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On "For Love"

Cynthia Edleberg

In For Love’s title poem, dedicated to his second wife, Creeley tries to make a definitive statement about love. He attempts to gather his thoughts together as this hesitant sounding passage, full of the unsaid, suggests:

It the moon did not . . .
no, if you did not
I wouldn't either, but
what would I not

do, what prevention, what
thing so quickly stopped.
That is love yesterday
or tomorrow, not

now. . . .

He is determined to understand love because all he knows "derives/ from what it teaches" him. Yet, he concludes, his thoughts are "vague." He is unable to make a statement about love which is both valid and useful to him. The central point is that he takes responsibility for his failure. . . .

The poet, both victim and torturer (as he also presents himself in "The Plan"), agonizes over the possibility that love might be defined in such a way as to make its reality accessible and malleable. Unable to realize his ambition, he gives up the pursuit: "no/ mind left to// say anything at all." The final lines of "For Love" show the poet resigned to not-knowing: "Into the company of love/ it all returns."

From Robert Creeley’s Poetry: A Critical Introduction. Albuquerque: University of new Mexico Press, 1978. Copyright 1978 by University of New Mexico Press.

Arthur L. Ford

Even here in the company of love, doubts linger and will continue to linger. Nothing is certain for tomorrow, yesterday is gone, only the present moment is real; and, perhaps, just perhaps, that is enough. Almost as though he were consciously rejecting the goddess herself, he corrects his statement, "If the moon did not . . . / no, if you did not," the moon being another form of the goddess. The poet has committed himself to the woman, the physical and not the mythical woman. And the risks are great: "What is it that/ is finally so helpless,/ different, despairs of its own/ statement, wants to/ turn away, endlessly/ to turn away"; "Can I eat/ what you give me. I/ have not earned it"; "Love what do I think/ to say, I cannot say it." Nevertheless, effortlessly, the questions are answered or perhaps simply allowed to dissolve into irrelevancy: "Into the company of love/ it all returns." What appears to be a shallow conclusion is anything but that, because the poet has been through hell and has seen it all.

from Robert Creeley. Copyright 1978 by G. K. Hall & Co.

Robert Kern

Despite the fact, however, that Creeley, . . . speaks everywhere in his statements on poetics of the poem as a self-determining activity, of the poem that realizes itself in the poet's literal act of writing, it should also be clear that this is an ideal characterization of the text and of the creative process, and as such not often or at least not immediately accurate to what Creeley achieves in his actual poetic practice . . . .

One could go so far as to say that in his early work, Creeley might very well have been satisfied, emotionally if not theoretically, by the idea of the poem as a stay against confusion. As Charles Altieri implies in a detailed and comprehensive account of Creeley's poetic development, the quest that he undertakes and more or less accomplishes in For Love involves the pursuit of "a permanent peace outside the flux of time," a peace with love and the domestic conditions in which it both becomes possible and flourishes. The beautiful lyrics at the end of the book are grateful celebrations of "the company of love" (FL, 160) and of the sense of being "brought now home" (FL, 155) that it introduces into the poet's life. At long last, he feels himself to be beyond alienation and solipsism . . . .

Yet, as Altieri also points out, the resolution achieved in For Love is finally inadequate, and Creeley himself was soon to realize that "real peace must be found within, not beyond, the flux," a realization important not only for Creeley's development in terms of epistemological and emotional difficulties, but crucial also to his specific growth as a writer anxious to follow the imperatives of composition as recognition.

from "Composition as Recognition: Robert Creely and Postmodern Poetics." boundary 2 6:3 and 7:1 (Spring/Fall 1978).

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