By any measure—international reputation, influence upon fellow writers and later generations, number of books published, scholarly and critical attention—Robert Creeley (1926–2005) is a literary giant, an outstanding, irreplaceable poet. For many decades readers have remarked upon the almost harrowing emotional nakedness of Creeley’s writing. In the years since his death, it may be that the disappearance of the writer allows that nakedness to be observed more readily and without embarrassment.
Written by the foremost critics of his poetry, Form, Power, and Person in Robert Creeley’s Life and Work is the first book to treat Creeley’s career as a whole. Masterfully edited by Stephen Fredman and Steve McCaffery, the essays in this collection have been gathered into three parts. Those in “Form” consider a variety of characteristic formal qualities that differentiate Creeley from his contemporaries. In “Power,” writers reflect on the pressure exerted by emotions, gender issues, and politics in Creeley’s life and work. In “Person,” Creeley’s unique artistic and psychological project of constructing a person—reflected in his correspondence, teaching, interviews, collaborations, and meditations on the concept of experience—is excavated. While engaging these three major topics, the authors remain, as Creeley does, intent upon the ways such issues appear in language, for Creeley’s nakedness is most conspicuously displayed in his intimate relationship with words.
Rachel Blau DuPlessis