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Robert Creeley, 78; Postmodern Poet, Professor

to sit and eat --

no meaning

no point.


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He had been at Brown for the past two years. He also had taught at the University of New Mexico, the University of British Columbia, San Francisco State University and, for 25 years, the State University of New York at Buffalo. He lived in Providence, R.I.

Robert White Creeley was born May 21, 1926, in Arlington, Mass., and grew up in nearby West Acton. He became interested in writing while a student at the Holderness School, in Plymouth, N.H.

He was admitted to Harvard University in 1943 but interrupted his education during World War II to serve as an ambulance driver in India for the American Field Service. In 1947, he dropped out of Harvard shortly before he was scheduled to graduate. He lived for a while on a farm in New Hampshire, as well as in Spain and France.

In the 1950s, he was one of the "Black Mountain poets." These were writers, including Denise Levertov, Ed Dorn and Charles Olson, who had some connection to Black Mountain College, an experimental, communal college in North Carolina, in the mountains near Asheville.

Olson was particularly influential. He and Mr. Creeley developed the concept of "projective verse," poetry that abandoned traditional forms in favor of something more organic, something that took shape as the process of composition was underway. "I see as I write," Mr. Creeley noted.

His work also tended to focus on the everyday experiences, emotions and relationships rather than on history and public events. "Reading his poems, we experience the gnash of arriving through feeling at thought and word," the poet and translator Forrest Gander wrote in a review of Mr. Creeley's last book, "Life & Death" (1998).

Mr. Creeley's first marriage, to Ann McKinnon Creeley, ended in divorce in 1955. His only novel, "The Island" (1963), drew on that relationship; the book is set on the island of Mallorca, off the coast of Spain, where he lived with his family in 1953-54.

After the divorce, he returned briefly to Black Mountain before moving to San Francisco, where he associated with Allen Ginsburg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac and other members of the Beat Generation of writers. His work appeared in the influential anthology "The New American Poetry: 1945-1960" (1960), edited by Donald Allen.

In 1956, Mr. Creeley accepted a teaching position at a boys' school in Albuquerque, where he met his second wife, Bobbie Louise Hawkins Creeley, and continued to publish poetry and fiction throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In 1962, Scribners published his first major collection, "For Love: Poems 1950-1960."

Mr. Creeley's second marriage ended in divorce in 1976. His poetry from that time reflects a brooding sense of loss.

In his next major collection, "Later" (1979), Mr. Creeley's work reflected a preoccupation with aging. In "Myself," the first poem in the collection, he wrote:


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