Robert Creely
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Robert Creely

Past Event: Monday, March 11, 2002

Robert Creeley was born in Arlington, Massachusetts, in 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. Around 1950, he began exchanging letters with the poet Charles Olsen.

In 1954, Olsen invited Creeley to teach at the Black Mountain School of poetry and to edit the Black Mountain Review. It was there that he developed friendships with Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, and other poets. As a group, they began to transform American poetry. “Creeley has created a nobel life body of poetry that extends the work of his predecessors Pound, Williams, Zukofsky, and Olson,” wrote Allen Ginsberg. “[He] provides, like them, a method for his successors in exploring our new American poetic consciousness.”

Like many post-war poets, Creeley sought to create a counter-tradition to the literary establishment. But while others devoted themselves to confessional poetry or political protest, Creeley experimented with language and syntax, molding sentences that were elliptical and suspended in the indefinite. “What emerges in the writing I most value is a content which cannot be anticipated,” wrote Creeley. “which ‘tells you what you don’t know,’ which you subvert, twist, or misrepresent only on peril of death.”

In 2001 Creeley was awarded the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award. His other honors include the Frost Medal, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation. He served as New York State Poet from 1989 to 1991 and since 1989 he has been 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.

Selected WorkJust in Time (2001)Life & Death (1998)Selected Poems (1991)Mirrors (1983)The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley (1982)Later (1979)The Finger (1968)The Gold Diggers and Other Stories (1965)The Island (novel, 1963)For Love (1962)

LinksBiography on the Academy of American Poets’ Web SiteAn essay by Robert Creeley on Allen GinsbergAn interview with Robert Creeley