other than the processual rendering of its own status as a surfaced object. The classical tradition understood the subject as radically referential and, as Rexroth suggests, postwar art formalized this referential subject. One no longer exegetically read a given poem, as one was wont to do with, say, the work of either Robert Frost or Robert Lowell.


In a discussion of Willem de Kooning, Calvin Tompkins recalls that “[d]oubt, uncertainty, contradiction, the emphasis on becoming rather than being, on process rather than completion, on the journey rather than the arrival—this is the intellectual climate of de Kooning’s Abstract Expressionism, and of one whole area of modern art as well” (Post- to Neo- 135). This “whole area of modern art,” to which Tompkins directly speaks, displaces strictly ontological crises in light of formalization as emergent activity. Such “[d]oubt, uncertainty, contradiction” — the very stuff of Keats’ negative capability — speak to such emergency.


In his introduction to Olson’s Selected Writings, Creeley notes that Valéry, in The Art of Poetry, speaks of the lyric mode of poetry as that which realizes content and form in simultaneity. He goes on to point out that Olson extends this concept to “all occasions of writing in verse” (7-8). As Creeley suggests, Valéry was generally unaware of the writing potentials for such a concept. He also failed to articulate the concept of deep structure as an activity of knowing in an organismal sense. On this point, we should recall Creeley’s thoughts on the problem of referentiality, thoughts that tie directly into Olson’s elaboration of form as extensive of content: “Meaning is not importantly referential. Reference may well prove relevant — but I can make myself clearer by quoting a sense of meaning which Olson used at the Berkeley Poetry Conference this past summer (1965): That which exists through itself is what is called the meaning” (9). In “From NOTES ON THE STRUCTURE OF RIME Done for Warren Tillman SPRING 1961,” Duncan also elaborates the concept in an articulation of “content,” “affect,” “message” and “invention”:


In the true poem, it is a poetic or creational passion that presides. The heart, the brain, the nervous system — that tree of immediate, intricately branching, correlations thruout the body — the visceral, deep inward, tonal condition, are united in one governance in that passion from which all the projected field of “content” and “affect”, of “message” and of “invention”, arises as the living body or form, the very poem of that always particular, always urgent, always unique demand that a poetry come into existence. Is it into the lungs that this whole intelligence comes into the pre-literate?

(Maps 6 46)


As I have attempted to show throughout this discussion, the “message” of a given form is, indeed, formal activity. Words are understood as radically physical things — neither in the sense of Austin’s acts of speech, nor in Vološinov’s sense of the sign as materially spoken — but rather as emergent events that are bodily extensive. In his introduction, Creeley cites Jackson Pollock: “When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about” (7). To what, one asks, does a Pollock painting refer? It refers to nothing outside of itself, which, as we recall, Rexroth suggests when he observes that postwar artwork — in terms of both painting and poetry — was “no longer a picture of something, but a painted surface, an object in its own right.” When Olson writes in “Projective Verse” of “objects which occur at every given moment of composition,” we can take “objects” as meaning “words.” It is upon Duncan’s question regarding the “pre-literate” that this problem of linguistics surely turns.


In his outstanding study Orality and Literacy, Walter Ong argues that preliterate oral cultures generally share a radically different notion of sound than those of us who live in a textualized world. He explains: “Sound cannot be sounding without the use of power. A hunter can see a buffalo, smell, taste, and touch a buffalo when the buffalo is completely inert, even dead, but if he hears a buffalo, he had better watch out: something is going on. In this sense, all sound, and especially oral utterance, which comes from inside living organisms, is ‘dynamic’” (32). Ong does not speak of a Foucauldian conceptualization of power, wherein the human being is understood as a site of institutionally specific power relations. The sound of words are vigorous, dynamic, life-affirming events. “Deeply typographic folk forget to think of words as primarily oral, as events, and hence as necessarily powered: for them, words tend rather to be assimilated to things, ‘out there’ on a flat surface,” Ong explains, “Such ‘things’ are not so readily associated with magic, for they are not actions, but are in a radical sense dead, though subject to dynamic resurrection” (32-33).


Creeley’s work faces the difficulty of such a grammatological death. From as early on as The Charm, he announces to us that “I am held by my fear of death / I am deadened with it” (Collected 49). Olson’s proposition that writing could draw upon the resources of preliterate oral traditions as well as the contemporary technology of the typewriter did not go unnoticed by Creeley, who understands the affective registers of sound in the dynamic urgency of emergence. The physiologically produced sound affirms life. Words are not “assimilated to things,” as Ong points out. Rather, a word is at once a sound and an object. There is no referential discrepancy between the sound of “swan” and the living creature:


Peculiar that swan should mean a sound?
I’d thought of gods and power, and wounds.
But here in the curious quiet this one has settled down.

(“The Swan,” Life and Death 82)


“That which exists through itself is what is called the meaning,” Creeley points out, which Olson discovered in Richard Wilhem’s translation of The Secret of the Golden Flower. Sounds are activities that construct autoreferential meaning. Such a view is indeed peculiar, but as Ong suggests, we are “deeply typographic folk” who tend to overlook the power of sound and attendant rhythmicity. That which exists through itself suggests the peculiar, however, in the way of singularity:


There are no words I know
tell where to go and how,
or how to get back again
from wherever one’s been.
They don’t keep directions
as tacit information.
Years of doing this and that
stay in them, yet apart.
As if words were things,
like anything. Like this one —
s i n g l e —
sees itself so.

(Later 116)


We are not so distant from Thirty Things, wherein each structure of knowledge — each poem — exists through itself in its particularity. Words “don’t keep directions / as tacit information,” Creeley says. What are we to make of such a statement? As structures themselves, words are not intrinsically referential. In other words, there is nothing natural about referentiality. That which is tacit or implicit is not affected by doubt or uncertainty; in other words, directionality is not absolute. “If there is any absolute,” Olson says in “Human Universe,” “it is never more than this one, this instant, in action” (Collected Prose 157). In this singular sense, “in action” suggests the deep structure of articulatory sound as event, in which the anticipatory intuition of the human ear is paramount. Edmund Carpenter : “Literate peoples experience sound as if it were visible: they listen to music. Nonliterates merge with music. Far from being detached, they become involved participants, immersing themselves totally in it” (37). Recall Pollock: “I am in my painting.” Similarly, Creeley is in his writing. The deep structure of sound becomes an environment that one inhabits without the ostensible assurance of habitual a priori metrics. “Not language paints,” Creeley says, but the breath that “breaks the heart when it / stops” (Life and Death 41). The power of sound articulates a radically affective and emergent life.


Simic writes that “Creeley thought that what defines our poetry is the prototypical American proclivity since Whitman and Dickinson for speaking in the name of an extraordinary single self, which nevertheless feels itself to be representative.” Representative, certainly, but only of one particular life in activity. The articulation of form as extensive of content never limited Creeley in the way that Simic suggests. Even in the later poems of Life and Death that tend toward some metrical regularity with rhyme employed (I recall, specifically, the sequenced “Inside My Head”) the notion that form is never more than an extension of content does not prove a “dead end.” The examples of rhyme throughout Creeley’s lifework are simply too numerous to catalogue here, but suffice it to say that the proposition of the iamb in the later poems does not squarely equal that of the classical literary tradition. Creeley’s ear has so tuned itself to his own use of accentual arrangements that the simple rhythms, when powered, are far more variegated than a scanning eye can evidence. In the full sequence of “Inside My Head,” as elsewhere, the forms are affectively active, although perhaps calmer than the early poems of For Love. In Creeley’s late work, the man is still very much alive.

Works Cited

Bell, Daniel. The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting. 1973. New York: Basic Books, 1976.

Carpenter, Edmund. Oh What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me. New York: Bantam, 1974.

Creeley, Robert. The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

———. The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.

———. Later. New York: New Directions, 1979.

———. Life and Death. New York: New Directions, 1998.

———. Memory Gardens. New York: New Directions, 1986.

———. Robert Creeley: Lannan Literary Videos. No. 19. Dirs. Lewis MacAdams and John Dorr. Lannan Foundation, 1990.

Deleuze, Gilles. “Postscript on the Societies of Control.” October. Vol. 59 (Winter 1992): 3-7.

Duncan, Robert. “After For Love.” boundary 2. 6.3 (Spring-Autumn 1978): 233-240.

———.“From NOTES ON THE STRUCTURE OF RIME Done for Warren Tillman SPRING 1961.” Maps 6. Ohio: Lawhead Press, 1974.

Frankfurt, Harry. On Bullshit. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Lowell, Robert. Lord Weary’s Castle / The Mills of the Kavanaughs. New York: Harcourt, 1974.

Olson, Charles. “The Art of Poetry: Charles Olson.” Interview w/ Gerard Malanga. The Paris Review. 12 (1970): 1-30.

———. Charles Olson: Selected Writings. Ed. Robert Creeley. New York: New Directions, 1967.

———. The Collected Poems of Charles Olson. Ed. George Butterick. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

———. Collected Prose: Charles Olson. Eds. Donald Allen and Benjamin Friedlander. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

———. The Special View of History. Ed. Ann Charters. Berkeley: Oyez, 1970.

Ong, Walter J. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the World. New York: Routledge, 1982.

Pound, Ezra. The Pisan Cantos. Ed. Richard Sieburth. New York: New Directions, 2003.

———. Selected Prose: 1909-1965. Ed. William Cookson. New York: New Directions, 1973.

Rexroth, Kenneth. American Poetry in the Twentieth Century. New York: Herder and Herder, 1971.

Silliman, Ron. Editorial. Silliman’s Blog: A Weblog Focused on Contemporary Poetry and Poetics 23 Oct. 2007, 23 Nov. 2007 <>.

Simic, Charles. “The Cat Went Out For Good,” The New York Review of Books (online) 54:16, 25 Oct. 2007, 23 Nov. 2007 <>.

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———. The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society. 1954. Boston: De Capo Press, 1988.

Christopher Rizzo

Christopher Rizzo

Christopher Rizzo is a writer and publisher who lives in Albany, New York. Over the years, his work has appeared in Art New England, The Cultural Society, Cannibal, Dusie, Effing Magazine, Process, and Spell among many other publications, both in print and online. He is the author of several chapbooks, such as Claire Obscure (Katalanché Press), Zing (Carve Editions), The Breaks (Fewer & Further Press), and a collaborative poem written with poet Jess Mynes, Full on Jabber (Martian Press). In 2008, Ungovernable Press released Supposed to Sound, BlazeVox Books released Playing the Amplitudes, and Greying Ghost Press released Naturalistless, a short sequence of sound poems inspired by the landscape of Ithaca, NY. Recently, Christopher won a Best of the Web award from Dzanc books for his poem “Zone,” which appeared in the Best of the Web 2008 anthology. He is also the longtime editor of Anchorite Press, an independent poetry publisher of innovative writing. Currently, he is a University at Albany doctoral candidate in English. His dissertation, Pound / Olson: Avant-garde Poetics and the Ethics of Radical Emergence, argues that American avant-garde poetry developed formal possibilities that broke with the doctrine of the embodiment of the Word in the flesh on the one hand and, on the other, the modern secular doctrine of the embodiment of meaning in the material marks of language.

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