Cynthia Dubin Edelberg: On "The Flower"

Creeley wrote most of the poems of For Love Part 2 in response to the disordering collapse of his first marriage. Taken together, these self-analytic poems evidence his need to sort the confusions. Creeley finds there is nothing outside himself he can really depend on. It is not that he rejects everything and everyone but that he comes to realize he is essentially on his own. "The Flower," the most memorable lyric in Part 2, conveys that sense of seemingly endless, all-pervasive emotional pain which temporarily qualifies Creeley's smug posture in his earlier poetry:

[. . .]

The poet's meditation takes place in an isolated wood, a personalized place of self-consciousness. Each flower embodies his pain and, by growing, naturally adds to his burden. The poem pits the lonely victim's endurance against his vulnerability and, in the final stanza, suggests his capacity to sustain exquisite misery, perfect in its completeness and intensity. Although the last lines do not find him counting buttons on a hangman's coat as Monsieur Teste would, they do testify to his verbal stamina in the face of anxiety which executes itself and perpetuates itself with artless delicacy, as represented by the flower. At the same time, the evil flower, in the tradition of Baudelaire, corresponds to his "inward life," and John Constable's description of Creeley's best poems in For Love is relevant here:

Creeley's best poems inhabit that area of tension between the inward life of an individual and the outward world of objects, the 'inner and outer weather' of Frost's famous poem. . . . or the design suggested by Pound, a recording of 'the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and subjective.'"

In many poems in this section Creeley focuses on "that area of tension between the inward life of an individual and the outward world of objects." He measures "outward" expectation against personally experienced actuality in an effort to explain to himself, and incidentally to us, what went wrong with his marriage.

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Title Cynthia Dubin Edelberg: On "The Flower" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Cynthia Dubin Edelberg Criticism Target Robert Creeley
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 06 Jul 2021
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Robert Creeley’s Poetry: A Critical Introduction
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