ROBERTCREELEY (American 1926-2005)
Creeley was born in Arlington, Massachusetts and grew up in Acton. He was raised by his mother with one sister, Helen. At the age of four, he lost his left eye. He attended the Holderness School in New Hampshire. He entered Harvard University in 1943, but left to serve in the American Field Service in Burma and India in 1944-1945. He returned to Harvard in 1946, but eventually took his BA from Black Mountain College in 1955, teaching some courses there as well. When Black Mountain closed in 1957, Creeley moved to San Francisco, where he met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. He later met and befriended Jackson Pollock in the Cedar Tavern in New York City.
He was a chicken farmer briefly before becoming a teacher. The farm was in Littleton, New Hampshire. He was 23. The story goes that he wrote to Cid Corman whose radio show he heard on the farm, and Corman had him read on the show, which is how Charles Olson first heard of Creeley.
From 1951 to 1955, Creeley and his wife, Ann, lived with their three children on the Spanish island of Mallorca. They went there at the encouragement of their friends Martin Seymour-Smith and his wife, Janet. There they started Divers Press and published works by Paul Blackburn, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, and others. Creeley wrote about half of his published prose while living on the island, including a short story collection, The Gold Diggers, and a novel, The Island. He said that Martie and Janet are represented by Artie and Marge in the novel, The Island. He traveled between Mallorca and his teaching position at Black Mountain College in 1954 and 1955. They also saw to the printing of some issues of Origin and Black Mountain Review on Mallorca because the printing costs were significantly lower there.
An MA from the University of New Mexico followed in 1960. He began his academic career by teaching at the prestigious Albuquerque Academy starting in around 1958 until about 1960 or 1961. He read at the 1963 Vancouver Poetry Festival and at the 1965 Berkeley Poetry Conference. Afterward, he wandered about a bit before settling into the English faculty of "Black Mountain II" at the University at Buffalo in 1967. He would stay at this post until 2003, when he received a post at Brown University. From 1990 to 2003, he lived with his family in Black Rock, in a converted firehouse at the corner of Amherst and East Streets . At the time of his death, he was in residence with the Lannan Foundation in Marfa, Texas.
He first received fame in 1962 from his poetry collection For Love. He would go on to win the Bollingen Prize, among other and held the position of the New York Poet Laureate from 1989 until 1991. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003.
In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.
In his later years he was an advocate of, and a mentor to, many younger poets, as well as to others outside of the poetry world. He went to great lengths to be supportive to many and he had great sympathy for 'ordinary' people. Being responsive appeared to be essential to his personal ethics, and he seemed to take this responsibility extremely seriously, in both his life and his craft. In his later years, when he became well-known, he would go to lengths to make strangers, who approached him as a well-known author, feel comfortable. In his last years, he used the Internet to keep in touch with many younger poets and friends. He was rather shy, somewhat cautious, but he was not at all afraid; he would stand up in situations where many others would not.
Robert Creeley died at sunrise on March 30, 2005, in Odessa, Texas of complications from pneumonia. His death resulted in an outpouring of grief and appreciation from many in the poetry world. He is buried in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was scheduled to visit Albuquerque Academy, where he held a teaching post, 10 days after the day he died, to help celebrate their 50th anniversary.