Thursday, March 31, 2005

OBT: Robert Creeley dead

Teacher, beat poet Robert White Creeley . . .

from The Associated Press today:

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Robert White Creeley, a longtime university professor in Buffalo regarded as one of the great American poets of the last half-century, died Wednesday. He was 78.

Creeley, who was associated with the Beat generation, died of pneumonia at a hospital in Odessa, Texas, where he was a writer-in-residence, The Buffalo News reported in Thursday's editions.

Creeley taught English at the State University of New York at Buffalo for 37 years before leaving in 2003 to take a post at Brown University in Rhode Island.

He wrote more than 60 books of poetry and earned many honors, including the Bollingen Prize, of which past winners include e.e. cummings and Robert Frost.

Creeley was named New York state's poet laureate in 1989.

A native of Arlington, Mass., Creeley lost his left eye in a childhood accident. He later attended Harvard University but struggled academically and dropped out. In 1955, he received his degree from Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where he was one of the founders of the Black Mountain school of poetry that promoted an anti-academic writing form.

He befriended several of the best-known Beat writers including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Creeley also became friends with painter Jackson Pollack, but not until after the pair nearly came to blows in a New York City tavern.

"His place in American poetry is enormous," said Charles Bernstein, a poet and former University of Buffalo colleague now at the University of Pennsylvania.

He will be laid to rest in the Cambridge, Mass. cemetery where fellow poets Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are buried.

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