Robert Creeley

Robert Creeley (1926-2005) was an American poet and author of more than sixty books. When he gained popularity in the early 1960s, he was most associated with the “Black Mountain Poets,” which included Denise Levertov, Ed Dorn, Robert Duncan, and others, though his verse aesthetic diverged from that school. Now Creeley stands as one of the most important and influential poets of the twentieth century, whose work is known for both its concision and emotional power.

Creeley 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 B.A. from Black Mountain College in 1955, teaching some courses there as well. Creeley received an M.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1960. He began his academic career by teaching at the prestigious Albuquerque Academy, from 1958 to1961.

By the time Scribner’s published For Love in 1962, Creeley was recognized as a leader in the generational shift of poets that gave precedence to the experiences of everyday life. Together with Charles Olson—the rector of the Black Mountain School, and close friend and intensive correspondent—Creeley developed the concept of “projective verse,” which didn’t rely on traditional forms for poem construction but rather the process of composition itself. In one letter to Olson, Creeley put it this way: “form is never more than an extension of content.”

Creeley joined 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. At the time of his death, he was in residence with the Lannan Foundation in Marfa, Texas.

Go here to explore the finding aid for the Robert Creeley Papers and other Creely resources at Washington University.

Modern Literature Collection: The First Fifty Years

Robert Creeley