Original poem reprinted online here: "For Love" By Robert Creeley
Originally read: April 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: Robert Creeley
This poem. This poem in particular is very tough to analyze for me. There's a lot of techniques like: ambiguous pronouns, syntax, misdirection, rhetorical reasonings and questions, time shifts, tone shifts, precise images, high conceptual language, etc. that it's hard for me to pin down because I want to write about everything. But I need to get this done for my own sanity and moving forward. .
So the poem is one of the first well known poems of Robert Creeley which has a lot of influence in minimalism, which, in theory, doesn't give superfluous details and goes to the core right away. So when I read these quatrains and saw the restrictions, I thought to myself how controlled and precise the poem should be.
This is the wrong way to look at the poem after reading this several times. The quatrains doesn't serve to contain the poem, rather, the quatrains serve as a road to stream-of-consciousness thought where the reader sees the speaker muse over love and go back and forth.
However, the back and forth doesn't occur precisely. In the first four stanzas, the subject is referred to as "it" : "Yesterday I wanted to / speak of it," "I know derives from / what it teaches me," " what is it that / is finally so helpless" "despairs of its own statement" Note how the speaker doesn't speak of "it" and rather places "it" as a personified concept that the speaker wants to speak of/learns from/observes/ and watches fall.
Yet, when the concept tries to turn to an image, "If the moon did not ... / no if you did not." The specific image turns into a concept of "you." the assumption here is that of "Bobbie" but not necessarily. Also in this stanza not that the movement s are parallel in other ways as well: turning the precise in to concept, following the same negation "if you did not / I wouldn't either" which goes forward and back, "That is love yesterday / or tomorrow, not / now"
So here is what interests me on about the line I quote d above, "now" is in the the present tense, but also the poem is in the present tense. The conception construction (as past me calls it) only happens in the now but can be names as a form of nostalgia (past) or a desire (future) -- now is unclear.
I feel this line, "Now love also / becomes a reward / so remote from me I have / only made it with my mind" brings not only various levels of self references, but also plays with the idea of "now" turning inward as a mental state. Now eventually becomes thought out and either becomes the past (remote from me) or the future (reward) but not now...now. I'm worried this will get too convoluted, so I'll just leave this here and move on.
There's some powerful rhetoric against image, "But that image / is only of the mind's / vague structure." The irony of this line is that the poem is restructuring the image of "love" -- giving love a form (quatrains) to run straight to, personification to make love vivid but the things that are missing are tangible. Actions aren't necessarily visible, "vague to me / because it is my own."
After this line the speaker addresses love directly, "Love, what do I think / to say I cannot say it." Past me wrote down, "trying to take the conceptual to the image -- which turns surreal." The images to me at this half way mark are domestic and trivial at first, "crossed legs with skirt," and (due to the either/or proposition) the statement after the or will be further examined in the rest of the stanzas, "or / soft body under / the bones of the bed." A very surreal and gothic image, after reading this line a few times, the line because more of a joke than something serious. The image is indeed serious, but in the context of the poem it's more of the mind not being to comprehend the physicality of love and going "bare."
"Goes back to the conceptual but to the idea of the remote again" I write this when the speaker states, "Nothing says anything / but that which it wishes / would come true." Once again this circular logic of trying to define the undefinable.
Until this line, "but the obsession I begin with now." This line is the second time the poem addresses the now and one of the qualities of "now" is obsession. This perpetual though of trying to define the past or future in accordance of what love is. Then there's the line which is syntactically interesting "also (also). Past me wrote the second also is litotes because of the parentheses; however, the litotes softens the movements -- this also slows down the poem and the focus is on the "beyond" which "it all returns."
Note the ambiguous pronoun "it" returns to the last line signifying this cycle of trying to define the past and the future will continue -- so what is the understanding from the poem -- the cycle (not necessarily the process), and terms almost defined.