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Robert White Creeley


State Poet, 1989 - 1991

Robert White Creeley, poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, editor, and teacher was born in Arlington, Massachusetts. At the age of fourteen he entered Holderness School in Plymouth, New Hampshire, where he was a scholarship student and a contributor to school publications. After three years at Holderness, Creeley entered Harvard University in the fall of 1943, leaving after one year to drive an ambulance in the India-Burma theatre of World War II.

He returned to Harvard in the fall of 1945 and helped edit Harvard Wake, no. 5, a special E. E. Cummings issue, in which Creeley's first published poem, "Return" appeared. After dropping out of Harvard during the last semester of his senior year, he started a close and fruitful friendship with Cid Corman, who conducted a Boston radio program called, "This is Poetry." He helped launch Corrnan's magazine, Origin, which came to be the vehicle that most promoted Creeley's career as a poet in the 1950s.

During the 195Os Creeley taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina and was an editor of its innovative literary journal, the Black Mountain Review. In 1955, Black Mountain College awarded him a bachelor's degree.

Creeley was one of the originators of the "Black Mountain" school of poetry, along with Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, and Denise Levertov. These poets developed the theory of "projective verse"-a poetry designed to transmit the poet's emotional and intellectual energy directly and spontaneously, depending on natural speech rhythms and lines determined by pauses for breathing. Creeley's frequently quoted statement, "Form is never more than an extension of content," expresses an important precept of the Black Mountain poets.

Although Creeley published several books of poetry during the 1950s, he did not receive widespread recognition until 1962, when For Love: Poems 1950-1960 appeared. This book established him as an important poet and presented several of the concerns that occur throughout his work, particularly his focus on language and his preoccupation with human relationships.

After receiving his M.A. from the University of New Mexico, he taught there from 1961-1962. He has been affiliated with universities ever since, including University of British Columbia, San Francisco State College, and State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was Professor of English from 1967-1978. In 1978 Creeley was named David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters at State University of New York at Buffalo, and in 1988 he was reappointed for his third consecutive five-year term.

Creeley has received numerous awards for his work including the Levinson Prize for ten poems in Poetry, vol. 96, in 1960, two Guggenheim fellowships, the Shelley Memorial Award and the Robert Frost Medal, both from the Poetry Society of America. He was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1987 and received a Distinguished Fulbright Fellowship to serve as the Bicentennial Chair in American Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland, 1988-89.

Robert Creeley has been a major influence on younger writers and an important, often startling voice in American literature.

ROBERT WHITE CREELEY – Selected Bibliography


FOR LOVE: POEMS 1950 TO 1960. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962.
POEMS 1950-1965. London: Calder & Boyars, 1965.
WORDS. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967.
AWAY. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow, 1976.
MYSELF. Knotting, England: Sceptre Press, 1977.
LATER. New York: New Directions, 1979.
THE COLLECTED POEMS OF ROBERT CREELEY, 1945-1975. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.
ECHOES. West Branch, IA: Toothpaste, 1982.
MIRRORS. New York: New Directions, 1983.
MEMORY GARDENS. New York: New Directions, 1986.
THE COMPANY. Providence, RI: Burning Deck, 1988.


THE COLLECTED PROSE. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.
THE COLLECTED ESSAYS OF ROBERT CREELEY. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.




THE ISLAND. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963.
THE GOLD DIGGERS AND OTHER STORIES. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1965.
MABEL: A STORY, AND OTHER PROSE. London: Calder & Boyars, 1976.



ROBERT CREELEY: AN INVENTORY, 1945-70 compiled by Mary Novik: Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1973.
YEAR BY YEAR BIBLIOGRAPHY OF ROBERT CREELEY compiled by Timothy Murray and Stephen Boardway. In Robert Creeley: The Poet's Workshop (Orono: National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine, 1984), pp. 313-374.



ROBERT CREELEY: THE POET'S WORKSHOP edited by Carroll F. Terrell. Orono: National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine, 1984.
ROBERT CREELEY'S LIFE AND WORK: A SENSE OF INCREMENT edited by John Wilson. Ann Arbor University of Michigan Press, 1987.


CONTEXTS OF POETRY: INTERVIEWS 1961-1971 edited by Donald Allen. Bolinas, CA: Four Seasons Foundation, 1973.
CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT CREELEY. In Gamut, v. 12, Spring-Summer 1984, p. 20.
ROBERT WHITE CREELEY. In Current Biography, v. 49, October 1988, p. 10.

from the works of Robert Creeley

Air: "The Love of a Woman"
The love of a woman
is the possibility
which surrounds her as hair
her head, as the love of her

follows and describes
her. But what if
they die, then there is
still the aura

left, left sadly, but
hovers in the air, surely,
where this had taken place?
Then sing, of her, of whom

it will be said, he
sang of her, it was the
song he made which made her
happy, so she lived.

For Friendship
For friendship
make a chain that holds,
to be bound to
others, two by two,

a walk, a garland,
handed by hands
that cannot move
unless they hold.

A Gift of Great Value
Oh that horse I see so high
when the world shrinks into its
relationships, my mother
sees as well as I.

She was born, but I bore with her.
This horse was a mighty occasion!
The intensity of its feet! The height
of its immense body!

Now then in wonder at evening, at
the last small entrance of the night,
my mother calls it, and I
call it my father.

With angry face, with no
rights, with impetuosity and
sterile vision--and a great
wind we ride.

Tunneling through the earth
this way, I didn't know

the surface was where
I had come from. Dreams.

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