Robert Creeley and Yusef Komunyakaa

robert creeley

“The Flower” 

I think I grow tensions

like flowers

in a wood where

nobody goes.

 Each wound is perfect,

encloses itself in a tiny

imperceptible blossom,

making pain.

Pain is a flower like that one,

like this one,

like that one,

like this one.

“The Flower” was the poem I most enjoyed reading from the selection of Creeley’s poems in the anthology. I especially enjoyed the inside-outside tug of war that the speaker engages in throughout the poem. At the onset of the poem, the speaker’s isolation is established through his use of the word think. When I first read the poem, it seemed like Creeley was describing the wood as an embodiment of his own mind, a place where he can fitly describe how his inner feelings of tension (his emotional truth, perhaps?) manifest themselves in a sort-of outer reality. I’m still not sure about this initial reading though. Creeley muses that he himself grows these “tensions.” Creating a feeling of uneasiness, he ponders his “tensions,” likening them to the flowers that inhabit the wood. Indeed, Creeley sets the scene in a lonely wood where these flowers grow and where no one else visits.


The second stanza builds upon the idea of the tensions that afflict Creeley, describing them as wounds. The equation of those wounds with the idea of perfection was initially confusing, but I think that its use transitions into the comparison of these afflictions with a flower blossom. The poet builds upon the idea of the inner conception of pain in these wounds which are enclose[d] in a tiny / imperceptible blossom, making pain. The wounds blossom into the pain the poet experiences. The inner, or enclose[d] wound lives within the blossom to grow the tensions, to make pain, to be the outer flower of pain that the speaker can’t seem to escape from in the final stanza. It’s as if the speaker points that way and this way to that flower and this flower surrounding him in the isolated wood. His pain is evident in this final stanza, as he seems to find no escape from the inner turmoil that makes itself known in his life and to the reader.


Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem “Facing It” details an inner-outer dilemma, as the speaker’s identity in reflection becomes one with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the emotions/memories conjured by his visit. Komunyakaa masterfully portrays his inner pain of remembrance as an experience where he becomes one with the memorial as he is both stone and flesh.


“Facing It” | Yusef Komunyakaa
My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn’t,
dammit: No tears.
I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way–the stone lets me go.
I turn that way–I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap’s white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He’s lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.

One thought on “Robert Creeley and Yusef Komunyakaa

  1. You’re observation about the inner-outer “tug of war” that this Creeley engages in throughout this poem was helpful for me in understanding this poem! This was actually one of the poems I like least so I really enjoyed your blog post on it. It definitely made me think about it and enjoy it more. I also really liked your explanation of the growing pain seen especially in the last stanza, I hadn’t thought of it that way before. And the Yusef poem was such a good comparison. Overall super good blog post love!


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