Robert White Creeley was born in Arlington, Massachusetts, in 1926 (a year that was to prove an annus mirabilis for American poetry, for others born that year include Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, Paul Blackburn, and Lew Welch). Creeley lost his father, Oscar, a doctor, at the age of four, and thereafter lived with his mother and sister in the nearby town of West Acton. At fourteen, he won a scholarship to the Holderness School in Plymouth, New Hampshire. He entered Harvard University in 1943. When he turned eighteen, being unfit for military service because of a childhood accident that had cost him an eye, he joined the U.S. Ambulance Corps and was sent to Burma. After World War II ended, he returned to Harvard, but he eventually left without taking a degree.
In 1946, Creeley was married to his first wife, Ann McKinnon. About this time, he struck up the close friendship with Cid Corman that was to lead to the launching of Corman’s groundbreaking journal Origin. This journal published much of Creeley’s early work and also the work of Charles Olson, an older poet with whom Creeley corresponded daily for two years. At that time, Olson was rector of Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and Creeley became editor (in absentia) of the Black Mountain Review, another key vehicle of what came to be called projective verse (after Olson’s essay of that name), Black Mountain poetry, or, more generally, the new American poetry. Creeley had been living...
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