Creeley Named to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Announcement comes as poet gets ready to leave UB for his home turf

Release Date: May 8, 2003 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Robert Creeley, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetics and the Humanities at the University at Buffalo, has been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which honors distinguished experts and intellectuals from many fields.

The academy's 2003 class includes 187 fellows and 29 foreign honorary fellows. Among them are UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; newsman Walter Cronkite; philanthropist William Gates Sr., co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; three Nobel Laureates; four Pulitzer Prize winners, and noted American artist Cindy Sherman, who attended Buffalo State College and helped to found Buffalo's Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center.

The academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots "to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people."

Its current membership of 3,700 American fellows and 600 foreign honorary members include 150 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners. Its members have included noted minds and influential leaders from each generation, including George Washington and Ben Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th and Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Niels Bohr, Lord Tennyson, Jawaharlal Nehru and Albert Camus in the 20th.

Creeley, a member of the faculty of the Department of English in the College of Arts and Science since 1966, often is cited as one of the most important poets of the last half-century and has been the recipient of many major honors and distinctions. Among them are the Bollingen Prize, the Lila Wallace/ Reader's Digest Writers Award, several Fulbright Awards and the America Award in Poetry. He is also a chancellor of the American Academy of Poets.

He has written more than 60 books of poetry and criticism and is known as well for the diversity of his collaborations with artists outside his own authority. These include records with two

decisive jazz composer/musicians, bassist Steve Swallow and saxophonist Steve Lacy, and the alternative mix rock group Mercury Rev. Otherwise he has worked for more than three decades with visual artists -- John Altoon, Robert Indiana, Jim Dine, R.B. Kitaj, Francesco Clemente, John Chamberlain, Georg Baselitz, Alex Katz and Susan Rothenberg among them.

Two other members of the UB faculty previously were elected to the academy. Chemist Jui H. Wang, Einstein Professor of Science in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, was named in 1970, and Susan Howe, SUNY Distiguished Professor in the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, considered one of the most innovative and influential writers of her generation, was named in 1999.

The academy elected Creeley just as he announced that he will leave UB this fall to accept an appointment as Distinguished Professor at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

Creeley said he did not seek nor apply for the Brown appointment, and was not planning to retire from UB, where he has taught and lived for 37 years.

He noted that while he has benefited greatly from his relationship with UB and has many long and important relationships at the university, his New England roots are broad and deep. He was born in Arlington, Mass., raised in West Acton and attended Harvard. As a child, he attended school in New Hampshire and later tried subsistance farming in that state. He has long had a home in Maine. Many friends and members of his family live in the region - --and Creeley is a poet whose work is predominantly concerned with love and the emotions attending intimate relationships.

"Finally, I suppose it was the delight of being asked to consider such an appointment at my age," he added, "when one would expect to be on the way out to usual retirement, which, for me, argues no virtues.

"Being a writer, I wouldn't see any point in retiring from either that activity or whatever else one did, that one could continue doing for its interest and information, and its pleasure, be it said. I like both writing and teaching -- I don't want to stop."

Creeley noted: "For me, then, it is in some obvious way a 'fresh deck,' an absolutely unexpected chance to work with an excellent program, having within its faculty friends and fellow writers I have known for close to 40 years.

"Providence is also some 60 miles from the town where I grew up. One of my daughters lives within a half hour's drive. Boston, where so much of my life was first defined and where so many of my friends still live, is just down the road, some 40 miles driving, only 40 minutes by train."

As for leaving UB and Buffalo, Creeley said, "None of it's easy. After all the years here, the great, enduring company, the wonderful colleagues and the terrific students who continue to impress me with what they do and get done -- no one leaves such a generous company without regret."

He added: "UB gave me my first defining appointment as a teacher, and made me a full professor no less...and that was in 1966. The university I'd come from had me down as a 'lecturer,' so it was an almost incredible leap of faith on Buffalo's part to zap me so through the ranks.

Creeley said he and his wife, Penelope, plan to keep their home in Buffalo's Black Rock neighborhood.

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