Robert Peters

About the Author
Robert Peters has been an important figure in American poetry for over thirty years. The author of dozens of collections of poems as well as an influential critic of contemporary American poetry, Peters has served as a Contributing Editor for The American Book Review, Contact II, and Paintbrush. He 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 fellowships, and won the Alice de Castagnola Prize of the Poetry of America, the Larry P. Fine for Criticism, and the Kerouac Award for Poetry. Booklist called him “One of America’s most distinctive contemporary poets.”


  • “It’s hard to dislike a poetry critic who chooses to discuss John Ashbery in the form of a mock-colloquy between two overeducated characters named Dick and Jane (‘Reaming eucalyptus roots from sewer lines is simpler than deciphering Ashbery,’ Dick asserts). Peters takes a refreshingly unacademic approach to the assessment of contemporary American poetry; these essays, representing his work of the last quarter century, try to cut a path through the ‘safe forms, safe language, safe themes’ that in his opinion have clogged the scene. Interspersed with pieces addressing a broad range of writers — Tess Gallagher, Allen Ginsberg — are more thematic chapters that inspect and assail opening lines in poems and (in “Biopsies”) question the hows and whys of Language Poetry. In his view of criticism, consensus seems not to be the point. That’s why his views are both arguable and bracing.”
         — Publishers Weekly
  • “Peters has a range necessary for the immense diversity of our poetry. . . . He brings to all his readings a casual erudition, imaginative shemata, and a lively intensity.”
         — Robert Bonazzi, Vortex: A Critical Review, on Robert Peters’ criticism
  • “Peters’ criticism is not maternal. . . insights are set down simply, unornamented, as if intended to glance off, and yet I think they are important, and belong to the center. . . The book deserves numerous readers, particularly among young poets dissatisfied with the celebrities who keep writing the same poem over and over again. . . [His] essay on Creeley is superb; the best essay on his work I know.”
  •      — Robert Bly on the first Great American Poetry Bakeoff in American Book Review

  • “Peters has an unerring eye and ear for the sham, the pretentious, the inept, the safe, the uninspired, and the hopelessly self-indulgent. Such qualities he finds almost everywhere, often in work by poets of major reputation. Peters is happy to challenge the established hierarchies, to bring alternative models to our attention, and to be half-serious in questioning the high seriousness of the poetry business.”
         — Philip K. Jason, The Signal, on Robert Peters’ criticism