Robert Peters

Robert Peters

Robert Louis Peters is a poet, critic, scholar, playwright, editor, and actor born in an impoverished rural area of northern Wisconsin in 1924. He holds a Ph.D. His poetry career began in 1967 when his young son Richard died unexpectedly of spinal meningitis. The book commemorating this loss, "Songs for a Son", was selected by poet Denise Levertov to be published by W.W. Norton in 1967, and it still remains in print. "Songs for a Son" began a flood of poetry.Infobox Writer
Robert Peters

imagesize = 200px
caption = Robert Peters in 2004
birthdate = birth date|1924|10|20|=mf=y
birthplace = Eagle River, Wisconsin
occupation = Poet, Memoirist, Victorian scholar, Critic, Playwright, and Professor
nationality = American
influences =Alfred Tennyson, Thomas Carlyle, Robert Browning, John Addington Symonds,John Keats, Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Robert Creeley, James Dickey

Personal life

Shortly after his divorce from his wife Jean, Peters met poet Paul Trachtenberg and established a relationship lasting over thirty-six years.cite web |url= |title=Robert Peters | |date=2004-08-26 |accessdate=2007-06-24]

Academic beginnings

After army service during World War II, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, majoring in English. He received his B.A., in 1948, his M.A. in 1949, and his doctorate in 1952. His teaching career took him to Wayne State University, Boston University, Ohio Wesleyan, University of Idaho in the city of Moscow, University of Riverside, and then the University of California at Irvine, where he first taught in 1967. His field of study was Victorian literature, and in addition to publishing numerous articles and monographs, he edited, with Herbert Schueller, the letters of John Addington Symonds. Peters did receive a Fulbright Fellowship to Cambridge, England in the 60's to work on these Symonds' letters. After Peters' "Songs for a Son" was published, he devoted more time to writing and study of contemporary poetry. Fellow poets Charles Wright and James McMichael and novelist Oakley Hall taught poetry at UC Irvine during this time and shared directorship of the university's well known Master of Fine Arts program.

Poet and critic

Peter is a prolific poet, having published some thirty books of poems, and he is an important critic of contemporary American poetry. In his controversial books of criticism—"The Great American Poetry Bake-Off" series, the "Peters Black and Blue Guides to Current Literary Magazines", and "Hunting the Snark: A Compendium of New Literary Terminology"—he has assessed over 400 contemporary poets and critics. He also wrote poetry reviews for the Los Angeles Times.

He has been published by both large and small presses, including W.W. Norton, Wayne State University Press, Crossing Press, New Rivers, Cherry Valley Editions, Unicorn Press, GLB Publishing, Paragon House, and University of Wisconsin Press. In the fall of 2001, the 40th volume of his "Familial Love and Other Misfortunes" was published by Red Hen Press. Peters has served as a contributing editor for "The American Book Review", "Contact II", and "Paintbrush".

Style of poetry

His poetry covers a wide range of themes and forms, from intensely personal volumes of private celebrations and losses—the death of a son, the break-up of a marriage, and his rural Wisconsin origins—to excursions into the psyches of a vast gallery of historical eccentrics, numbering among them, a Bavarian king, a Hungarian countess (and mass murderer), and a British romantic painter. He adapted both King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Elizabeth Báthory the Hungarian Countess for theatrical presentation, performing them around the country. His "Poems: Selected & New" includes a rich sampling of work written over the past thirty years, while collecting in a single volume many of Peters' best poems.

Awards and honours

Peters has also judged competitions for fellowships and prizes for an assortment of small presses and for the Poetry Society of America and PEN International. He has enjoyed Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and won the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award of the Poetry Society of America.

Further reading

"Note": All of Robert Peters' papers from 1950-1990, including letters, manuscripts (both published and unpublished), and journals containing his poetry and prose, are on deposit in the [ Kenneth Spencer Research Library] , the University of Kansas, Lawrence. His working library of contemporary poetry, with related papers, is now in the Rare Book Collection, Bowling Green State University. Recently his remaining archives have been obtained by the Weisel Library Special Collections, University of San Diego.

Books of poetry

* "Songs for a Son", W. W. Norton, 1967
* "The Sow's Head and Other Poems", Wayne State University Press, 1968
* "Connections: In the English Lake District", Anvil Press Chapbook Series, London 1972
* "Red Midnight Moon", Empty Elevator Shaft Chapbook Series, 1973
* "Holy Cow: Parable Poems", Red Hill Press, San Francisco, 1974
* "Bronchial Tangle, Heart System", Granite Books, 1975
* "Cool Zebras of Light", Christopher's Books, Santa Barbara, California, 1975
* "The Gift to Be Simple: A Garland for Ann Lee", Liveright/ W.W. Norton, 1975
* "The Poet as Ice Skater", Manroot Books, 1976
* "Gauguin's Chair: Selected Poems 1967-1974", Crossing Press, 1977
* "Hawthorne", Red Hill Press, San Francisco, 1977
* "The Drowned Man to the Fish", New Rivers Press 1978
* "Ikagnak: The North Wind", Kenmore Press, 1978
* "Celebrities: In Memory of Margaret Dumont", Sombre Reptiles, 1981
* "The Picnic in the Snow: Ludwig of Bavaria", New Rivers Press, 1982
* "What John Dillinger Meant to Me", Sea Horse Press, 1983
* "Love Poems For Robert Mitchum", Chiron Review Press, 1983
* "Hawker", Unicorn Press, 1984
* "Kane", Unicorn Press, 1985
* "Shaker Light", Unicorn Press, 1986
* "Ludwig of Bavaria: Poems and a Play", Revised edition, Cherry Valley Edition, 1986
* "The Blood Countess: Poems and a Play", Cherry Valley Edition, 1987
* "Haydon", Unicorn Press, 1988
* "Breughel's Pig", Illuminati Press, Los Angeles, 1990
* "Good Night, Paul", GLB Publishers, 1992
* "Snapshots For a Serial Killer", GLB Publishers, 1992
* "Robert Peters: Poems: Selected & New, 1967-1991", Asylum Arts, 1992
* "Familial Love and Other Misfortunes", Red Hen Press, Los Angeles, 2002
* "Makars' Dozens", Pearl Edition, Long Beach, California 2006

Criticism, scholarship, and other publications

* "Victorians on Literature and Art", Appleton Century, 1961
* "America: The Diary of a Visit, By Edmund Gosse", edited by Robert Peters Purdue University 1966
* "The Crowns of Apollo: Swinburne's Principles of Literature and Art", Wayne State University
* "The Letters of John Addington Symonds", Ed. with H.Schueller, 3 vols, Wayne State University Press, 1967-1969
* "Pioneers of Modern Poetry", with George Hitchcock, Kayak Press, 1967
* "Gabriel: A Poem by John Addington Symonds", Edited by Robert Peters & Timothy D'Arch Smith, London: Harrington 1974
* "The Great American Poetry Bakee-Off I, II, III, IV Series", Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, New Jersey 1979, 1982, 1987, & 1991
* "The Peters' Black and Blue Guide to Current Literary Journals", first and second series, Cherry Valley Editions, New York, 1983 and 1985
* "The Peters' Black and Blue Guide to Current Literary Journals", third series, Dustbooks, 1987
* "Hunting The Snark: American Poetry at Century End: Classifications and Commentary", Paragon House, New York 1989
* "Letters to a Tutor: The Tennyson Family Letters to Henry Graham Dakyns", Scarecrow Press, 1989
* "Where the Bee Sucks: Workers, Drones & Queens of Contemporary American Poetry", Asylum Arts, 1994
* "SLIME The Secret Sex-Life of J. Edgar Hoover", Artist Eric Reynolds Eros Comix 1995
* Revised Edition of "Hunting The Snark: American Poetry at Century End: Classifications and Commentary", Avisson Press, 1997
* "Ludwig of Bavaria & Other Short Plays", Asylum Arts, 2001


* "Crunching Gravel: A Wisconsin Boyhood in the Thirties", University of Wisconsin Press, 1993
* "Nell: A Women From Wisconsin", University of Wisconsin Press, 1995
* "For You, Lili Marlene" A Memoir of WW II", University of Wisconsin Press, 1995
* "Feather: A Child's Life and Death", University of Wisconsin Press, 1997


* With Billy Collins, in "Gauguin's Chair: Selected Poems", Crossing Press, 1977
* With William Matthews, "The Shaker Poems", in "The Great American Poetry Bake-off: Second Series", Ibid., 141-150.
* Featured in the Writer's Autobiography Series, Vol. VIII, Gale Research Co., December 1989

Essays on Robert Peters

* Diane Wakoski, in "American Poetry", Winter 1985, 71-78
* Billy Collins, "Literary Reputation and the Thrown Voice", in "A Gift of Tongues: Critical Challenges in Contemporary American Poetry", eds. Marie Harris and Kathleen Augero, University of Georgia Press, 1987, 295-306.
* Charles Hood, "Robert Peters", for the "Dictionary of Literary Biography".


External links

* [ Robert Peters Emeritus]
* [ EchoNYC interview]
* [ Lambda Report]
* [ GLB Bio]
* [ Jerome Library Collection]
* [ UCSD Mandeville Collection]

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