Meet the Poet
Robert P. Arthur is seventy-six years old and the author of twenty-six books: fourteen books of poetry, six poem/plays, two plays in poetry, three lyrical novels and a book of short stories in which poetry is used extensively. A collected works of his poetry and two more plays will be published in 2020. He is known for taking poetry to the stage and using it in dramatic and innovative ways.
Thirty-one of his plays in verse, poem/plays, and other plays have been produced.
A typical poem/play, a form which he arguably invented, consists of a series of poems joined together by music, elements of plot, rising action, and dramatic arc. It is designed to be both read as a book of individual poems and produced as a play.
In 2008 and 2010, he was a finalist for Poet Laureate of Virginia, the only finalist ever produced by the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
In preparation for a teaching and writing career, Arthur earned a Seay Fellowship and an M.A. from the University of Richmond, where he was as a protege of historian and novelist Clifford Dowdey. Later, he earned an M.F.A. from the University of Arkansas, where he studied under novelist Larry McMurtry, poet Maxine Kumin and poet-scholar Miller Williams. Over the years, he has taught at both universities, as well as community colleges, Virginia Commonwealth University, Hampton University, The Muse Writing Center, Westhampton College, and Wilkes University in Pennsylvania where he was Writer in Low-Residence in Poetry and Playwriting for many years. He has also taught children of migrant workers on the Eastern Shore. In 2019, he retired as President Emeritus of the Poetry Society of Virginia after four terms of office. To date, as a critic, he has published over a thousand articles and reviews on the arts for three newspapers and Port Folio Magazine, an arts weekly that covered the arts from Hampton Roads to the Eastern Shore. He has also given well over a hundred readings of his work.
In 1993, he turned his best-selling book of poetry, Hymn to the Chesapeake (Road Publishers) into a “poem/play,” with the assistance of musical director Judi Beck. The poem/play began on the Eastern Shore at the Trawler Dinner Theatre, moved to Washington, D.C., then to New York City, then to St. Petersburg, Russia. It was later read in Norway and performed throughout Virginia. Arthur performed part of it on Magic Babylon in San Francisco, and a poem from it is currently being broadcast by Red Eft Productions to 190 countries.
Thus far, he has founded or co-founded four literary magazines, four theatres for poetry and drama; a poetry book award in conjunction with the Poetry Society of Virginia; The Portfolio Awards for Drama, with Bill Candler; and a poetry book press, with Jeff Hewitt. His poem/plays and plays in poetry have won 7 awards and 15 grants. Phaedra was produced for the diplomatic community of Washington, D.C. and starred international film star Ina Gogolova. Chesapeake Celebration was produced by Playwright’s Premier Theatre of New York.
Books of poetry and poem/plays centered on Virginia include Appalachian Moon, Fut Gar and the Nature of Evil, Threshold to America (Jamestown), Hymn to the Chesapeake (both as a poem/play and book of poetry), Strokes, Horse Hammock Point, Chesapeake Celebration, River Country (with Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda), Disclosures, Silver Beach Road, Robert P. Arthur: Selected Works, Black Gum Against Thunder, Robert Arthur’s Eastern Shore.
Arthur’s journal publications include poems in The Little Magazine of New York, where he shared the cover with Charles Bukowski and several others, Poem, BlackWater Review, Roanoke Review, Port Folio, Ghent Quarterly, Urban Voices, Repasso, Written in Bone (Smithsonian Institute), Poetry Society of Virginia Anthology, PoetryVirginia, and A Poem in Your Eye (anthology).
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