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While William Carlos Williams is the immediate literary predecessor often associated with having early influence on the work of Robert Creeley, Wallace Stevens, beginning in Creeley’s first letters in the early 1950s to the poet Charles Olson, and re-emerging in his later work, makes several appearances in the printed record. References to Stevens culminate in the final section of Creeley’s long poem “Histoire de Florida,” published in 1996, the beginning of the last decade of his life, where lines from Stevens’ “Anecdote of the Jar” (a poem which, as will be shown, remained central to Creeley throughout his life) are quoted alternating with Creeley’s own. Although, as Creeley admits, “much of [his] own initial writing, both prose and poetry, used Stevens as a model” (“The the” 121), the earliest direct reference in poetry does not appear until decades later with his poem “For John Duff” out of his collection Later published in 1979, which summons from the very same Stevens poem the line “I placed a jar in Tennessee. . .” as an initiating stance (Collected 169). These references to Stevens in Creeley’s work expand and reflect on Creeley’s belief that, as he put it, “Stevens, in Williams’ phrase, thought with his poem” (“In Respect” 50). In these later works, Creeley reverses himself on statements he made in the 1950s in letters to Charles Olson. The force Wallace Stevens had on Creeley’s own “thought,” is at last reflected in the lines of his work. Drawing attention to this gradual emergence of reference to Stevens adds new dimension to the effect Stevens had upon Creeley’s ongoing development as a poet throughout his long career and also contributes to a broader contextualization of influence between older and younger generations of poets.


Originally published in Fulcrum 7(2011) by Fulcrum Poetry
Press, Inc.

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