Born In Joplin, Missouri 1931, Robert M. Shelby grew up in Pomona, California; graduated Pomona High School 1949; Mt. San Antonio College ‘51. Attended U. C. Berkeley; graduated Navy Radio School San Diego ‘53, served in Far East, honorably discharged ‘55. Went back to U. C. Left to marry, work, have son, return to school, divorce, work, remarry, be widowed in 1984 and meet Betty Siegel, with whom he loved and lived for eighteen years on the ridge above Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Berkeley until September, 2002 when her children removed her to 24-hour care home in Glen Cove to her death, May, 2005. Retired December, 1995, Robert has lived for seven years on another ridge, Southampton, Benicia, overlooking the lower Sacramento River’s Carquinez Strait from just above its entry into San Pablo Bay.
Poetry was infused into him "at the parental knee" by accident. Discounting childhood efforts, he has written all his adult life, from 1952 onward. In the late 1950’s, he studied at UCB under Antony Ostroff, Josephine Miles, Thom Gunn and Louis Simpson. He joined Tecolote Chapter Workshop of California Federation Of Chaparral Poets; spent several years in Berkeley Poetry Section of California Writers' Club; and more years in Alameda Poets (president 1979-’80.) He joined The Ina Coolbrith Circle late in 1967 and won their grand prize in 1969. Later, He served as ICC banquet chairman (1970), vice-president (’71-2) and treasurer (2001-3). During these years he workshopped various times in groups with John Oliver Simon, Charles Entrekin and then with Robert Beloof, John Anshen and Ed Henry. He and Betty Siegel, his domestic partner of eighteen years, worked often together or sought each other's approval on many poems. Until ten years ago, they met occasionally with remaining members of a group from the old Berkeley Poetry Section (California Writers' Club), later called "The Renegades," at Hal & Martha Bosworth's, in North Berkeley, until Bosworths moved to Ashland. Lately, he meets with a small set of Eastbay/Rossmore/Walnut Creek folks, coordinated by Selma Soss, and with groups meeting in Lafayette and San Ramon or Alamo, California, coordinated by Robert Eastwood. In 2002, Shelby chaired the Bay Area Poets' Luncheon at the Emeryville Holiday Inn and a year or two later chaired the Ina Coolbrith Circle’s banquet contest at Spenger’s Restaurant. Lately, he reads on second Sundays each month at Valona Deli, Crockett, with a large group of fine poets conducted by David Alpaugh. The series will next be led by Connie Post who retires after four years as Poet Laureate of Livermore. Robert participates in “open mic” readings and workshops here at the Benicia Library and until recently at “It’s A Grind” coffee shop in Walnut Creek (formerly Primo's series.) Known as “Pagan’s Place” readings, it recently discontinued. For several years he attended Pleasanton’s Century House readings conducted now by Poet Laureate Marth Meltzer, and two venues in Livermore organized by Connie Post.
Shelby has done more editing for others and winning of prizes than in getting his own works published in ways one would suppose consistent with his training, general experience and amount of poetry produced, but within the last forty years his poems have appeared in U. C. Berkeley’s Occident, Alameda Poets’ anthologies, Coolbrith anthologies, JFKU’s Tunnel Road 2, The Galley Sail Review, PoeTalk, Blue Unicorn, The Carquinez Poetry Review, Benicia Poets’ anthologies and a compilation of poems by all sixty-four poets laureate appointed to date in California: Sometimes In The Open, edited by Bob Stanley in Sacramento. (Shelby’s self-publications are listed on this website under the menu tab, “Books”.)
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