American Poetry
for Students of English Worldwide

..............Jack Kimball.............

Surrounding Thought:
Contrasting Ideas with ROBERT CREELEY

Robert Creeley often writes about expansive opposite ideas or contrasts:

incompetence / triumph
unbroken / partial
jeering / proclaiming

Read the following three poems paying attention to, among other things, contrasting ideas and changes in surroundings (or general environment) and the changes of feelings in those surroundings.

The Innocence

Looking to the sea, it is a line
of unbroken mountains.

It is the sky.
It is the ground. There
we live it, on it.

It is a mist
now tangent to another
quiet. Here the leaves
come, there
is the rock in evidence

or evidence.
What I come to do
is partial, partially kept.

The Conspiracy

You send me your poems,
I'll send you mine.

Things tend to awaken
even through random communication.

Let us suddenly
proclaim spring. And jeer

at the others,
all the others.

I will send a picture too
if you will send me one of you.

The Carnival

Whereas the man who hits
the gong dis-
proves it, in all its
simplicity --

Even so the attempt
makes for triumph, in
another man.

Likewise in love I
am not foolish or in-
competent. My method is not a

tenderness, but hope

Match the words from Creeley's poems in "A" with words in "B" that means the SAME.


tangent _______
partial _______
incompetent _______
attempt _______
foolish _______
evidence _______
conspiracy _______



Decide if the following statements are TRUE or FALSE.

1) "Random" means "well-ordered."
2) A circus is a kind of "carnival."
3) "To jeer" means "to mock."
4) "To proclaim" means "to state."
5) "Simplicity" means "fanciness."
6) "Triumph" means "success."
7) "Innocence" means "sophistication."
8) "Method" means "way."

Match the words from the poems in "A" with words in "B" that mean the OPPOSITE.


tenderness _______
hope _______
likewise _______
communication _______
unbroken _______
suddenly _______


in a different way

Quoting The Innocence, disprove the idea that the speaker is like "unbroken mountains."

In The Innocence is it fall or spring? Why?

Explain the difference between "in evidence" and "evidence."

From your re-reading The Conspiracy, describe how the speaker is both interested and uninterested in communicating with others.

What words in The Conspiracy propose possible excitement on the part of the speaker?

The speaker is suggesting two forms of communication. What are they?

In the poem The Carnival why is the hitting of the gong contradictory?

Do you sense the speaker wants affection?

Do you think the speaker is soft-hearted? Why?

Read Robert Creeley's poems again for inspiration. Then think about writing your own poem about an opposite or contradictory feeling. Before writing your poem, make a list to contrast your surroundings and feelings with the surroundings and feelings of someone (or something) very different. For example:

Me: I am here, I am unreasonable, unhappy, poor (or almost)

X: is there, is logical (most of the time), very happy, a millionaire

Imagine that you love only this person (or thing). Change your mind in the poem.

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