Robert Creeley 2 - Buffalonian 1970

Robert Creeley (1926-2005) from The Buffalonian, 1970. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Robert Creeley (May 21, 1926 - March 30, 2005) was an American poet, author of more than 60 books. He was close with Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, John Wieners and Ed Dorn.


Youth and educationEdit


Creeley in 1972. Photo by Elsa Dorfman. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Creeley was born in Arlington and grew up in Acton, Massachusetts. He was raised by his mother with one sister, Helen. At age of 4, he lost his left eye. He attended the Holderness School in New Hampshire.

He entered Harvard University in 1943, but left to serve in the American Field Service in Burma and India in 1944-1945. He returned to Harvard in 1946, but eventually took his B.A. from Black Mountain College in 1955, teaching some courses there as well.

He was a chicken farmer briefly before becoming a teacher. The farm was in Littleton, New Hampshire. He was 23. The story goes that he wrote to Cid Corman whose radio show he heard on the farm, and Corman had him read on the show, which is how Charles Olson first heard of Creeley.[1]

From 1951 to 1955, Creeley and his wife, Ann, lived with their 3 children on the Spanish island of Majorca. They went there at the encouragement of their friends Martin Seymour-Smith and his wife, Janet. There they started Divers Press and published works by Paul Blackburn, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, and others. Creeley wrote about half of his published prose while living on the island, including a short story collection, The Gold Diggers, and a novel, The Island.. He said that Martie and Janet are represented by Artie and Marge in the novel, The Island.[2]

He traveled between Mallorca and his teaching position at Black Mountain College in 1954 and 1955. They also saw to the printing of some issues of Origin and Black Mountain Review on Mallorca because the printing costs were significantly lower there.

When Black Mountain closed in 1957, Creeley moved to San Francisco, where he met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. He later met and befriended Jackson Pollock in the Cedar Tavern in New York City.

He earned an M.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1960.


Creeley began his academic career by teaching at the prestigious Albuquerque Academy starting in around 1958 until about 1960 or 1961. He read at the 1963 Vancouver Poetry Festival and at the 1965 Berkeley Poetry Conference.[3] Afterward, he wandered about a bit before settling into the English faculty of "Black Mountain II" at the University at Buffalo in 1967. He would stay at this post until 2003, when he received a post at Brown University. From 1990 to 2003, he lived with his family in Black Rock, in a converted firehouse at the corner of Amherst and East Streets . At the time of his death, he was in residence with the Lannan Foundation in Marfa, Texas.

Creeley received public attention in 1962 with his poetry collection, For Love.

In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[4]

He served as the Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetry and the Humanities at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 1991, he joined colleagues Susan Howe, Charles Bernstein, Raymond Federman, Robert Bertholf, and Dennis Tedlock in founding the Poetics Program at Buffalo.

Creeley lived in Waldoboro, Maine, Buffalo, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island where he taught at Brown University.

Later yearsEdit


Creeley and Allan Graham (left) taping Ad-Verse, 2004. Photo by Gloria Graham. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

In his later years Creeley was an advocate of, and a mentor to, many younger poets, as well as to others outside of the poetry world. He went to great lengths to be supportive to many, and he had great sympathy for 'ordinary' people. Being responsive appeared to be essential to his personal ethics, and he seemed to take this responsibility extremely seriously, in both his life and his craft. In his later years, when he became well-known, he would go to lengths to make strangers, who approached him as a well-known author, feel comfortable. In his last years, he used the Internet to keep in touch with many younger poets and friends. He was rather shy, somewhat cautious, but he was not at all afraid; he would stand up in situations where many others would not.

Creeley died at sunrise on March 30, 2005, in Odessa, Texas of complications from pneumonia. His death resulted in an outpouring of grief and appreciation from many in the poetry world. He is buried in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Creeley is usually associated with the Black Mountain poets, though his verse aesthetic diverged from that school's. According to Arthur L. Ford in his book Robert Creeley (1978, p. 25),

Creeley has long been aware that he is part of a definable tradition in the American poetry of this century, so long as 'tradition' is thought of in general terms and so long as it recognizes crucial distinctions among its members. The tradition most visible to the general public has been the Eliot-Stevens tradition supported by the intellectual probings of the New Critics in the 1940s and early 1950s. Parallel to that tradition has been the tradition Creeley identifies with, the Pound-Olson-Zukofsky-Black Mountain tradition, what M.L. Rosenthal [in his book The New Poets: American and British Poetry Since World War II (1967)] calls 'The Projectivist Movement'. [This "movement" Rosenthal derives from Olson's essay on "Projective Verse".][5]
"In a quiet moment I hear Bob pause where I never would have expected it. Such resolve. Such heart. And an ear to reckon with. No truly further American poem without his."
Clark Coolidge[6]

Le Fou, Creeley's earliest book, was published in 1952, and since then, according to his publisher, barely a year passed without a new collection of poems.

The 1983 entry, titled Mirrors, had some tendencies toward concrete imagery. It was hard for many readers and critics to immediately understand Creeley's reputation as an innovative poet, for his innovations were often very subtle; even harder for some to imagine that his work lived up to the Black Mountain tenet—which he articulated to Charles Olson in their correspondence, and which Olson popularized in his essay "Projective Verse," -- that "form is never more than an extension of content," for his poems were often written in couplet, triplet, and quatrain stanzas that break into and out of rhyme as happenstance appears to dictate. An example is "The Hero," from Collected Poems, also published in 1982 and covering the span of years from 1945 to 1975.

"The Hero" is written in variable isoverbal ("word-count") prosody; the number of words per line varies from three to seven, but the norm is four to six. Another technique to be found in this piece is variable rhyme—there is no set rhyme scheme, but some of the lines rhyme and the poem concludes with a rhymed couplet. All of the stanzas are quatrains.

The Hero

Each voice which was asked
spoke its words, and heard
more than that, the fair question,
the onerous burden of the asking.
And so the hero, the
hero! stepped that gracefully
into his redemption, losing
or gaining life thereby.

Despite these obviously formal elements various critics continue to insist that Creeley wrote in "free verse", but most of his forms were strict enough so that it is a question whether it can even be maintained that he wrote in forms of prose. This particular poem is without doubt verse-mode, not prose-mode. M.L. Rosenthal in his The New Poets quoted Creeley's "'preoccupation with a personal rhythm in the sense that the discovery of an external equivalent of the speaking self is felt to be the true object of poetry,'" and went on to say that this speaking self serves both as the center of the poem's universe and the private life of the poet. "Despite his mask of humble, confused comedian, loving and lovable, he therefore stands in his own work's way, too seldom letting his poems free themselves of his blocking presence" (p. 148). When he used imagery, Creeley could be interesting and effective on the sensory level.

In an essay titled "Poetry: Schools of dissidents," academic poet Daniel Hoffman wrote, in The Harvard Guide to Contemporary American Writing which he edited, that as he grew older, Creeley's work tended to become increasingly fragmentary in nature, even the titles subsequent to For Love: Poems 1950-1960 hinting at the fragmentation of experience in Creeley's work: Words, Pieces, A Day Book. In Hoffman's opinion, "Creeley has never included ideas, or commitments to social issues, in the repertoire of his work; his stripped-down poems have been, as it were, a proving of Pound's belief in 'technique as the test of a man's sincerity.'" (p. 533)


Creeley won the Bollingen Prize, among other awards, and held the position of the New York Poet Laureate from 1989 until 1991. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003.[7]

He was a recipient of the Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.



  • Le Fou. Golden Goose Press, 1952.
  • The Kind of Act Of. Mallorca, Spain: Divers Press, 1953.
  • The Immoral Proposition. Jonathan Williams, 1953.
  • A Snarling Garland of Xmas Verse (anonymous). Mallorca, Spain: Divers Press, 1954.
  • All That Is Lovely in Men. Asheville, NC: Jonathan Williams, 1955.
  • Ferrin and Others (With others). Germany: Gerhardt, 1955.
  • If You. San Francisco, CA: Porpoise Bookshop, 1956.
  • The Whip. Migrant Books, 1957.
  • A Form of Women. New York: Jargon Books, 1959.
  • For Love: Poems, 1950-1960. New York: Scribner, 1962.
  • Distance. Terrence Williams, 1964.
  • Mister Blue. Insel-Verlag, 1964.
  • Two Poems. Oyez, 1964.
  • Hi There! Finial Press, 1965.
  • Words (eight poems). Perishable Press, 1965.
  • Poems, 1950-1965. London: Calder & Boyars, 1966.
  • About Women. Gemini, 1966.
  • For Joel. Perishable Press, 1966.
  • A Sight. Cape Coliard Press, 1967.
  • Words (eighty-four poems). New York: Scribner, 1967.
  • Robert Creeley Reads (with recording). Turret Books, 1967.
  • The Finger. Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow, 1968
    • enlarged edition, The Finger Poems, 1966-1969. Londong: Calder & Boyars, 1970.
  • 5 Numbers (five poems). Poets Press (New York, NY), 1968
    • published as Numbers (text in English and German, translation by Klaus Reichert). Dusseldorf: Galerie Schmela, 1968.
  • The Charm: Early and collected poems. Perishable Press, 1968
    • expanded edition, The Charm. San Francisco, CA: Four Seasons Foundation, 1969.
  • Divisions, and other early poems. Perishable Press, 1968.
  • Pieces (fourteen poems). Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow, 1968.
  • The Boy (poem poster). Gallery Upstairs Press, 1968.
  • Mazatlan: Sea. New York: Poets Press, 1969.
  • Pieces (72 poems). New York: Scribner, 1969.
  • Hero. New York: Indianakatz, 1969.
  • A Wall. New York: Bouwerie Editions, 1969.
  • For Betsy and Tom. Alternative Press, 1970.
  • For Benny and Sabrina. Samuel Charters, 1970.
  • America. Press of the Black Flag, 1970.
  • In London. Angel Hair Books, 1970.
  • Christmas: May 10, 1970, Lockwood Memorial Library. Buffalo, NY: State University of New York at Buffalo, 1970.
  • St. Martin's. Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow, 1971.
  • 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0 (drawings by Arthur Okamura). New York: Shambhala, 1971.
  • Sea. Cranium Press, 1971.
  • For the Graduation. Cranium Press, 1971.
  • Change. Hermes Free Press, 1972.
  • One Day after Another. Alternative Press, 1972.
  • For My Mother: Genevieve Jules Creeley, 8 April 1887-7 October 1972 (limited edition). London: Sceptre Press, 1973.
  • His Idea. Toronto: Coach House, 1973.
  • The Class of '47. New York: Bouwerie Editions, 1973.
  • Kitchen. Wine Press, 1973.
  • Sitting Here. University of Connecticut Library, 1974.
  • Thirty Things. Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow, 1974.
  • Backwards. London: Sceptre Press, 1975.
  • Hello. Christchurch, NZ: Hawk Press, 1976,
    • expanded edition, Hello: A Journal, February 29-May 3, 1976. New York: New Directions, 1978.
  • Away. Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow, 1976.
  • Presences. New York: Scribner, 1976.
  • Selected Poems. New York: Scribner, 1976
  • Myself. London: Sceptre Press, 1977.
  • Later. West Branch, IA: Toothpaste, 1978
    • expanded edition, New York: New Directions, 1979.
  • Desultory Days. London: Sceptre Press, 1979.
  • Corn Close. London: Sceptre Press, 1980.
  • Mother As Voice. Am Here Books/Immediate Editions, 1981.
  • The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1982.
  • Echoes. West Branch, IA: Toothpaste, 1982; New York: New Directions, 1994.
  • Going On: Selected Poems, 1958-1980. New York: Dutton, 1983.
  • Mirrors. New York: New Directions, 1983.
  • A Calendar: Twelve Poems. West Branch, IA: Coffee House Press, 1984.
  • The Collected Prose of Robert Creeley. New York: Scribner, 1984.
  • Memories. Pig Press, 1984.
  • Memory Gardens. New York: New Directions, 1986.
  • The Company. Burning Deck, 1988.
  • Window (edited by Richard Blevins). Buffalo, NY: State University of New York at Buffalo, 1988.
  • A Creeley Collection: For mixed voices, solo tenor, flute, percussion, and piano (with Libby Larsen)., E.C. Schirmer, 1989.
  • 64 Pastels (with Francesco Clemente). Bruno Bischofberger, 1989.
  • Places. Shuffaloff Press, 1990.
  • Windows. New York: New Directions, 1990.
  • Have a Heart. Limberlost Press, 1990.
  • Selected Poems. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991.
  • The Old Days. Ambrosia Press, 1991.
  • Gnomic Verses. Zasterle Press, 1991.
  • A Poetry Anthology. Edmundson Art Foundation, 1992.
  • Life and Death. Grenfell Press, 1993; New York: New Directions, 1998.
  • Loops: Ten poems. Nadja, 1995.
  • Ligeia: A Libretto. Granary Books, 1996.
  • So There: poems 1976-83. New York: New Directions, 1998.
  • En Famille: A poem by Robert Creeley. Granary Books, 1999.
  • Edges(with Alex Katz). Peter Blum, 1999.
  • The Dogs of Auckland (with Max Gimblett and Alan Loney). Holloway Press, 1998.
  • Personal: Poems (with John Millei). Peter Koch, 1998.
  • Cambridge, Mass 1944 (with Daisy DeCapite). Boog Literature, 2000.
  • Thinking. Z Press, 2000.
  • Clemente's Images. Backwoods Broadsides, 2000.
  • For Friends. Drive He Sd Books, 2000.
  • Drawn and Quartered (with Archie Rand, illustrations). Distributed Art Publishers, 2001.
  • Just In Time: Poems, 1984-1994. New York: New Directions, 2001.
  • If I Were Writing This. New York: New Directions, 2003.[8]
  • Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-2005. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003.[8]
  • On Earth: Last poems, and an essay. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006.[8]
  • Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1975-2005. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006.
  • Selected Poems, 1945-2005 (edited by Benjamin Friedlander). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008.


  • Listen (produced in London, 1972). Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1972.


  • The Island. New York: Scribner, 1963.

Short fictionEdit

  • The Gold Diggers (short stories). Mallorca, Spain: Divers Press, 1954
    • expanded edition, The Gold Diggers, and other stories. J. Calder, 1965.
  • A Day Book (poems and prose). New York: Scribner, 1972.
  • Mabel: A story, and other prose (includes A Day Book and Presences). London: Calder & Boyars, 1976.


  • An American Sense (essay). Sigma Press, 1965.
  • A Quick Graph: Collected Notes and Essays (edited by Donald M. Allen). San Francisco, CA: Four Seasons Foundation, 1970.
  • Notebook. New York: Bouwerie Editions, 1972.
  • A Sense of Measure (essays). London: Calder & Boyars, 1972.
  • Inside Out (lecture). Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1973.
  • The Creative (lecture). Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1973.
  • Was That a Real Poem and other essays. San Francisco, CA: Four Seasons Foundation, 1979.
  • Collected Essays. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989.
  • Autobiography. Hanuman Books, 1990.
  • Day Book of a Virtual Poet (essays). New York: Spuyten Duyvil, 1998.
  • Collected Prose. New York: Marion Boyars, 1984
    • corrected edition, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1988, Dalkey Archive Press (Chicago, IL), 2001.


  • Contexts of Poetry: Interviews, 1961-1971. San Francisco, CA: Four Seasons Foundation, 1973.
  • Jane Hammond. Exit Art, 1989.
  • Tales out of School: Selected Interviews. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1993.
  • Hilda Morley, The Turning (Author of foreword). Asphodel Press, 1998.
  • In Company: Robert Creeley's Collaborations (from a traveling art show) (With Elizabeth Licata and Amy Cappellazzo). Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.


  • Charles Olson, Mayan Letters. Mallorca, Spain: Divers Press, 1953.
  • New American Story (edited With Donald M. Allen, and contributor). New York: Grove, 1965; reprinted 2001.
  • Charles Olson, Selected Writings (and author of introduction). New York: New Directions, 1966.
  • The New Writing in the U.S.A. (edited with Donald M. Allen, and contributor). New York: Penguin, 1967.
  • Whitman: Selected poems. New York: Penguin, 1973.
  • The Essential Burns (edited, & contributor). New York: Ecco Press, 1989.
  • Tim Prythero. Peters Corporation, 1990.
  • Charles Olson, Selected Poems. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993.
  • The Best American Poetry 2002 (edited with David Lehman). New York: Scribner, 2002.


  • Charles Olson and Robert Creeley: The complete correspondence (edited by George F. Butterick). (10 volumes), Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow, 1980-96.
  • Irving Layton and Robert Creeley: The complete correspondence (edited by Ekbert Faas & Sabrina Reed). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.
  • The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley (edited by Rod Smith, Peter Baker, & Harris Kaplan). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2014.[8]

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[9]

Audio / videoEdit

Sound recordingsEdit

  • Robert Creeley (reading with jazz musicians David Cast, Chris Massey, Steve Swallow, and David Torn accompanying). Cuneiform Records, 1998.[9]

Film AppearancesEdit

  • Creeley (directed by Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian), 1988.
  • Poetry in Motion (directed by Ron Mann), 1982.
  • Complete Unknown (directed by Griffin Ondaatje and Craig Proctor), 2003. [as yet unreleased]

See alsoEdit

Preceded by
Stanley Kunitz
New York State Poet
Succeeded by
Audre Lorde

5 Poems by Robert Creeley

5 Poems by Robert Creeley



  1. Meaning, I Hear You - Kyle Schlesinger
  2. Interview by Alastair Johnston regarding Divers Press
  3. Lewis Ellingham, Kevin Killian (1998). Poet be like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco renaissance. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 9780819553089. 
  4. “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  5. Arthur L. Ford, Robert Creeley, 1978, 25.
  6. from Robert Creeley: Selected Poems, 1945-2005, edited by Benjamin Friedlander; (University of California Press, 2008)
  7. "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter C". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Search results = au:Robert Creeley 2000-2014, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Centre Inc. Web, June 20, 2014.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Robert Creeley 1926-2005, Poetry Foundation, Web, Aug. 27, 2012.

External linksEdit

Reviews and critical perspectives
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