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Robert Creeley


Life & Death, poems by Robert Creeley
New Directions

Creeley’s life:

Robert Creeley was born in New England and lost both his father & the sight in his left eye before he was 5. He studied at Harvard, spent the last year of World War II with the AFS in Burma & India, married and lived in France & Mallorca in the early 50s, then divorced and returned to the US in 1954. He taught at Black Mountain College & the University of New Mexico, lived in Bolinas, California in the 70s and later settled into the poetics chair at SUNY Buffalo. He died in 2005 at 78.

Creeley’s poetry:

Creeley’s poems are in the lineage of William Carlos Williams, in their brevity, their distillation of emotion into lyrical image, and their use of ordinary language in short, breath-shaped lines. He has been called “minimalist,” but his poetry is not just condensed intellect -- the poet’s voice & personally experienced emotions are always present. But that voice speaks in hesitations & juxtapositions rather than narrative or declarative sentences. It is a poetry of subtlety & ellipsis.

Creeley & Charles Olson:

Creeley’s career as a writer & editor began with Wake, an alternative literary zine at Harvard devoted to new writers. When he was editor, he began writing to Williams & Pound, and later initiated a voluminous correspondence with Charles Olson which lasted for many years & in which the two men developed their influential poetics. Olson rescued Creeley from his difficult 1st marriage by inviting him to Black Mountain College, and later dedicated his masterwork, The Maximus Poems, to Creeley.

Creeley’s collaborations:

Creeley acknowledged the jazz musicians of the 50s -- Miles Davis, Charlie Parker & others -- as important influences on his writing, saying they taught him that “you can write directly from that which you feel.” He also found inspiration in the visual arts, and produced a large number of collaborative works with artists like Francesco Clemente & Robert Indiana.

Books by Robert Creeley:

  • If I Were Writing This (New Directions, 2003)
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  • Just in Time: Poems 1984 - 1994 (New Directions, 2001)
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  • Daybook of a Virtual Poet (Spuyten Duyvil, 1999)
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  • In Company: Robert Creeley’s Collaborations (illustrated book + CD, University of North Carolina Press, 1999)
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  • Life & Death (New Directions, 1998)
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  • So There: Poems 1976 - 1983 (New Directions, 1998)
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  • Collected Essays of Robert Creeley (University of California Press, 1989)
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  • Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945 - 1975 (University of California Press, 1985)
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  • Bed of Sphinxes (City Lights Books, 1997)
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