Category Archives: Robert Creeley

Robert Creeley — a poet


On this, the day after the final day of National Poetry Month (April 2017), a poet who wore more than one hat (in that he was affiliated with more than one group of American poets in the 20th century) is Robert Creeley (1926 – 2005).  He was considered among the Beat poets in the 1960s to be a contemporary, and prior to this, when he was a teacher at Black Mountain College when it existed in the 1950s in North Carolina, he was regarded as one of the “Black Mountain Poets.”  Later in the 1980s, and until his death in 2005, Creeley forged his own way, breaking away from the solely spare style he’d been known for, while still creating a distinctive style.  He is also considered influential in shifting poetry from depending on history and tradition as being sources of poetic inspiration and giving instead the ongoing experiences of a person’s life more significance.

I was introduced to Robert Creeley by a friend who gave me a miniature book about him entitled “Robert Creeley Autobiography.”  It turns out this small book is a reprint of Creely’s autobiography that appears in the resource “Contemporary Authors, Autobiography Series,” Volume 10 published in 1989.

I would like to read more of this poet – he is considered fairly prolific and also wrote prose and essays as well.


Like kid on float
of ice block sinking
in pond the field had made
from winter’s melting snow

so wisdom accumulated
to disintegrate 
in conduits of brain
in neural circuits faded

while gloomy muscles shrank
mind padded the paths
its thought had wrought
its habits had created

till like kid afloat
on ice block broken
on or inside the thing it stood
or was forsaken.

–Robert Creeley, 1994

Robert Creeley, American poet (1926-2005)

To the One in the Gray Coat

To the one in the gray coat,
sitting as though he were
asleep, were beyond these
involving actions, I will
address myself. Ole!

He will become conscious,
so, of the south. I have
called to mind for him,
have suggested by language,
a world of inner warmth,

a south of the spirit in
which he will be the one
who is not asleep, who
dozes in the completeness
of things which are warm,

in the sun, in the sun’s
completeness. And the coat
as remnant, to be left on
the bench. And he will
know this and will leave it.

Then, going, he will have
passed me, in chill air,
the disciple, to say more
of, to go on with these
signs of inadequate love.

from: The Charm: Early and Uncollected Poems (1968)


Walls are
relief in lifting
themselves. Let

you also
lift yourself,
selves, shelves.

from: The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975

Robert Creeley Autobiography

Sometime in the 1990s a friend of mine gave me a tiny book (4 inches x 2 ¾ inches) entitled Robert Creeley Autobiography (pub. 1990). On the cover was a photo of Mr. Creeley ostensibly taken by fellow poet, Allen Ginsburg.


I finally read this autobiography recently, and in today’s world I guess it would be called a memoir. Densely written, Robert Creeley meanders in the telling of his life story yet it is worth the reading.  Of significance I learned he had two traumatic things happen to him before the age of five: first he lost his left eye in a freak accident while riding in a car at age two, and secondly, his father died when Robert was four years old.  In a matter of fact somewhat stoic manner, the poet discusses how these two events shaped his life from then on. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Mr. Creeley eventually went on to live not only in other parts of New England in upstate New York, he also spent time in India, Burma, New Mexico, France, Spain and Finland. He studied at Harvard and later worked for a number of years as a professor at State University of New York, Buffalo and for a time at Brown University.

As a poet Robert Creeley is linked to a group of avant garde poets from the 1950s known as the Black Mountain poets.  This term stems from Black Mountain College, a progressive school of arts education and academia located in North Carolina that was instrumental in producing some of the more significant avant garde artists that flourished in the 1960s.  Creeley later befriended some of the beat writers and is sometimes affliated with this group of writers also.