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Who is Robert Creeley?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

Among the most prominent and influential poets of the 20th century, Robert Creeley carved out his niche as an experimental post-modern American poet. His influence on poetry was perhaps most greatly received from his days as a member of the so-called Black Mountain Poets, and it continued across genres and generations. His short, free-verse style made him famous in poetry circles. At the time of his death in 2005, he was a professor of English at Brown University.

Though Creeley’s poetry is best known as free-verse modernism, he also spent much time in the genre of beat poetry. Not long after his first marriage ended, Creeley moved to San Francisco and spent a significant amount of time with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, both notable beat poets. As a proponent of escaping the bounds of formal poetics, Creeley wrote free-verse in very short lines that stressed human interaction and emotion over form and structure. He generally eschewed such constraints as meter and overt and overused literary devices.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

His poetry contains a lyrical quality and stresses content over form. Much of his poetry centers on a single theme, most notably a certain emotion or idea, and expresses the concept in simplest terms, paradoxically creating a monumental depth. Creeley’s poetry often dealt with love or the loss of love, not to mention the web of subsequent emotions that arise from it. While Creeley almost exclusively stayed away from typical forms associated with poetry, he would often tinker with established methods and meters to create a form almost traditional but also modern and experimental.

Creeley’s life revolved around both poetry and education concurrently. He taught at the Black Mountain College, then moved on to the Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico before finally joining the English Department at the University of Buffalo, where he remained until just two years before his death. Throughout his career as an educator and poet, Creeley often reached out to young and unknown members of the poetry community, offering encouragement and advice to those who sought it.

His publishing career was quite prolific, both in the realm of poetry and prose. He and his first wife, Ann, founded the Divers Press in Majorca, Spain and published countless volumes of poetry from various poets. While living in Spain, Creeley wrote several books of poetry, as well as a novel. He is the author of more than sixty books of poetry and upwards of twelve books of prose. Born in Arlington, Massachusetts on 21 May 1926, Creeley died on 30 March 30 2005 in Texas. He was known as one of the most important American poets of the 20th century.

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