Meet the Poet

Robert P. Arthur was born in Norfolk, Virginia, but spent his early years in Silver Beach and Melfa Virginia, two towns on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where he and and his brothers grew up impoverished among watermen and harness-racing relatives. Later in Norfolk, he and his brothers Jim, Bill, and David became noted athletes and he was awarded a football scholar to the University of Richmond, in spite of his C- average and lack of an Academic degree.

There his literary talent was noticed by the historian and novelist, Clifford Dowdey, who trained him rigorously. By the time he was twenty one, he was supporting himself and his wife and child by ghost- writing books for New York publishers and teaching Creative Writing at the University as a recipient of a Seay fellowship. At thirty, he got lucky again, finding first-rate teachers at the University of Arkansas: scholar-poet, Miller Williams, and Maxine Kumin.

Robert P. Arthur is now a poet, novelist, short story writer, playwright, critic and professor. His book of poetry, Hymn to the Chesapeake, was the best selling book in the history of Road Publishers and has been produced as a musical play of the same name and performed on grants in St. Petersburg, Russia; as well as in Washington; New York; Maryland; and throughout Virginia.

Arthur was a finalist for Poet Laureate of Virginia in 2008 and 2010. In 2015, he retired from his position as Writer-in-low Residence in the Graduate Creative Program at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, in Poetry and Drama and in 2019 he retired as President Emeritus of the Poetry Society of Virginia after four terms. Other colleges and universities at which he has taught include Northampton College, and Hampton University.

He has served as a drama director and producer of poetry readings and shows at the 40th Street Theatre in Norfolk, at Tidewater Community college in Virginia Beach, and at the Edge Theatre on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and has published over 1,000 articles on the arts. He has acted, given poetry readings, and directed in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., New York City, and St. Petersburg, Russia.

He was chosen alongside Henry Taylor and Earl Hamner Jr. as a judge for the first American Film Festival in Virginia and later established with Bill Candler the Port Folio Awards for Dramatic Arts and was chairman of it’s awards committee for over ten years.

Arthur has published twenty-six books as of 2019. Books of poems include of Hymn to the Chesapeake, Strokes, and Vija’s War. He has also written a play in contemporary poetry (Phaedra), two historical plays in poetic rhetoric (King over the Water and The Libertine), as well as others, and, most importantly, poem/plays that have been published and/or produced.

A typical poem/play, a form which he arguably invented, consists of a series of poems, with music, put together with elements of plot, rising action, and dramatic arc, and is designed to be both read as a book of poems and produced as a play.

The most popular of his poem/plays, Hymn to the Chesapeake, is an adaptation of Hymn to the Chesapeake, his best-known book. Other well-known poem/plays are Threshold to America (the Jamestown Story,) Crazy Horse’s Woman, (a philosophical romance), and Appalachian Moons,
a part of Silver Beach Road.

Thus far, Arthur has established three theaters for drama and poetry readings, three literary Journals, and served as an editor of two poetry presses,

Arthur’s journal publications include poems in The Little Magazine of New York, where he shared the cover with Charles Bukowski, Poem, BlackWater Review, Roanoke Review, Port Folio, Ghent Quarterly, Urban Voices, Repasso, Written in the Bone (Smithsonian Institute), Poetry Society of Virginia Anthology, PoetryVirginia, and A Poem in Your Eye (anthology).


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