cover image On Earth: Last Poems and an Essay

On Earth: Last Poems and an Essay

Robert Creeley, . . Univ. of California, $21.95 (89pp) ISBN 978-0-520-24791-8

Creeley, who died last year at 78, is among the American masters born in the 1920s, a generation that includes John Ashbery and Adrienne Rich. This slim volume, filled out with the cogent essay "Reflections on Whitman in Age," presents 31 poems of varying quality, from bad to sublime, and is a fitting final volume for a poet of relentless experimentation and major achievement. A jingly piece of antiwar propaganda, "Help!" seems specifically designed for those who aren't regular readers of verse, while "Caves," the longest poem in the volume, meanders. But in addresses to poets like John Wieners, Paul Blackburn and Ed Dorn, Creeley attains a loose intimacy that feels like friendship, and the final "Valentine for You," here in its entirety, is likely to be as associated with Creeley as "Crossing the Bar" is with Tennyson: "Where from, where to / the thought to do—// Where with, whereby / the means themselves now lie—// Wherefor, wherein / such hopes of reconciling heaven// Even the way is changed/ without you, even the day." (Apr.)