From the time Creeley initiated his mimimalist phase, in the third section of Words , he explored the possibilities of a poetry based on the smallest, meticulously conceived formulae--or just a handful of carefully placed words--like ingeniously arranged integers, pieces, ciphers, etc.--until the late 1970's, when he resumed the more traditional, characteristic formalities of his earlier career in the volume Hello , which came out amongst a flurry of prose publications including the diary section of A Day Book , Contexts , Mabel , Presences , Was That a Real Poem . It seemed as if this winnowing, or applied concisions, in Pieces  had forced a reassessment of capability, under the pressure of an interest that had either gone dry, or had reached a logical conclusion in Thirty Things  (about which I have written earlier--see below).
Creeley never wholly abandoned the form, though he did tend to write in more "relaxed" terms for the remainder of his life. Some kind of emotional consolidation or retrospective mood seems to have overtaken him in late middle age.
Still, there are fascinating examples of the "Pieces" style, even into the new century. Here are several examples of his later mimimalist style from Windows , published 20 years after Pieces.
There's a big
more at home.
I got something stuck
in my hand.
It was a splinter.
Examples like these show a more relaxed motive than the poems in Pieces, which seemed very much like ulterior speculations about cognition, big resolutions, as if the emotional overkill of the poems from the Fifties and early Sixties had been boiled down to some granular density beyond which no further reduction or elaboration might be possible. But these poems seem more playful, even when they're not particularly cheerful in their implication(s)--like toys one might put on a table for a child to play with. Their irreducibility seems a consequence of simplicity, rather than conviction. "The big/red/apple" has a cartoon-like naivete, in which the voice seems overwhelmed by the pretense of pedagogy (TEACHER), and responds with blunt humor. The capital letters function thus as glowering symbolic emblems of fear, intimidation, or power--characteristically seen from a subservient or infantile position: A terrible giant baby!--almost like one of those block-headed Marisol babies.
--the concatenation of hard K sounds--cream/cone'll--enjambed against the elided cone will suggesting the double L's surfeit will topple off, like melting cream off the edge of the stanza, landing on/in the space [occupied by] the word "drip". The moral imprecation--a warning of possible disaster(s)--is resolved/realized in the embarrassment of the word ("drip") itself, the sticky accident of guilt. In William Carlos Williams, such an ingenious little engine would describe a phenomena, without implying any ironic separation--discrete positioning and simple objectification. But the authorial voice in Creeley's poems explores the means--and the implications of those means--deconstructing the effects and laying bear their disguised emotional spins, their terrors and fears.
This sensitivity to individual letters, evokes kinetic qualities at the smallest possible level of our apprehension of words (or speech sounds--phonemes). It may be that certain speakers--more sensitive to the clues of language--comprehend it at the level of decomposition, or phonemal fragmentation. Certain combinations of words elicit senses of sound or meaning which are otherwise hidden inside the habitual orders of syntax or speech. These "loops" as Creeley sometimes referred to them--which suggests both little parabolic spins and nooses--are like kernals of insight or fascination. We may not at first understand how or why they are so effecting, and indeed they may remain invisible to the casual reader who only comprehends at the quotidian level of syntactical meaning. But poetry at its best is very much concerned with the slants, rings, catches, undulations and tics of common interchange, embedded in the matrix of general discourse.
more at home.
--may function as a code: fields/meadows/more//at home sings as one half of a traditional nursery rhyme.
1 / 2-3 / 4 / 5-6
which would be followed by
7 / 8 / 9-10
[as in full fathom five or some similar echoing refrain]
With at home suggesting a domestication in nature as opposed to the misappropriation of land for cultivation, so that "at home" attached to more "domesticates" meadows, links the pastoral to the poetic. If the speaker could be said to be advocating meadows over fields, then FIELDS--as in the earlier poem TEACHERS--functions in a similarly oppressive way, as if in opposition. Thus individual words are treated in opposition to each other--tiny triads--having attractions and resistances deliberately contained in the setting of the poem. Words as things, or as waves of connotation that oscillate in different frequencies in different specific contexts. This dialectical places the poet in an ambiguous relationship to "subject matter"--where words are not simply tools for expression, implying an alienation from language. Doubt and suspicion and skeptical regard are the hallmarks of such a practice, both excusing the speaker from the persuasive associations of syntax and signification, and freeing up our apprehension of the process of composition.
These senses are endlessly fascinating, though Creeley's need to "say something" appears to have expanded over time, such that the syntactical burden needed to carry his "message" expanded with it. It may be that he tended eventually to regard (his) minimalist works with a skeptical suspicion, deeming them "innocent" explorations, the effects of which were too difficult to adequately control the purposes to which he might put his ulterior summations, about life and writing, the social, relational, aspects of his accrued experience, in later age. If we're to regard this as an aberration of his development as a poet, or as a predictable consequence of a long life's total commitment to an evolving view of the potentials of artistic endeavor, we'd best acknowledge the value of the work itself, instead of what it may signify about the meaning of his biography.
INSIDE MY HEAD
Inside my head a common room,
a common place, a common tune,
a common wealth, a common doom
inside my head. I close my eyes.
The horses run. Vast are the skies,
and blue my passing thoughts' surprise
inside my head. What is this space
here found to be, what is this place
if only me? Inside my head, whose face?
[from Life and Death, New Directions, 1994]