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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)

Water Music

Robert Creeley, 1926 - 2005
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.

From The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975. Copyright © 1983 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published in Words (Scribner, 1967).

From The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975. Copyright © 1983 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published in Words (Scribner, 1967).

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
As I was walking
  I came upon
chance walking
  the same road upon.

As I sat down
  by chance to move
later
  if and as I might,

light the wood was,
  light and green,
and what I saw
  before I had not seen.

It was a lady
  accompanied
by goat men
  leading her.

Her hair held earth.
  Her eyes were dark.
A
poem
America, you ode for reality!
Give back the people you took.

Let the sun shine again
on the four corners of the world

you thought of first but do not
own, or keep like a convenience.

People are your own word, you
invented that locus and term.

Here, you said and say, is
where we are. Give back
poem
Age
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