Robert Bensen

Life and Work


Robert Bensen was born in Joliet, Illinois and was educated at the University of Illinois, Oxford University, and Harvard University. He is Emeritus Professor of English at Hartwick College. He teaches at SUNY-Oneonta and conducts a poetry workshop at Bright Hill Literary Center, Treadwell.


He has published six collections of poetry, most recently Before (Five Oaks Press), and Orenoque, Wetumka & Other Poems (Bright Hill Press).  Poems have appeared in Agni, Akwe:kon, Antioch Review, Callaloo, Caribbean Writer, Jamaica Journal, Native Realities, Paris Review, Partisan Review, Poetry Wales, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Thomas Hardy Review, and many others. His work has earned an NEA poetry fellowship, the Robert Penn Warren Award, the Harvard Summer Poetry Prize, and Illinois Arts Council and NY State Council on the Arts awards. 


His scholarship in the Caribbean and Native America has produced essays, studies, and editions, won fellowships from the NEH and Newberry Library, and led to teaching in St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.  He has edited anthologies of Caribbean and Native American writing, including Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education (Univ. of Arizona Press).


Woodland Arts Editions

Bensen’s publishing imprint, Woodland Arts Editions published four chapbooks in October 2020 by David Bachner, Lynne Kemen, Julene Waffle, and Vicki Whicker, who are also included in the Seeing Things anthology. 

Awards and Recognition

Fellowship in Poetry, National Endowment for the Arts; Winifred Wandersee Scholar-in-Residence, Hartwick College; Robert Penn Warren Award for Poetry; Cora A. Babcock Professor of English, Hartwick College; Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership Award, Independent College Fund of New York; Fellowship, Newberry Library (Chicago); National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, Poetry prizes from Illinois Arts Council and Harvard University, Poetry prize (third) from New York State Fair, Eric Hoffer Book Prize (shared); Finalist for the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Foundation; Finalist for the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets.


All Works

Books of Poetry

Finishing Touches: Selected Poems. (in process)

Before. Trenton, NY: Five Oaks Press, 2019.

Orenoque, Wetumka, and Other Poems. Treadwell, NY: Bright Hill Press, 2012.

Two Dancers. Oneonta NY: Woodland Arts Editions, 2004

The Scriptures of Venus. Northfield, MA: Swamp Press, 2001.

Day Labor. Oneonta, NY: Serpent & Eagle Press, 1984.

In the Dream Museum. Urbana, IL: Red Herring Press, 1980.

Near Misses. Oneonta, NY: Nocturnal Canary Press, 1979.

Book Editions and Studies

Native American and Aboriginal Canadian Childhood Studies. Oxford Bibliographies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Online.

Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001, 2008.

Iroquois Voices, Iroquois Visions: A Celebration of Contemporary Six Nations Arts.  ed. with Bertha Rogers and Maurice Kenny. Treadwell, NY: Bright Hill Press, 1996.

One People’s Grief: Recent Caribbean Literature. Hamilton, New Zealand: Outrigger Publishers, 1983.

Six Cuban Poets/Seis Poetas Cubanas, trans. T. Keating.  Oneonta, N.Y.:  Serpent & Eagle Press, 1983.

Poetry: Gallery Exhibitions

“A Tale of Three Books: Collaborations with Phil Young,” The Smithy Gallery, Cooperstown, NY. June-July 2019.

Poems & photographs, Mural on Main Art Gallery, Mount Utsayantha Regional Arts League, Hobart, New York. Withworks by Phil Young and Charles Bremer. Nov. 1-Dec. 14, 2014.

“Two Dancers: Poems by Robert Bensen and Photographs by Charles Bremer” on exhibit at: National Museum of Dance,Saratoga Springs, NY. May 2007 to October 2008.

Community Arts Network of Oneonta gallery, Oneonta, NY. May 2012. Smithy/Pioneer Gallery,Cooperstown NY, July 2004.

Upper Catskill Community Council on the Arts. Oneonta, NY, October 2003.

Fine Arts Gallery, State University College at Oneonta, NY. Feb. 2 to March 6, 2002. The Word & ImageGallery, Bright Hill Center, Treadwell, NY. June 2 to 30, 2002. Faculty Center, Hartwick College, Oneonta,NY. September 1 to December 31, 2002

Poetry: Journals and Collections

“Art Works,” River, Blood and Corn. May 20, 2019.

“Is It Over Yet?” Cobalt Review. 2018.

“Assassination Nation,” The Piltdown Review, October 2018.

“Acres of Birds for Santa,” La Presa, Issue 5, June 2018. 

“1959,” La Presa.  Issue 4, January 2018.

“The Undrowned” and “A Note on Your Aura,” Like Light: 25 Years of Poetry & Prose by Bright Hill Poets & Writers. ed. Bertha Rogers. Treadwell, NY: Bright Hill Press, 2017. 14-15.

“Before You Know It,” AGNI 85 (Spring 2017).

“Maurice Kenny at Hartwick College,” Dawnland Voices 2.0. Indigenous Writing from New England and theNortheast. 4.  (Spring 2017). Http://

“Elysium,” “A Loss for Words,” “Days of the Sugarplum Fairy,” “Eurydice Decorates Hell,” The Thomas Hardy Review(UK) XIV.1. Featured poet. October 2012.

“Such a Beautiful Day” and “Art Works.” Platte Valley Review 32.1 (Autumn 2011).

“Unbeloved.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 2.2 (July 2010): 103.

“Orenoque, “Urinuku,” “Paraiso Terrenal,” “Atlantis,” “Inglatierra,” “Manoa, or El Dorado,” “Canaima,” “Hurucan,”“Morequito,” “Pointe Seraphine,” “Conquistador at the Halcyon Beach,” “Blacksnake.” Journal ofCommonwealth Literature 2.1 (January 2010): 114-144.

“Horse Play,” Callaloo (Spring 2005).

“No Matter What,” The Cumberland Poetry Review 24.1 (Spring 2004).

“Deux danseuses/ Two Dancers, i-iii,” AGNI 57 (Spring 2003).

“Pine Lake Memorial Stomp Dance Trail,” Native Realities 3.1 (Winter 2003).

“Look at These Hands,” Witness XVI.2 (2002).

“La ballet de baleines/ Ballet of the Whales,” and “Etoile,” Phoebe (Spring 2002).

“The Time of Wind,” Native Realities 1.1 (Spring 2001).

“Orpheus and E            ” parts 1 and 2, nycitybiglitreview. “Souvenir,” Yankee Magazine (September 2000).

“Pine Lake,” Poetry Wales (U.K.), 33:3 (January 1998).

“Paraiso Terrenal” and “Huiio,” Out of the Catskills and Just Beyond. Treadwell, NY: Bright Hill Press, 1997.

“Come Sweet May Again,” Pivot 45 (1997).

“What Lightning Spoke” and “Double Cross,” Pivot 44 (1996). “The Given,”Forkroads 1:2 (Fall 1995).

“Waking the Gretels,” Phoebe 6:2 (Fall 1994). “The Short Season,”Pivot 42 (1994).

“Blacksnake at the Iroquois Festival,” Tamaqua 4:1 (Spring 1994). “Wetumka,” Akwe:kon Journal 10:3 (Fall 1993).

“The Bronze Slave” (winner, Robert Penn Warren Poetry Award) and “The Time of Wind,”

Cumberland Poetry Review 13:2 (Fall 1993).

“Canaima” (from Orenoque) and “Buffalo Hot Wings,” Slow Dancer [England] 29 (Spring 1993). “Abode” and “ThreeImages” by Alvaro Mutis. Trans. from Spanish with Timothy J. Keating.

Harvard Review 4 (Spring 1993).

“Night Crossing, the Irish Sea,” “What the Static Said,” and “Scriptures of Venus,” The Webster Review 16 (Fall 1992).

“Lives,” “Walker and Cane,” and “Valor,” Slow Dancer [UK] 27 (Spring 1992). “The Truth AboutEverything, Pt. II,” The Paris Review 122 (Spring 1992). “Isis at Caroni,” The Caribbean Writer 5(1991).

Reprinted in Verse [England] 11:2 (Summer 1994).

“Pony League,” “A Cup of Tea in Tea-Brown Cups,” and “Windfall Dutch Barn, Salt Springville, New York,” Slow Dancer [UK] 24 (Fall 1990).

“Isla Republica,” Slow Dancer [UK] 23 (Spring 1990).

“Arnold Lake, Sunday, June” and “A Fine Romance,” Slow Dancer [UK] 22 (Fall 1989). “Blue Room,” TheParis Review 111 (Fall 1989).

“Caprice,” The Paris Review 107 (Fall 1988).

“Homage to Damballah,” The Caribbean Writer 2 (Spring 1988).

“We’ve Been Domesticated, I Tell You,” Ploughshares 13:1 (Spring 1987). “Tokiwa and HerChildren,” The Antioch Review 45:1 (Winter 1987).

Reprinted in Alan Pater (ed.) Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry.

Beverly Hills, Cal.: Monitor Book Co., 1987. “Wargames,” TheMinnesota Review n.s. 27 (Fall 1986). “Standing By,” The Partisan ReviewLII:4 (Winter 1986).

“Club at the Halcyon Beach,” Three Rivers Poetry Journal 27/28 (1986).

“Tres Riches Heures” and “Borinquen,” The Literary Review 30:1 (Fall 1986). “An OrdinaryEvening in Havana,” River Styx 18 (Fall 1985).

“Cockburn Town, San Salvador,” Cincinnati Poetry Review 13 (Spring 1985).

“In the Dream Museum,” reprinted in Origins by Lebbeus Woods. London: The Architectural Association, 1985.

“The Waves at Matsushima” and “Driving the County Blacktop,” The Agni Review 21 (1984). “On Ogunquit Beach”and “The Sea This Morning’s Green,” Calliope 7:1 (1983).

“The Toad to His Comely Bride” and “Poem with Forty-one Kittycats,” Tightrope 11 (Fall 1982). “Cove” and “How theSaints Found Countries to Be Saint Of,” High Rock Review I:1 (Spring 1981). “Near Miss #3,” Eureka Review 7-8 (1981).

“Near Miss #7,” “As a Child,” and “Why I Sent the Chandelier,” Matrix 4 (April 1979). “Cornucopia,” a broadside by Swamp Press: Oneonta, N.Y. 1979.

“Diving Off Ogunquit,” “Drawing a Bead,” “The Last Doughnut Poem,” “Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh,” “Near Miss #2,” “NearMiss #6,” and “In the Dream Museum,” Brilliant Corners 9 (Fall 1978).

“Kafka and the Lone Ranger,” “Frames,” “Near Miss #5,” Matrix 3 (April 1978). “The Last Resort” and”Menagerie,” Mississippi Valley Review 7:2 (Spring 1978).

“St. Thomas Enters Heaven,” “In the Dream Museum,” and “Diving Off Ogunquit,” Matrix 2 (April 1977).

“Frames” and “Recovery,” Oyez Review 5 (Summer 1977). “SaturdayMorning” and “Drawing a Bead,”

Big Moon 1:2 (Summer 1975).

“Invitation,” “Sideshow,” and “Icarus Rising,” Riverrun 2 (Summer 1975).

“Toy,” “Lebbeus with a Limp,” “Practical Considerations When Using Man-Made Mulches in Massachusetts,” Brushfire 25 (Fall 1975).

“My First Attempt,” “Kafka and the Lone Ranger,” “Flying Over Chartres Cathedral,” “Country Music,” and “The StoryAbout the Farmer and the Farmer’s Wife,” Waiting for Rain 7 (Spring 1975).

“Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh” and “Rain in January,” Spirit XLI, No. 104 (Spring-Summer 1974). “Running” and “Poem,” Magellan 1:3 (Fall 1973).

“Witch” and “Prophet Buried to the Waist in Sand,” Sahara 2 (Summer 1972).


“Reflections at a Celebration of Sir Derek Alton Walcott (1930-2016).” Berfrois. May 22, 2019.

“Bruce Duthu, Shadow Nations: Tribal Sovereignty.  American Indian Quarterly, 39.2 (2015). Review essay.

“Prosper’s Book Undrowned: The Figure of the Book in Derek Walcott’s Another Life (1973).” Journal of CommonwealthLiterature (Icfai University Press, India) 1.2 (July 2009): 7-25.

“To Make Their Bodies of Words,” The Salt Companion to Carter Revard. London: Salt Publishing, 2007): 128-142.

“Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, edited by Hertha Wong” Great Plains Quarterly 22.2 (Spring 2002): 130.

Family Matters, Tribal Affairs, by Carter Revard,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal  23.2 (Spring 1999): 12-13.

“Creature of the Whirlwind: Louise Erdrich’s ‘American Horse’ and the Custody of American Indian Children,” CimarronReview 121 (October 1997) 173-188.

“Catherine Weldon in Omeros and The Ghost Dance: Notes on Derek Walcott’s Poetry and Drama,” Verse 11:2 (Summer 1994) 119-125.

“Columbus at the Abyss,” Jamaica Journal 23:3 (February 1993) 48-54.

“Refining El Dorado: The Problem of Cultural Continuity in Exploration and Native Literature of the Americas,” Proteus (Spring 1992) 32-37.

“The Garden and the Abyss: Columbus’s Journal and Three Caribbean Writers,” AGNI 28 (Spring 1989): 115-132.

“The Poet as Painter: Derek Walcott’s Midsummer,” The Literary Review 29:3 (Spring 1986), 257-68. Reprinted inRobert D. Hamner (ed.) Critical Perspectives on Derek Walcott. Washington, DC: Three Continents Press, 1993.

Reprinted in Allison Marion (ed.) Poetry Criticism 46. Kennedale, TX: Gale Group, 2003.

Excerpted in Steven R. Serafin (ed.), Modern Black Writers. NY: Continuum, 1994. “The New WorldPoetry of Derek Walcott,” Concerning Poetry 16:2 (1983): 29-42.

“One Red Herring and How It Grew,” Illinois Writers Review 4:1, (Winter 1985), 2-4. “Carol Frost’s SpiritSongs of Dust” (review), Bluefish 1:2 (Spring 1984).

Introduction to The Child Born to Be Hung Need Not Fear Drowning, poems by Jo Mish.      Oneonta, N.Y.: Serpent & Eagle Press, 1983.

Tightrope” and “Matrix” (review), Serials Review 7:1 (Jan./March 1981).

Writing Competency: A Handbook (with Thomas C. Beattie). Oneonta, N.Y.: Hartwick    College, 1979. Revised 1981.

Straight” (review of poems by Richard Friedman), Illinois Writers Newsletter I:4 (December 1976). “The Underachiever:A Study of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus,” Studies in the Humanities III (Fall 1972). “Pablo Neruda: 1904-1973,” Prairie Dispatch (October 21, 1973).

“The Queer Kingdom: American Poetry in the Seventies,” Prairie Dispatch (July 5, 1973). “The Great Debate” (fiction), Popular Electronics, 21:4 (October 1964).

Reference Articles

“’The Man to Send Rain Clouds’ by Leslie Marmon Silko,” Masterplots II: Short Story Supplement.

Pasadena, CA: Salem P, 1995).

“Leslie Marmon Silko,” Encyclopedia of American Writers. Pasadena, CA:  Salem P, 1994.

“Earl Lovelace” and “Derek Walcott,” Cyclopedia of World Authors II. Pasadena, Cal.: Salem Press, 1989: 951-52, 1528-30.

“John Milton,” Great Lives in History. Pasadena, Cal.: Salem Press, 1987: 1860-65.

“Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea,” and “Earl Lovelace, The Dragon Can’t Dance,” Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction. Pasadena, Cal.: Salem Press, 1987: 154-57, 398-402.

“Alejo Carpentier, ‘Like the Night,'” and “Paule Marshall, `Barbados,'” Masterplots II: The

Short Story. Pasadena, Cal: Salem Press, 1986: 1359-62, 154-57.

“Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Masterplots II: American Fiction Series.

Pasadena, Cal.: Salem Press, 1986: 300-305.

“West Indian Drama,” Critical Survey of Drama: English Language Series. Pasadena, Cal.: Salem Press, 1985:2450-55.

“Edward Kamau Brathwaite,” Critical Survey of Poetry: English Language Series. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1983.

Presentations, Interviews, Activities

Poetry readings:

State University College at Oneonta, Dept. of English (May 5, 2010) National Museum ofDance (Saratoga Spring NY: September 2007)

Word Thursdays series, Bright Hill Literary Center, Treadwell NY, April 19, 2007. Saratoga County ArtsCouncil (Saratoga Springs NY: July 2003)

State University College at Oneonta , Dept. of English (March 19, 2003). Faculty Lecture Series,Hartwick College (September 13, 2003).

Rotary Club, Oneonta NY (September 19, 2002).

Panelist on “For the Seventh Generation: Native American Artists Counter the Quincentenary, Columbus, New York,”Defining Identities Series, Hartwick College, October 27, 2007. “Dragonfly’s Tale: Adoption Law and Literature inNative America,” Session: Responses to the Law

in First Nations Literature (Coordinator: Deena Rymhs, Queen’s Univ.) Midwest MLA

Convention, Chicago IL Nov. 8, 2003.

Teaching Tables Luncheon on the Writing Competency Program, Hartwick College (Oct. 3, 2003).

Interview: “People of Earth: Native American News and Activism.” Pacific Radio Network,

Jacqueline Battise, producer. KPFT (Houston). July 12, 2003.

Manuscript reviewer for American Indian Culture and Research Journal (UCLA).

“Creative Writing in the English Department” Plenary Session at the ADE Summer Seminar, Cooperstown NY, June 15,2002. Presided. David Bartholomae, Arnie Johnston, Robin Hemley, participants.

“Earthly Delights,” reading at a benefit program, Saturday, March 2, 2002. Upper Catskill Community Councilof the Arts, Oneonta, NY.

“Two Dancers: in Performance,” performance piece with dancers. Hamlin Arena Theater, State

University College at Oneonta, February 28, 2002.

“Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education,” lecture/reading for HartwickCollege January Term program “Native America:  Lessons in Survival.” Jan. 30, 2002.

Reading/interview on “Off the Page,” program will Bill Jaker at WSKG-FM (NPR affiliate), January 3, 2002.

“Assignments: Sweethearts Forever,” a workshop for writing faculty, Hartwick College, Oct. 12, 2001.

“The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978,” interviewed on Native America Calling International

Radio Network, August 2001.

“Fictions of the Indian Boundary: Adoption and the Short Fiction of Louise Erdrich.” 5th Annual Central New YorkConference on Language and Literature, SUNY-Cortland, October 19, 1995.

“Fictions of the Indian Boundary: Native American Literature and the Geographies of Reading.” Babcock Lecture Series,Hartwick College, October 13, 1994.

“Father Acosta’s Laughter: Discontinuities of Knowledge Between the Old and New Worlds.” Presented in Curriculum XXILecture Series, Hartwick College, Sept. 30, 1991, and at the State University College at Oneonta, Oct. 16, 1991.

“Novice/Expert Distinctions and the Teaching of Writing Across the Curriculum,” presented at the Institute for Critical Thinking, University of Chicago, April 27, 1988.

“The Poet as Painter: Derek Walcott’s Midsummer.” Presented at the conference of the Association of Caribbean Studies, Port ofSpain, Trinidad, July 28, 1985.

“The New World Poetry of Derek Walcott.” Presented at the conference of the Association of Caribbean Studies, Havana, Cuba, July 12, 1982.

“One Red Herring and How It Grew.” Presented at Illinois Small Press Conference, Champaign, Illinois, September 1985.

Lecturer, SUNY Oneonta,
Professor Emeritus, Hartwick College

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(Education, employment, books, journals, anthologies, gallery exhibitions)