Robert Creeley

Robert Creeley

Robert Creeley was considered one of the most influential American poets until his death in 2005. He was born in Arlington, Massachusetts in 1926. Before he was five years old, he lost the use of one of his eyes in an accident and his father died due to a heart attack. Harvard admitted Creeley in 1943, but he dropped out in 1944. Later, Creeley returned to school and graduated from the University of New Mexico. The tragedies of his early childhood influences Robert Creeley's use of emotion and dark tone in his poems.



He wants to be

a brutal old man,

an aggressive old man,

as dull, as brutal

as the emptiness around him,

He doesn't want compromise,

nor to be ever nice

to anyone. Just mean,

and final in his brutal,

his total, rejection of it all.

He tried the sweet,

the gentle, the “oh,

let’s hold hands together”

and it was awful,

dull, brutally inconsequential.

Now he’ll stand on

his own dwindling legs.

His arms, his skin,

shrink daily. And

he loves, but hates equally.

Self-Portrait is about a man growing old and not being able to accept his loneliness. The speaker wants to act "brutal" (line 2) and "aggressive" (line 3) to deal with the "emptiness around him" (line 5) that he is feeling. He does not want to compromise on these characteristics, as he states in stanza two; the man feels as if his aggressiveness is a response appropriate to how he was treated by life. When the speaker describes "his own dwindling legs" (line 17), he is describing how he feels as if the loneliness that he is feeling is continuing to damage him. A key sentence is found in the last two lines: "And he loves, but hates equally" (line 19-20). Despite the man's angry response to how the world treated him, he cannot help feeling love sometimes, no matter how much he tries to avoid it.




Two major themes in Creeley's Self-Portrait are loneliness and love. Throughout the poem, the speaker describes aggressive feelings that the individual has towards the world and the feeling of "emptiness around him" (line 5). These feelings represent loneliness and emptiness. However, this poem also has a contrasting theme: love. The speaker describes that the man cannot help but to feel love even though he only wants to be angry towards the world out of his loneliness. This can be seen in the final two lines, where the speaker states, "And he loves, but hates equally" (line 19-20). Despite the speaker's emptiness and loneliness, he cannot help feeling love towards people and wanting to build relationships.
When I Think by Robert Creeley
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