Julie Pavlick

ENGL 871

Dr. Sherwood

Robert Creeley

Occasional Verse
Miriam Nichols is the author of this chapter, which is located in Modern and Contemporary Poetics: Radical Affections: Essays on the Poetics of Outside. This chapter is thought-provoking because although it focuses very much on Creeley’s work, there is a certain amount of Creeley’s personal life/views that are offered as well. She introduces the piece with reference to Creeley’s detestation of the Vietnam War, and how his poetry exhibited the cultural trauma that he had experienced. Nichols also uses many references to Creeley’s colleague, Charles Olson, to compare styles of writing and artistic influence. She seems to parallel the two poets in order to show a distinct relation between the two, which is inherently true due to their involvement in The Black Mountain College in North Carolina.
Nichols suggests the Creeley’s work focuses on many different aspects of poetry, and she states that his main project is “the articulation of an ‘image of ‘man that proposes ‘specific witness’ at the mundane level of personhood” (66). Through the close analysis of many poems, Nichols succeeds in demonstrating the accuracy of the previous statement. Nichols references several pieces of Creeley’s work to appease even the most fickle of critics, and in doing so does not only give a thorough analysis of Creeley’s work, but also gives a well-constructed examination of poetry as well.

One of Creeley’s terms that Nichols brings to attention is occasional. She describes it as “A poetry of occasion is one in which the poet is ventured from moment to moment—in which he himself literally comes to pass” (67). She furthers this explanation by saying, “the poet has to be both receptive and participatory if he is to move beyond the orders of habit and assigned identities into active self-fashioning” (67). This idea of the occasional is important in Creeley’s work because he is suggesting that that the poet must be invested in not only the social aspect of his being, but also recognize the individuality that makes a person unique. In doing so, it falls within the category of poetry that Creeley and Olson find so stimulating, especially Creeley’s use of “emotional states and perceptual experience” (67).

Another interesting aspect of Creeley’s work that is addressed in the chapter is the issue of place. Place is something that is foundational within all types of literature, and Creeley has an interesting view on what this means in terms of his own poetry. Nichols explains, “…place is a sequence rather than a geographical immediacy” (70). This idea of place is viewed as an aspect in time, instead of location (70). This is one of the most interesting aspects of the piece, and should it be discussed more, could render a rich discussion within the classroom.

Key Terms:




-Creeley as poet of Tao



-Basic English


1. Nichols says, “Creeley is famous for painful, stuttering self-examination…” (68). In which poems do we see this statement ring true? Do you like the “self-examination,” or do you find it displeasing and out of the ordinary?
2. Nichols says that Creeley is more “congenial than Olson to next-generation language writers.” Do you believe this true?
3. Creeley’s idea of place- where do we see this in our readings for this week?
4. “Olson writes on an epic scale, Creeley on the lyric” (71). What do we make of this statement?