Poet Robert Creeley Dies at 78

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Mar 30 2005

March 30, 2005 — The poet Robert Creeley, a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, among other honors, died this morning. He was 78.

Mr. Creeley was born in Arlington, Massachusetts, on May 21, 1926. He attended Harvard University as an undergraduate and later earned a master's degree from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. In 1946 Mr. Creeley published his first poem in the Harvard magazine Wake.

In 1954, at the invitation of poet Charles Olson, Mr. Creeley join the faculty of Black Mountain College in North Carolina and became editor of the influential Black Mountain Review. 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 Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Louis Zukofsky and expanding through the lives and works of Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, Edward Dorn, and others.

Robert Creeley has 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 (2001), Life & Death (1998), Echoes (1994), Windows (1990), Memory Gardens (1986), So There: Poems 1976-1983 (1984), Mirrors (1983), Later (1979), The Finger (1968), and the groundbreaking For Love: Poems 1950-1960 (1962). For Love includes many of Mr. Creeley's most well-known poems, such as "A Wicker Basket," the widely anthologized "I Know a Man," and the title poem, which contains these characteristic lines:

What is it that
is finally so helpless
different, despairs of its own
statement, wants to
turn away, endlessly
to turn away

Mr. Creeley was also known for his collaborations with artists from other fields. The books, paintings, and musical compositions that have resulted from his joint ventures with other artists were the subject of a recent exhibition at the New York Public Library, "In Company: Robert Creeley's Collaborations."

Mr. Creeley's honors include a Bollingen Prize, 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. From 1989 to 2004 he was Samuel P. Capen Professor of poetry and humanities at the State University of New York, Buffalo; more recently he was professor of English at Brown University in Providence, RI, where he lived. He was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1999.

For information about Mr. Creeley's books, visit New Directions Press.

The Academy of American Poets is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1934 to foster appreciation for contemporary poetry and to support American poets at all stages of their careers. For more information on the Academy and its programs, visit poets.org.