Creeley, Robert (White) 1926–2005

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CREELEY, Robert (White) 1926–2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born May 21, 1926, in Arlington, MA; died of complications from pneumonia March 30, 2005, in Odessa, TX. Educator and author. Creeley was an award-winning poet often associated with the Black Mountain poets and the Beat generation. Creeley lost an eye in an accident when he was two years old and his father died when he was five. Although he endured childhood poverty, insurance money from these tragedies allowed him to attend Harvard University in 1943. He left his studies toward the end of World War II to work as an ambulance driver for the American Field Service in India and Burma. Although he returned to Harvard after that, he did not receive a degree at the time; instead, he worked on a New Hampshire farm, and then left for Spain, where he was founder and publisher of Divers Press in Palma. Invited to attend the Black Mountain College by writer Charles Olson, Creeley decided to move back to America and complete his bachelor's degree from the North Carolina college in 1955. Five years later he completed a master's degree at the University of New Mexico. Because he attended Black Mountain College, he readily became associated with the Black Mountain poets, which included writers Denise Levertov and Fielding Dawson. However, he was a product of the 1960s era, too, and his free style of poetry has also been associated with Beats such as Allen Ginsberg. Creeley began publishing his poems in collections by the early 1950s, with Le Fou (1952) being his first title. He did not gain considerable attention until his verses appeared in the influential 1960 anthology The New American Poetry: 1945–1960. That same year, the poet earned his first award, the Levinson Prize, for contributions he made to Poetry magazine. Many more prestigious awards and grants followed, such as the Shelley Award in 1981, the Frost Medal in 1987, and the highest honor for a poet, the Bollingen Prize, which he received in 1999. As a writer, Creeley diverged from classic forms, averring that the rhythms and meters of a poem should be dictated by its content. What resulted was a very free, informal form of writing; even his use of spelling was informal, with the poet often abbreviating words such as "sd" for "said." This style was sometimes praised by critics, while others disparaged it for its lack of discipline. In addition to his experimentation with form, Creeley also favored drawing his subject matter from personal experience rather than from history or tradition. Thus, his poems, which typically are quite short, are also very personal works. Despite his publishing success he needed a steady source of income, so spent much of his time teaching university students. During the 1960s and 1970s he was a professor at the University of New Mexico, and from 1966 until 2003 he taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters from 1978 until 1989 and Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetry and Humanities from 1989 until 2003. When he left Buffalo, he joined the faculty at Brown University. Among Creeley's numerous verse collections are such notable books as For Love: Poems 1950–1960 (1962), Pieces (1968), Hello (1976), Later (1979), The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945–1975 (1982), Mirrors (1983), and Life & Death (1993). He also published short stories, a novel titled The Island (1963), essay and lecture collections, and the play Listen (1972).



Creeley, Robert, Autobiography, Hanuman Books, 1990.


Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2005, p. B9.

New York Times, April 1, 2005, p. C13.

Times (London, England), April 1, 2005, p. 62.

Washington Post, April 1, 2005, p. B6.