Life

Paul James Petrie (1928 - 2012) was an American poet and professor emeritus of English and creative writing at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston where he taught for over 30 years. His work has appeared in over 100 literary journals and magazines—including PoetryThe New YorkerAtlantic MonthlyNew York TimesThe NationThe New RepublicSewanee ReviewParis ReviewMassachusetts ReviewThe Michigan Quarterly Review - and has been reprinted in eight anthologies including The Treasury of American Poetry.


He was born in 1928 in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up in what, at that time, was the outer fringes of the city, an area half rural and half suburban. From this fact may have arisen his abiding love of nature, while his interest in poetry was probably affected by his mother's Canadian grade school education (lots of memorization of poems) and her ability to recite whole swatches of Longfellow and Tennyson verbatim.


In 1946 he attended Wayne State University, where he was a member of the Miles Poetry Group, earning a BA and an MA in 1950 and 1951, and where he began to write poetry in earnest. While still finishing his thesis, he was drafted into the army and spent the next two years in the Service, the latter half in Alaska reading newspapers for Intelligence. Released from captivity, he went to the University of Iowa where he enrolled in the Iowa Writers Workshop, studying with Robert LowellJohn Berryman and Paul Engle, and earning his doctorate in 1957 with a dissertation in Creative Writing. For one year he taught in Nebraska, and for 31 years at the University of Rhode Island, during which period he spent sabbatical leaves in Devon, England, as well as several months in Settignano and Amsterdam.


He was married to the artist Sylvia Spencer Petrie, a printmaker and former member of the 19 on Paperart group, who has also illustrated several of his books. They have three children, Philip, Emily and Lisa, and 5 grandchildren.