November 1998

John Cotter Book Review

Buy this book So There; Poems 1976-1983
by Robert Creeley 


New Directions, Nov. 1998
Our Price: $11.96  ~ You Save: $2.99 (20%)

With an abundance of personal pronouns, Bob Creeley returns to the scene of the crime with his latest book, So There. It contains the collected poems between '76 and '83; and my first thought upon revisiting these poems was how much Creeley's style has progressed in 20 years. I want to say that the progression is one in which his work gains weight, becomes a little more prosy (if that is possible for him!) But getting back, So There provides some classic Creeley moments:

Do I want to fuck
or eat?
No problem
There's a telephone.

Ignoring the Aristotelian notion of a beginning, middle and end, in the poem "Palmerston North," Creeley brings us to the meat of the poem, or, better yet, the heart of the matter, as only he does so well:

I know what you'd say
If I could ask you.
But I'm tired of it.
no word, nothing again

Creeley, the Black Mountain answer to the prose-poem, is most economical in describing the scene in New Zealand as well as the narrator's thoughts. Almost too good at times as the rhythm may make the poem move fast enough that a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th reading may be required to truly digest what he is saying. There's a ton of emotion here. Poems like "Wellington," "Love" and so forth at the beginning seem to capture, distill and preserve the moment. As well, the opening poems work as a unit. The poems—read together—form a context in which one gains a clearer picture of the whole self that is being evaluated, scorned, loved and calmed. At least the way I read it.

—John Cotter


John Cotter: Book Review Robert Creeley
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