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About this poet

Robert Creeley was born in Arlington, Massachusetts, on May 21, 1926. He attended Harvard University from 1943 to 1946, taking time out from 1944 to 1945 to work for the American Field Service in Burma and India. In 1946 he published his first poem, in the Harvard magazine Wake.

In 1949 he began corresponding with William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound. The following year he became acquainted with the poet Charles Olson. In 1954, as rector of Black Mountain College (an experimental arts college in North Carolina), Olson invited Creeley to join the faculty and to edit the Black Mountain Review. In 1960 Creeley received a master's degree from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Through the Black Mountain Review and his own critical writings, Creeley helped to define an emerging counter-tradition to the literary establishment—a postwar poetry originating with Pound, Williams, and Zukofsky and expanding through the lives and works of Olson, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, Edward Dorn, and others.

Creeley published more than sixty books of poetry in the United States and abroad, including If I Were Writing This (New Directions, 2003), Just in Time: Poems 1984-1994 (New Directions, 2001), Life & Death (New Directions, 1998), Echoes (New Directions, 1994), Selected Poems 1945-1990 (University of California Press, 1991), Memory Gardens (Marion Boyars Publishing, 1986), Mirrors (New Directions, 1983), The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975 (University of California Press, 1982), Later (New Directions, 1979), The Finger (Black Sparrow Press, 1968), and For Love: Poems 1950-1960 (Scribner, 1962).

In a review of Life & Death, Forrest Gander wrote: "Robert Creeley has forged a signature style in American poetry, an idiosyncratic, highly elliptical, syntactical compression by which the character of his mind's concentrated and stumbling proposals might be expressed ... Reading his poems, we experience the gnash of arriving through feeling at thought and word."

He also published more than a dozen books of prose, essays, and interviews, including The Island (1963) and The Gold Diggers and Other Stories (1965). He edited such books as Charles Olson's Selected Poems (1993), The Essential Burns (1989), and Whitman: Selected Poems (1973).

Creeley's honors include the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award, the Frost Medal, the Shelley Memorial Award, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation. He served as New York state poet laureate from 1989 to 1991 and as the Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetry and Humanities at the State University of New York, Buffalo. He was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1999. On March 30, 2005, Creeley died at the age of 78.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Just in Time: Poems 1984-1994 (2001)
Life & Death (1998)
Echoes (1994)
Selected Poems (1991)
Windows (1990)
Memory Gardens (1986)
Mirrors (1983)
The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975 (1982)
Later: New Poems (1979)
Hello: A Journal, February 23-May 3, 1976 (1978)
A Day Book (1972)
Pieces (1968)
The Charm: Early and Uncollected Poems (1968)
Words (1967)
For Love (1962)

Drama

Listen (1972)

Essays

Tales Out of School: Selected Interviews (1993)
Autobiography (1990)
Was That a Real Poem and Other Essays (1979)
A Quick Graph Collected Notes and Essays (1970)

Letters

The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley (1989)
The Collected Prose of Robert Creeley (1988)
Mabel: A Story (1976)
Presences: A Text for Marisol (1976)
The Gold Diggers (1965)
The Island (1963)

Age

Robert Creeley, 1926 - 2005
Most explicit--
the sense of trap

as a narrowing
cone one's got

stuck into and
any movement

forward simply
wedges once more--

but where
or quite when,

even with whom,
since now there is no one

quite with you--Quite? Quiet?
English expression: Quait?

Language of singular
impedance? A dance? An

involuntary gesture to
others not there? What's

wrong here? How
reach out to the

other side all
others live on as

now you see the
two doctors, behind

you, in mind's eye,
probe into your anus,

or ass, or bottom,
behind you, the roto-

rooter-like device
sees all up, concludes

"like a worn-out inner tube,"
"old," prose prolapsed, person's

problems won't do, must
cut into, cut out . . .

The world is a round but
diminishing ball, a spherical

ice cube, a dusty
joke, a fading,

faint echo of its
former self but remembers,

sometimes, its past, sees
friends, places, reflections,

talks to itself in a fond,
judgemental murmur,

alone at last.
I stood so close

to you I could have
reached out and

touched you just
as you turned

over and began to
snore not unattractively,

no, never less than
attractively, my love,

my love--but in this
curiously glowing dark, this

finite emptiness, you, you, you
are crucial, hear the

whimpering back of
the talk, the approaching

fears when I may
cease to be me, all

lost or rather lumped
here in a retrograded,

dislocating, imploding
self, a uselessness

talks, even if finally to no one,
talks and talks.

From Selected Poems by Robert Creeley. Copyright © 1991 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published in Windows (New Directions, 1990).

From Selected Poems by Robert Creeley. Copyright © 1991 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published in Windows (New Directions, 1990).

Robert Creeley

Robert Creeley

Through his work with the Black Mountain Review and his own critical writings, Robert Creeley helped to define an emerging counter-tradition to the literary establishment.

by this poet

poem
The words are a beautiful music.
The words bounce like in water.

Water music,
loud in the clearing

off the boats,
birds, leaves.

They look for a place
to sit and eat—

no meaning,
no point.
poem
If the water forms
the forms of the weeds, there—

a long life is not by that
a necessarily happy one.

My friend. We
reckon on a simple

agreement,
the fashion of a stone

underground.
poem

 

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