An Expression – A Response to Creeley’s The Language

An Expression


I found 

I love you

somewhere in


pink and 

blue, breathe

in and keep


breathing, you 

hold words 

in silent 


pauses. Everything

is being said.



love you



then why  

speak at all.



feel, feel.

I see depth

and depth deal


in soft

glances. Love 

is an echoing line.



I chose to imitate Robert Creeley’s poem “The Language” as I was drawn to the idea of language being an insufficient means of conveying strong and complex emotion. In Creeley’s poem, the reader is given a sense that the phrase “I love you” is “empty,” or meaningless, as it cannot express the depth of feeling and is used to the point of cliche, becoming a mere filler phrase. I chose to respond to this poem because I disagree with Creeley. Though the words can be insufficient in themselves, I believe it matters very much who and how the phrase is said. 

In the first two stanzas, Creeley commands the reader to “locate I / love you some- / where in / teeth and / eyes…” (Poetry Foundation, 1-5), and I took this as a call to action. This idea of locating such an abstract idea in something so physical and specific as “teeth and eyes” made me think instantly of my husband and the way his teeth and eyes signify love. Due to this, I thought the poem would move toward a more positive direction, however the next two stanzas move toward dissatisfaction instead. The narrator writes, “take care not / to hurt, you / want so / much so / little. Words / say everything.” (7-12) Here, the “you” is ambiguous. It could be the reader who might want more out of his/her partner as the intimate but violent act of biting and the small warning not to get hurt may refer to the insatiable need for our partner’s love and the pain that comes from endless want. Or our narrator could be referring to the language itself, the fact that it holds tremendous power and yet can never act on such power. In either case, the narrator plays with language in the last line, making the cheeky, sardonic statement that “words / say everything” which is literally true, as speech is done through verbal signifiers, but not really true as words can only convey emotion. 

The poem continues to take on a disheartening tone. The narrator comments on the emptiness of language, with its primary use being to fill an unfillable space, creating the imagery of a void. The receiver of words is then left “aching” for a better means of communication. The form of the poem, too, with its use of enjambment, is full of holes and empty space. Personally, I had no problem with the form of the poem. I was just as drawn to the aesthetic as I was to the material. Signifying the poem’s theme through typography is part of the poetic aesthetic. I also enjoyed the minimal nature of the poem and how, despite the poem being about language and words, much was left unsaid. What I did resist, however, was the tone of the poem. When we speak, we not only convey words, we also convey feeling, and we do this through tone and articulation, through body language and movement. It is not only the language that matters, but the way we physically say it. Though phrases like “I love you,” may be meaningless when shot into a void, they are delightful when reciprocated. There’s movement in the echoing of expressions. My response, then, takes on a more optimistic tone, finding no fault in language and the pauses and emptiness that are inherent in speech.   

I feel Creeley’s poem evoked so many images and I was pleased to find a reading of the poem that included wonderful visuals to go along with it. And, on a more personal note, here’s the picture I thought about when I wrote my response poem. In this moment, the phrase “I love you” conveyed exactly what it needed to.

(My hubs, Dennis Reynditskiy)

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