April 1, 2005

Hail & Farewell: Robert Creeley . . .


Robert Creeley, famed as one of the core poets of the influential Black Mountain Poets along with Charles Olson and Denise Levertov, died at age 78 Wednesday while at a writers’ retreat in Texas run by the Lannan Foundation. His wife said the cause was “complications from lung disease,” according to a New York Times obituary by Dinitia Smith. Smith notes that Creeley was influenced by jazz and visual art and, with others in the Black Mountain group, “tried to escape from what they considered the academic style of American poetry, with its European influences and strict rhyme and metric schemes.” His “compressed,” “direct” style did have its detractors, Smith notes: “There are two things to be said about Creeley’s poems, the critic John Simon wrote. ‘They are short; they are not short enough.'” Nonetheless his work was award the Bollingen Prize among numerous other honors, and he was a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.