Jacket magazine     link More Author Notes        link Jacket Homepage
Photo — Robert Creeley, courtesy of the <i>Sunday Star,</i>
Auckland, New Zealand, 1995, and New Directions

Photo — Robert Creeley, courtesy of the Sunday Star, Auckland, New Zealand, 1995, and New Directions.

Robert Creeley: Biographical note

Robert Creeley attended Harvard University from 1943 to 1946, taking time out from 1944 to 1945 to work for the American Field Service in Burma (now Myanmar) and India. In 1946 he published his first poem, and 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 If I Were Writing This (New Directions, 2003); Life & Death (New Directions, 1998); Selected Poems 1945-1990 and The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley , 1945-1975 (1982). He has also published more than a dozen books of prose, essays, and interviews. He served as New York State Poet from 1989 to 1991. From 1989 to 2003 he was 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.

Robert Creeley died in 2005.

Below, on this page: link Jacket links    link Biography    link Statements    link Bibliography

Robert Creeley, 1927–2005: Links to Jacket items

button Jacket 12 - Robert Creeley: Preface to /Against the Silences/, by Paul Blackburn
button Jacket 12 - Robert Creeley: Preface to 'Charles Olson...', by Tom Clark
button Jacket 14 - Robert Creeley: Scholar's Rocks (poem) — art by Jim Dine
button Jacket 15 - Robert Creeley: For Kenneth [Koch]
button Jacket 22 - Robert Creeley: In Memoriam Ric Caddel
button Jacket 25 - Robert Creeley — Simon Pettet’s Calling
button Jacket 25 - Robert Creeley in Conversation with Leonard Schwartz, 24 November, 2003
button Jacket 26 – Robert Adamson: Robert Creeley, 1926–2005

Robert Creeley: Statements

I’m given to write poems. I cannot anticipate their occasion. I have used all the intelligence that I can muster to follow the possibilities that the poem “under hand,” as Olson would say, is declaring, but I cannot anticipate the necessary conclusions of the activity, nor can I judge in any sense, in moments of writing, the significance of that writing more than to recognize that it is being permitted to continue. I’m trying to say that, in writing, at least as I have experienced it, one is in the activity, and that fact itself is what I feel so deeply the significance of anything that we call poetry.  — From “I am given to write poems,” a lecture delivered in Berlin, 1967

I mean then words — as opposed to content. I care what the poem says, only as a poem — I am no longer interested in the exterior attitude to which the poem may well point, as signboard. That concern I have found it best to settle elsewhere. I will not be misled by the “niceness” of any sentiment, or its converse, malevolence. I do not think a poet is necessarily a nice person. I think the poem’s morality is contained as a term of its structure, and is there to be determined and nowhere else. — From “A Note,” originally printed in Nomad, Winter/ Spring 1960

I am wary of any didactic program for the arts and yet I cannot ignore the fact that poetry, in my own terms of experience, obtains to an unequivocal order. What I deny, then, is any assumption that that order can be either acknowledged or gained by intellectual assertion, or will, or some like intention to shape language to a purpose which the literal act of writing does not itself discover. — From “A Sense of Measure,” originally printed in the Times Literary Supplement, 1964

However right it may be to damn the use of the subjective method as an excuse for emotional claptrap, it’s apt to push us away from any understanding of the subjective in a more basic character, i.e., “belonging to, or of, or due to, the consciousness . . .” Impossible to write anything, lacking this relation of its content to oneself. Put another way: things have to come in before they can go out. — From “A Note on the Objective,” originally printed in Goad, summer 1951

Anyhow, form has now become so useless a term/ that I blush to use it. I wd imply a little of Stevens’ use (the things created in a poem and existing there . . .) & too, go over into: the possible casts or methods for a way into/ a ‘subject’: to make it clear: that form is never more than an extension of content. An enacted or possible ‘stasis’ for thought. Means to. — Letter to Charles Olson, June 5, 1950

So it isn’t writing like jazz, trying to be some curious social edge of that imagined permission. It’s a time one’s keeping, which could be the variations of hopscotch, or clapping, or just traffic’s blurred racket. It was what you could do with what you got, or words to that effect. — From “Form,” originally printed in
Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms, 1987


Butterick, George F., ed., Charles Olson & Robert Creeley: The Complete Correspondence , Vol. 1, Santa Barbara, Calif.: Black Sparrow Press, 1980

Creeley, Robert. The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1989.

Robert Creeley: Bibliography: selected works by Robert Creeley


Le Fou (Golden Goose Press, 1952)

The Immoral Proposition (Jonathan Williams, 1953)

The Kind of Act Of (Divers Press, 1953)

A Snarling Garland of Xmas Verses , anonymous (Divers Press, 1954)

All That Is Lovely in Men (Jonathan Williams, 1955)

If You (Porpoise Bookshop, 1956)

The Whip (WorMigrant Books, 1957; Jonathan Williams, 1957)

A Form of Women (Jargon Books in association with Corinth Books, 1959; Centaur, 1960)

For Love: Poems 1950–1960 (Scribners, 1962)

Words (Perishable Press, 1965)

Poems 1950–1965 (Calder and Boyars, 1966)

Words (Scribners, 1967)

The Charm: Early and Uncollected Poems (Perishable Press, 1967)

Robert Creeley Reads (Turret Books/ Calder and Boyars, 1967, with accompanying 45 rpm record)

A Sight (Cape Goliard, 1967)

Divisions and Other Early Poems (Perishable Press, 1968)

The Finger (Black Sparrow Press, 1968)

5 Numbers (New York: Poets Press, 1968)

Numbers (Edition Domberger / Galerie Schmela, 1968)

Pieces (Black Sparrow Press, 1968)

Mazatlan: Sea (San Francisco: Poets Press, 1969)

The Charm: Early and Uncollected Poems (Four Seasons Foundation, 1969)

Pieces (Scribners, 1969)

In London (Angel Hair Books, 1970)

The Finger: Poems 1966–1969 (Calder and Boyars, 1970)

1234567890 (Shambala/ Mudra, 1971)

The Charm: Early and Uncollected Poems (Calder and Boyars, 1971)

St. Martin’s (Black Sparrow Press, 1971)

A Day Book (Scribners, 1972)

Listen (Black Sparrow Press, 1972)

A Sense of Measure (Calder and Boyars, 1972)

The Class of ‘47 , with Joe Brainard (Bouwerie Editions, 1973)

The Creative , issued as Sparrow 6 (Black Sparrow Press, 1973)

For my mother: Genevieve Jules Creeley, 8 April 1887–7 October 1972 (Sceptre Press, 1973)

His Idea (Coach House Press, 1973)

Inside Out , issued as Sparrow 14 (Black Sparrow Press, 1973)

Thirty Things (Black Sparrow Press, 1974)

Backwards (Sceptre Press, 1975)

The Door: Selected Poems (S Press, 1975)

Away (Black Sparrow Press, 1976)

Hello (Hawk Press, 1976)

Presences: A Text for Marisol (Scribners, 1976)

Selected Poems (Scribners, 1976)

Desultory Days (Sceptre Press, 1978)

Myself (Sceptre Press, 1977)

Thanks (The Deerfield Press/ The Gallery Press, 1977)

Hello: A Journal, February 29–May 3, 1976 (New Directions, 1978/ Marion Boyars, 1978)

Later: A Poem (Toothpaste Press, 1978)

Later (New Directions, 1979 London: Marion Boyars, 1980)

Corn Close (Sceptre Press, 1980)

Mother’s Voice (Am Here Books/ Immediate Editions, 1981)

The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945–1975 (University of California Press, 1982)

Echoes (Toothpaste Press, 1982)

A Calendar 1984 (Toothpaste Press, 1983)

Mirrors (New Directions, 1983)

Memory Gardens (New Directions, 1986)

The Company (Burning Deck, 1988)

Window (The Poetry/ Rare Books Collection, SUNY at Buffalo, 1988)

7 & 6 (Hoshour Gallery, 1988)

It (Bruno Bischofberger, 1989)

Robert Creeley: a Selection, 1945–1987 (Dia Art Foundation, 1989)

Dreams (Periphery / Salient Seedling Press, 1989

Have a Heart (Limberlost Press, 1990)

Places (Shuffaloff Press, 1990)

Windows (New Directions, 1990)

Gnomic Verses (Zasterle Press, 1991)

The Old Days (Ambrosia Press, 1991)

Selected Poems (University of California Press, 1991)

Life & Death (Gagosian Gallery, 1993)

Echoes (New Directions, 1994)

Loops: Ten Poems (Nadja, 1995).

The Dogs of Aukland (Meow Press, 1996)

Life & Death (New Directions, 1998)

So There: Poems 1976–83 (New Directions, 1998)

Just in Time: Poems 1984–1994 (New Directions, 2001)

Yesterdays (Chax, 2002)

If I Were Writing This (New Directions, 2003)


The Gold Diggers (Palma de Mallorca, Spain: Divers Press, 1954)

The Island (New York: Scribners, 1963 London: John Calder, 1964)

The Gold Diggers and Other Stories (London: John Calder, 1965 New York: Scribners, 1965)

A Quick Graph: Collected Notes and Essays , edited by Donald Allen (Four Seasons Foundation, 1970)

Mabel, A Story: and Other Prose (Marion Boyars, 1976)

Was That a Real Poem or Did You Just Make It Up Yourself , issued as Sparrow 40 (Black Sparrow Press, 1976)

Mabel: A Story (Editions de l’Atelier Crommelynck, 1977)

Was That a Real Poem and Other Essays , edited by Donald Allen with a chronology by Mary Novik (Four Seasons Foundation, 1979)

The Collected Prose of Robert Creeley (Marion Boyars, 1984 corrected edition, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988)

“Autobiography,” Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series , 10 (Detroit: Gale, 1989): 61–77 reprinted as Autobiography (Madras, India and New York: Hanuman, 1990) also reprinted in Tom Clark, Robert Creeley and the Genius of the American Common Place (New Directions, 1993): 122–144.

The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1989)

Dreams (Periphery / Salient Seedling Press, 1989)


Charles Olson & Robert Creeley: The Complete Correspondence , 10 vols. (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Black Sparrow Press, 1980–); George F. Butterick, ed., volume 10 edited by Richard Blevins;

Irving Layton & Robert Creeley : the Complete Correspondence, 1953–1978, Ekbert Faas and Sabrina Reed eds., (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990).


Contexts of Poetry: Interviews 1961–1971 Donald Allen, ed., (Four Seasons Foundation, 1973);

Towards a New American Poetics: Essays and Interviews, Ekbert Faas, (Black Sparrow Press, 1979): 165–198.

Tales Out of School: Selected Interviews (University of Michigan Press, 1993).

Special thanks to Michael Kelleher for supplying the bibliography
and statements on poetry.

Copyright Notice: Please respect the fact that all material in Jacket magazine is copyright © Jacket magazine and the individual authors and copyright owners 1997–2010; it is made available here without charge for personal use only, and it may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose.

The Internet address of this page is http://jacketmagazine.com/bio/creeley.shtml