Doren Robbins

Rookie - 0 Points (1949 / Los Angeles, California)

Biography of Doren Robbins

For biographical information go to Doren Robbins on Wikipedia


Web site: dorenrobbins.com



Robbins comments on his poem 'Against Angels'from My Piece Of The Puzzle: http: //www.ewu.edu/ewupress/pwarchives/pwdorenrobbins.htm


New collection, My Piece of the Puzzle. Order at:

http: //ewupress.ewu.edu/poetry/Mypieceofpuzzle.htm

Order one of the few remaining copies of Parking Lot Mood Swing from the author at: robbinsdoren@foothill.edu


Doren Robbins’s latest collection is as open and immediate as letters from a friend, albeit a friend who feels deeply the accumulated weight of experience. Suffused with an almost defiant tenderness, the poems speak of love and dispossession and loss, and of the power of memory to resuscitate fragments of our lives. They are at once a howl of finely tuned outrage at the world’s unyielding brutality, which we can at times withstand only by becoming brutal ourselves, and a celebration of the human need to find something that endures—to conjure meaning from impermanence.

In addition to several chapbooks, Doren Robbins has published five previous full-length collections of poetry, including Parking Lot Mood Swing: Autobiographical Monologues and Prose Poetry (Cedar Hills Books,2004) and Driving Face Down (Eastern Washington University Press,2001) , which won the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry. His poems, prose poems, and short fiction have appeared in a vast array of literary magazines and anthologies, among them the American Poetry Review, Kayak, Sulphur, and For Rexroth, and have earned him numerous prizes and awards, including a poetry fellowship from Oregon Literary Arts and an editing fellowship from The California Arts Council.

After working over twenty years as a broiler chef and a carpenter, he became a teacher of composition, literature, and creative writing. 

His interests extend to art, and he has produced poster-poems to benefit the Salvadoran Medical Relief Fund, The Romero Relief Fund, and poetsagainstthewar.org. He was also the cofounder, coeditor, and consulting editor of the literary journal Third Rail (1975-1982) . He holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and currently teaches courses in composition, literature, and creative writing at Foothill College, in Los Altos, California, where he was director of the Foothill College Writers’ Conference 2003,2006-2008.

YouTube PERFORMANCE of 'Ash Lands': www.Poetry.LA

Praise for My Piece of the Puzzle


“These are remarkable, fiery poems. Poems that would urge any poet on, language that tears open reality. I think this is Doren Robbins’s finest book, and I’ve admired his work for a good while. The imagination, its energy and precision, is immense. There’s a delicate observation of even the rawest materials, a tenderness for humanity in all its cruelty, stupidity, and often invisible dignity and grace, that feels to me like his peculiar, original contribution to—well, to the puzzle of what we have become: people, Americans, men and women today, above all those who are “absent, ” unregistered, undocumented in both senses.”

—Adrienne Rich



“Doren Robbins grows evermore himself, evermore an original and reliable critic, prophet, singer. His poems are ever richer, combining now unfaltering powerful and tender memory with wisdom. Real wisdom. And he’s writing the best political poems I know.”

—Gerald Stern



“Doren Robbins's poems are both poignantly personal and boldly political. They are passionate and lyrical, as you expect of the best in poetry. He is a keen observer of family life as well as the larger world outside, and a pleasure to read.”

—Howard Zinn



“Robbins’s work sounds very little like most of what is being published in America by poets his age.... He comes out of another tradition, one we forget in these indifferent times at our own peril, the tradition of Villon, of Corbière, Céline, Henry Miller, Tom McGrath, and most recently Gerald Stern, the great outsiders who bless our daily lives with their boundless love and rage.”

—Philip Levine





COMMENTS ON Parking Lot Mood Swing: Autobiographical Monologues and Prose Poetry:


Doren's essay-poem-monologues― are a riff on contemporary culture, not so much a scream but a sigh, the deepest sigh known. He knows so much it's shocking. But that's not it. What it is― is that he's on the razor's edge, a fully unified sensibility, a vision, a dream― everything short of a program. Further, to read his prose is only to know his poetry better, and to love him, this wild radical poet on the west coast.

Gerald Stern

As a poet Doren Robbins gives up the struggle with lineation and the result is Parking Lot Mood Swing, a hilarious, satirical, visionary, beautiful-beyond-all-adjectives breakthrough in prose poetry. Parking Lot Mood Swing is a passionate political protest linguistic (“the mind is a kind of tongue”) comic surreal ranting outrage― these are powerful wacked-out prose poems of our pitiful wacked-out world. Perspective and screaming priorities like needed balm: “My muse is Eros, always Eros, with just a little Zen on the side, a little garni of Tao, a little fermented Tantra,13.2 aperitifs of Chasidism― in the language of their trance only.” Joy, a wise person said, not human happiness, is the goal of the Universe: “My messiah would have something to do with beauty and, also, with idiocy for even thinking about it.” I laughed out loud to the empty room all night reading these poems, and the blues lifted from me. Give this book to all our dismayed and depressed companeros! (“For those who prefer something closer to the canon of subtlety, let them see Robbins' ancient third collection, Seduction of the Groom …”) . Robbins is one of our great poets; he has been for a long time, but read this! And weep for joy.

Sharon Doubiago


Art supposedly gives us aesthetic distance. Robbins' poems give us no such obvious safety net. Rather, they are the meticulous ravings of a poet who, in meditating on a murderous century, offers his readers more consolation than poetry might be thought capable of offering. This is not to say his poems redeem anybody's suffering. Unlike many poets who write the occasional political poem, Doren Robbins knows all too well the limitations of art. On the other hand, the voice in his poems, with its impeccable contralto of hope and revulsion, reminds us not to accept any limits other than our own courage. His poetry is one of fierce comradeship with other fearless voices: Tom McGrath, Muriel Rukeyser, Kenneth Patchen, Edwin Rolfe, Don Gordon, and especially the Jewish immigrant poet, William Pillin. All of these poets worked on the West Coast for significant portions of their lives as poetic agitators, the Wobblies of defiant imagination. Robbins' poems insist that particular tradition is still alive and vibrant, and capable of inspiring us to expect nothing less from our poets than an unpredictable loyalty to the subversive freedom of our imaginations.

Bill Mohr, Beyond Baroque Journal


On Driving Face Down, winner of The Blue Lynx Prize,2000:

What of the tired, the lost, the cast aside? We behold them all, revealed in their human complexity with tenderness, wit and rage in Driving Face Down, a book that's been a long time coming. Robbins' vision is necessary and vital, from his Chagallesque portraits of characters like Mrs. Penser of 5th Street Market with her deformed 'death camp fingers, ' Abrams, the immigrant-tile-setter-turned-deli-man-in-America, the eighty-four year old Anna with her 'kelp beds of fake jewelry, ' to his vast, unflinching vision of L.A. in 'My Pico Boulevard.' I admire the gritty, original, uncompromising voice that drives these rich, furious poems.

Dorianne Laux, final judge for Driving Face Down, winner of The Blue Lynx Prize,2000 (Eastern Washington UP, 2001) .

Doren Robbins combines politics and ecstasy, mourning and dancing. He is a superb poet, centered, strong, gentle, musical. He puts the drivellers to shame. He is a truth-teller.

Gerald Stern

These are remarkable poems. It is a poetry that is needed, and it is a poetry that is rare in this place and time.

Adrienne Rich



On Dignity in Naples and North Hollywood, Pennywhistle Press,1996:


'...Robbins loves the people and places the world has allowed to dropp out of history or, for that matter, never let in. He's taken the chore of a new Adam and set about the naming of all the earlier one never got around to, for the earlier one never got as far as North Hollywood or Pico Boulevard. Naming the unnamed is Robbins' first priority, noting the unnoted, filling in all the details of those lives that have waited for ages, perhaps since Villon, at the frontiers of poetry for an invitation to come in...Robbins' work sounds very little like most of what is being published in America by poets his age and for the simple reason that he's consumed by what has driven him to fury. I would guess that he's read Wallace Stevens and Marrianne Moore, but he doesn't seem to have the least interest in replicating either or in creating a surface so ornate and seductive that the reader doesn't bother to ask what, if anything, is beneath it. He comes out of another tradition, one we forget in these indifferent times at our own peril, the tradition of the aforementioned Villon, of Corbiere, Celine, Henry Miller, Tom McGrath, and most recently Gerald Stern, the great outsiders who bless our daily lives with their boundless love and rage.'

Philip Levine, from his introduction



On Sympathetic Manifesto, Perivale Press,1987

Sympathetic Manifesto is a strong and far ranging book. A politically committed poet, Doren Robbins responds with anger and tragic empathy to the struggles in Central America and elsewhere. The book also includes examples of remarkable love poetry and evocative elegies, in fact, anger and love unify his work as expressed in his poems for Marilyn Monroe, Soutine, Pavese, and others.

Thomas McGrath



This is a poetry of passionate commitment to people, social issues, love. Whether he is being fierce or tender, a person with a definite presence who speaks his own truths and is sure of those truths, emerges from the poems. It's great to read such work after seeing so many puny-voiced poems in our contemporary world.

Holly Prado

Doren Robbins's Works:

My Piece of the Puzzle. Eastern Washington University Press,2008.

Parking Lot Mood Swing: Autobiographical Monolgues And prose Poetry. San Diego: Cedar Hill Books, 2004.

Driving Face Down. Lynx House Press, E. Washington University Press,2001.

The Donkey's Tale. Los Angeles: Red Wind Books, 1999.

Double Muse. Oregon and Los Angeles: Rabble-A Press, 1998.

Dignity in Naples and North Hollywood. New Mexico: Pennywhistle Press,1996.

Two Poems. Oregon: Rabble-A Press, 1996.

Under the Black Moth's Wings. Los Angeles: Ameroot, 1988.

Sympathetic Manifesto. Los Angeles: Perivale Publishers, 1987.

Seduction of the Groom. San Diego: Loom Press, 1982.

The Roots and the Towers. Los Angeles: Third Rail Press,1980.

PoemHunter.com Updates

Dreaming Of A Daughter

I wove a blanket
out of the sand
for you,
and a little hat
for your head buried
between the moistened depths
and sudden openings. Rough
jewel, rare blossom between
overlapping petals

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