Robert Creeley

Robert Creeley

Robert Creeley was born in Arlington, Massachusetts, on May 21, 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”. In 1949 he began corresponding with William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound. The following year he became acquainted with the poet Charles Olson.

In 1954, as rector of Black Mountain College (an experimental arts college in North Carolina), Olson invited Creeley to join the faculty and to edit the Black Mountain Review. In 1960 Creeley received a Master’s Degree from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Through the Black Mountain Review and his own critical writings, Creeley helped to define an emerging counter-tradition to the literary establishment–a postwar poetry originating with Pound, Williams, and Zukofsky and expanding through the lives and works of Olson, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, Edward Dorn, and others.

Robert Creeley has published more than sixty books of poetry in the United States and abroad, including Life Death (New Directions, 1998); Echoes (1994); Selected Poems 1945-1990 (1991); Memory Gardens (1986); Mirrors (1983); The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975 (1982); Later (1979); The Finger (1968); and For Love: Poems 1950-1960 (1962). He has also published The Island (novel, 1963), The Gold Diggers and Other Stories (1965), and more than a dozen books of prose, essays, and interviews. He has also edited such books as Charles Olson’s Selected Poems (1993), The Essential Burns (1989), and Whitman: Selected Poems (1973).

His honors include the Frost Medal, the Shelley Memorial Award, 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.


Echo

It was never
simple to wait,
to sit quiet.

Was there still
another way round,
a distance to go –

as if an echo
hung in
the air before

one was heard,
before a word
had been said.

What was love
and where
and how did one get there.


Goodbye

Now I recognize
it was always me
like a camera
set to expose

itself to a picture
or a pipe
through which the water
might run

or a chicken
dead for dinner
or a plan
inside the head

of a dead man.
Nothing so wrong
when one considered
how it all began.

It was Zukofsky’s
“Born very young into a world
already very old…”
The century was well along

when I came in
and now that it’s ending,
I realize it won’t
be long.

But couldn’t it all have been
a little nicer,
as my mother’d say. Did it
have to kill everything in sight,

did right always have to be so wrong?
I know this body is impatient.
I know I constitute only a meager voice and mind.
Yet I loved, I love.

I want no sentimentality.
I want no more than home.


The Mirror

Seeing is believing.
Whatever was thought or said,

these persistent, inexorable deaths
make faith as such absent,

our humanness a question,
a disgust for what we are.

Whatever the hope,
here it is lost.

Because we coveted our difference,
here is the cost.

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