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Poetry highlight of the month; Creeley -- complete; The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley - 1945-1975. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. 671 pp. $28.50.

By Steven Ratiner / May 13, 1983



''I began with fugitive publication,'' writes Robert Creeley, ''and have variously been on the run ever since.'' Creeley was indeed an outsider, a poet who worked away from the literary establishment. Along with his associates of the Black Mountain School, Creeley strove to invigorate and enlarge midcentury American writing. After nearly four decades of writing, his work has become a major influence on contemporary poetics and new generations of writers.

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Reading through Creeley's poems, you find yourself enticed by his oblique but exacting perceptions. There is the elemental excitement of discovering in two words that have been put together a third presence between them. The poems feel very much like mosaics in the making: bits of colored glass, each one particular and particularly appreciated, fitting into a delicate balance. Incidents and voices are never complete without the reader's own imagination. With the last line in place, you still find youself mentally rearranging, considering new possibilites. What is the shape that emerges? A window, certainly, into the precarious word-works of Creeley's thinking. A mirror as well? Very likely. Here is an excerpt from this complete collection. Intervals Who am I - identity singing. Place a lake on ground, water finds a form. Smoke on the air goes higher to fade. Sun bright, trees dark green, a little movement in the leaves. Birds singing measure distance, intervals between echo silence. From ''The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley - 1945-1975''