Born in Denver, Colorado on May 18, 1925 and raised in Idaho towns with train depots (Wapai, Orchard, Kimima, Dietrick), Blaser was encouraged in the arts by his maternal grandmother who financed his education. Attending Berkeley he met poets Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer. He began his own poetry career in 1955 when he accepted a position at the Widener Library at Harvard upon his graduation from Berkeley. Some of his earliest preserved poems would appear in The Holy Forest almost 30 years later.

Blaser left Boston in 1959 to accompany his partner, biochemist James Felts, back to the West Coast until they separated in 1962. In the early 1960s he began a prolonged sexual relationship with Stan Persky. Blaser had a literary quarrel with his old friend Duncan, and lost his former friend, Spicer, who he had met in 1946, to alcoholism in 1965. As one of the key figures in the so-called San Francisco Renaissance, he oversaw the publication of the Collected Works of Jack Spicer in 1975.

Due to connections with Ellen and Warren Tallman, Blaser was attracted to the poetry scene of Vancouver and accepted a teaching position at Simon Fraser University in 1966 when that university was only one year old. He became a Canadian citizen in 1972 and remained teaching English until his retirement in 1986.

In Vancouver, Blaser influenced numerous writers such as Stan Persky, Brian Fawcett, George Bowering, Sharon Thesen, Phyllis Webb and Karl Siegler. His own modernist writing appeared in Pell Mell and Syntax in which he wrote, "Art is madness" and "the truth is laughter."

With the late Robert Dunham, Blaser co-edited Art and Reality: A Casebook for Concern, which documents an international SFU conference held in 1982. In 1995, to mark his seventieth birthday, a conference called Recovery of the Public World was staged in Vancouver. A year later The Capilano/Review devoted its Winter/Spring issue in 1996 to his honour. The conference proceedings were published by Talonbooks in 1999. Blaser also wrote the libretto for an opera, The Last Supper, for music by composer Sir Harrison Bertwistle. It premiered in Berlin in 2000.

In 2007, Robin Blaser, an Order of Canada recipient, received a Lifetime Recognition Award from the trustees of the Griffin Trust of Excellence in Poetry. In 2008, when his SFU associate George Bowering served as one of the three judges for the Griffin Poetry Prizes, Blaser's revised version of his serial poem, The Holy Forest (University of California Press, 2006), won the Canadian Griffin Prize.

According to publicity materials for the book, "Blaser's passion for world making draws inspiration from the major poets and philosophers of our time-from friends and peers such as Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, Charles Olson, Charles Bernstein, and Steve McCaffery to virtual companions in thought such as Hannah Arendt, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, among others."

He died on May 7, 2009, in Vancouver.

In 2019, Miriam Nichols provided a study of Robin Blaser’s life—recalling his mid-western conservative religious upbringing and his coming of age as a gay man in Berkeley, Boston, and San Francisco—with critical assessments of his major poems for A Literary Biography of Robin Blaser: Mechanic of Splendor (Palgrave Macmillan $39.99 2019), touted as the first major study illustrating Robin Blaser’s significance to North American poetry. A fixture at the English department of Simon Fraser University for decades, Blaser (1925–2009) drew upon his participation in the Berkeley Renaissance of the 1950s and San Francisco poetry circles of the 1960s during which he rubbed shoulders with the likes Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, Charles Olson and Stan Persky.


Apparitors. San Francisco: Auerhahn P, 1963.

The Moth Poem. San Francisco: Open Space, 1964.

Cups. San Francisco: Four Seasons Foundation, 1968.

Suddenly. Vancouver: Cobblestone Press, 1975.

Harp Trees. Vancouver: Vancouver: Sun Stone House & Cobblestone Press, 1977.

Of is the word love without the initial consonant . . .: Contemporary Broadsides No.1. Vancouver: Slug Press, 1979.

Syntax. Talonbooks, 1983.

Art and Reality: A Casebook of Concern. Talonbooks. 1986. (co-edited with Robert Dunham)

The Faerie Queene & The Park. Vancouver: Fissure Books, 1987.

Honestas. Buffalo: Poetry/Rare Book Collection, State U of New York, l987.

Pell Mell. Coach House Press, 1988.

The Holy Forest. Coach House Press, 1993; revised and expanded, University of California Press, 2006.

Nomad (Vancouver: Slug Press, 1995)

The Fire. University of California Press, 2007. (collected essays)

[BCBW 2019]