Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Darkness Surrounds Us

This Robert Creeley poem has haunted me for a long time. There are days I find it the perfect epigraph to U.S. involvement in Iraq (but the poem was written in the 1950s). There are days when it seems to have some set of religious (Christian) referents. There are days when it feels like the ultimate existentialist poem.

I Know a Man

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking,--John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going.

One of the many things I like about this poem is its economy and compression, economy not being one of the things I go for in my own work. There aren't many words in the poem, the diction base is limited, the lines are short--thus the economy--but it is also compressed. The asyntactic line breaks give the poem not only a dizzying sense of disorientation, which is part of the thematic substructure, but create, for me at least, a sense of claustrophobia, which I am associating with a type of compression. If you look at the lines in isolation, they offer fragmentary meanings, the carry-through meaning suspended on the enjambment, but each line exists as a compressed thought, more fully expanded upon as the lines move successively.

On the other hand, the sprawling speech patterns of the narrator drape across the lines, establishing a neat tension between the abbreviated, staccato tempo of the lines, and the loose, digressive quality of the full sentences.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i've been studying this poem extensively, first for school and now out of genuine interest. i was wondering if you had any more insights into I Know a Man.