There is a longer, more detailed critical biography on Wikipedia.
Originally from Los Angeles, Doren Robbins is a poet, mixed-media artist, and educator living in Santa Cruz, California. He grew up in the working-class neighborhoods of L.A. during a period of the civil rights turmoil and activism, the surge in counter-culture arts, and a strong influx of poetry through readings, mainstream or small press periodicals, and interactions at The Bridge, Papa Back Bookstore, and Beyond Baroque Writing Center. After twenty-something years traveling in the Mediterranean, Mexico, the Northwest, Colorado and Western Canada, his work began to reflect more on the formative experiences of imagination, character, and personality related to solitude, momentary and prolonged "mystical" experiences, family, marriage, personal-cultural ethnic history, sometimes integrating character-shaping experiences from his trades working as a broiler chef, saucier, pantry man, carpenter, and college professor. A significant portion of his writing engages concerns over political and ethnic injustice. Often these poems are expressed through odes and elegies to family, people he grew up with, and to other artists, friends, and workers he has known.
In his early twenties he studied with Kenneth Rexroth at UC Santa Barbara in his weekly workshop (1972-73). after that time he moved to Santa Cruz, Ben Lomond, and then to Capitola. At Cabrillo College, following a performance of Chinese music orchestrated by Lou Harrison for a performance of Rexroth’s Tang Dynasty Chinese translations; Rexroth introduced Robbins to George Hitchcock of Kayak Press. Before going back to work in Los Angeles, Robbins met with Hitchcock and other poets and students at a “collating party,” and was later published in Kayak magazine. In 1976, Robbins, with his co-editor Uri Hertz, interviewed George Hitchcock for their own poetry magazine Third Rail.
In his thirties, Robbins raised a family and became involved in construction and general residential remodeling. Through the years he continued to publish in a variety of magazines, completing three full-length collections before moving to Eugene, Oregon where he and his second wife, Linda Janakos settled for several years working while completing their graduate education, first at The University of Oregon and Portland State University, then at The University Of Iowa, Iowa Writers’ Workshop, MFA 1993, and two years of post-graduate work at Indiana State University of Pennsylvania, 1994-1995.
Robbins started teaching a variety of college-level creative writing, composition and literature courses through an extended personal, cultural, and moral interpretation of Kenneth Burke’s idea of “literature as equipment for living.” His inter-active method of teaching has resulted, year to year, in a generally engaged group of students that have broadened their social understanding of the world they live in while developing their own personal tools for introspection through poetry and literature in general. During this period up to the present his best received work has come into print and received awards: The Blue Lynx Prize 2001 for Driving Face Down, and The PEN Oakland Josephine Miles National Poetry Prize 2009 for My Piece of the Puzzle. His current book, Twin Extra, was nominated for The National Jewish Book Council Award for 2015.
Robbins’ work has appeared in over one hundred publications, including The American Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, 5 AM, Hotel Amerika, Kayak, The Indiana Review, Iowa Review, Caliban, Third Rail and Sulfur. As a poet and an artist Robbins organized readings and produced posters to benefit The Romero Relief Fund and The Salvadoran Medical Relief Fund during the Salvadoran Civil War, and for poetsagainst-thewar.com during the ongoing American-Iraq-Afghanistan Wars. His writing and magazine editing has been awarded fellowships and grants from Oregon Literary Arts, The Loft Foundation, The Chester H. Jones Foundation, The California Arts Council, The Judah Magnes Museum, The Indiana Review, and a few other inoffensive organizations and readable periodicals. Since 2001, he has taught literature and creative writing at Foothill College, where he was Director of The Foothill College Writers’ Conference 2003, 2006-2008. On three occasions, he has been awarded The Certificate of Appreciation from the Honors Society of Foothill College. Currently, he is involved working with “at-risk” students in the First Year Experience (FYE) Program at Foothill.
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