Wherever it is one stumbles (to get to wherever) at least some way will exist, so to speak, as and when a man takes this or that step---for which, god bless him. Insofar as these poems are such places, always they were ones stumbled into: warmth for a night perhaps, the misdirected intention come right; and too, a sudden instance of love, and the being loved, wherewith a man also contrives a world (of his own mind).
It seems to me, now, that I know less of these poems than will a reader, at least the reader for whom---if I write for anyone---I have written. How much I should like to please! It is a constant concern.
That is, however, hopeful and pompous, and not altogether true. I write poems because it pleases me, very much---I think that is true. In any case, we live as we can, each day another---there is no use in counting. Nor more, say, to live than what there is, to live. I want the poem as close to this fact as I can bring it; or it, me.
—Robert Creeley, 1962, For Love
Robert Creeley was born May 21, 1926 in Arlington, MA. He lost his left eye in an accident as a small child. As an undergraduate, he attended Harvard University from 1943 to 1946, also working for the American Field Service in Burma and India in 1944 and 1945. His first published poem appeared in the Harvard Journal Wake in 1946.
In 1949, Creeley began exchanging letters with poets William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound, but it was Charles Olson, then rector of Black Mountain College, who invited the young poet to join the faculty at that experimental school in North Carolina and edit the Black Mountain Review. As a writer and literary critic, Creeley contributed to the birth of the post-World War II anti-establishment poetry movement. Some of the other artists involved in this work included Olson, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Edward Dorn, and Allen Ginsberg (who went on to be associated with the Beat Generation).
In 1960, Creeley earned an M.A. from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. In addition to his Field Service time in Asia, he has lived in Guatemala, Finland, France, and Spain. His more than 60 books published in the States and abroad include the following volumes of poetry:
- For Love: Poems 1950-1960 (1962)
- The Finger (1968)
- Later (1979)
- The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley 1945-1975 (1982)
- Mirrors (1983)
- Memory Gardens (1986)
- Selected Poems 1945-1990 (1991)
- Echoes (1994)
- Life and Death (1998)
Creeley has written a novel, The Island (1963), and numerous books of prose, essays, and interviews. Books edited by Creeley include Whitman: Selected Poems (1973), The Essential Burns (1989), and Charles Olson's Selected Poems (1993).
Robert Creeley is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Buffalo, NY, where hs is the Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetry and Humanities at SUNY Buffalo, where he has also been the chair of poetics. He has won numerous awards, including the Frost Medal, the Shelley Memorial Award, an NEA award, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation. He was New York State poet from 1989 until 1991, and was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1999.
Robert Creeley has been my favorite living poet since the death of Allen Ginsberg in 1997. I first discovered his poetry at the Waterloo Poetry Festival in the fall of 1996 (see my writeup under Poem for D.H. Lawrence for more on that). What I admire most about Creeley's writing is its simplicity, how he says so much with so little. Every time I read him I'm struck by the sheer power of his way with words. All his poems display incredible skill and finesse in their rhythm, intonation, and meter, all of which seem to effortlessly match the themes and moods of the writing. It boggles my mind.
Sources: www.poets.org biography of Creeley, http://www.cityhonors.buffalo.k12.ny.us/city/rsrcs/eng/auth/cre.html, http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc/authors/Creeley