Robert Creeley

The Language by Robert Creeley

‘The Language’ by Robert Creeley is an interesting poem that grows easier to understand with each reading. It discusses love and the way its conveyed and felt. 

Throughout this piece, the poet uses a wide variety of literary devices to describe their perspective on love and its shared. Readers are likely to walk away from it, feeling a variety of different ways. Some might find themselves soothed by Creeley’s descriptions of love, while others might be bothered by the way he goes about it in ‘The Language.’

The Language by Robert Creeley


The Language’ by Robert Creeley is a fairly simple poem in which the speaker discusses love and the way it’s shared.

Throughout the poem, the speaker makes use of images to convey facts about life and love. They understand that throughout time, people have been using “I love you” to fill in the blanks between their physical understanding of another person and the way they are unable to translate that into words. 

You can read the full poem here.

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-12 

Locate I

love you some-

where in


much so   

little. Words   

say everything.

In the first lines of ‘The Language,’ the speaker begins by directing their words to “you,” someone they have an exciting connection with. It’s unclear who exactly the speaker or listener is or what relationship they have with one another. The speaker asks “you” to locate the “I love you somewhere in teeth and eyes.” The use of enjambment in these lines makes the sentences hard to read. It may take more than one reading to figure out what exactly the speaker is trying to say. 

“You,” they add, want “so much so little.” There is a complexity here that isn’t clear either. The speaker is considering love and the way one handles it. There is some roughness, but one can’t lose control and cause “hurt.” 

Lines 13-24 


love you


then what   


of holes   

aching. Speech   

is a mouth.

In the second half of the poem, the phrase “I love you” is used again. They use the final lines to describe how “words” are full of holes. This suggests that no matter what one says, like “I love you,” there are holes and lost meanings. “Speech,” they conclude, is a “mouth.” This is an unusual metaphor, one that can be interpreted in different ways. For example, one might consider the way that “speech,” as individual phrases like “I love you” leaves some information unspoken. 

Structure and Form

The Language’ by Robert Creeley is a twenty-four-line poem divided into sets of three lines, known as tercets. The poem is written in free verse; this means that it does not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. For example, the endings of the first three lines are “I,” “some-“ and “in.” 

Literary Devices 

Throughout this poem, the speaker makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to: 

  • Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines three and four
  • Alliteration: can be seen when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the bingeing of multiple words. For example, “Locate” and “love” in the first two lines and “fill, fill” in line nineteen.
  • Caesura: occurs when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line of verse. For example, “little. Words” and “aching. Speech.”


What is the tone of ‘The Language?’ 

The tone is contemplative and peaceful. The speaker calmly discusses the nature of language and their desire to elucidate the holes in language and communication. People say “I love you” to fill space and to represent something that is beyond words. 

What is the purpose of ‘The Language?’

The purpose of this poem is to describe how language is not sufficient for conveying the emotions of love. 

Who is the speaker in ‘The Language?’

The speaker is someone contemplating love. Their age, sex, and intentions are not clear. This allows any reader to imagine themselves thinking and speaking the same words. 

Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed ‘The Language’ should also consider reading some other related poems. For example: 

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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