Professor Cooley received a B.A. in Humanities from Shimer College, an M.A. in Art and Literature from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Modern Letters from the University of Iowa, where he was a student in the Writers' Workshop and submitted a book of his own poetry as his dissertation.
Cooley taught at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay before coming to Tulane. He has taught in the M.F.A. programs at Warren Wilson College, Vermont College, Western Michigan University in Prague, and the University of New Orleans in Montpellier and Madrid. He has also taught creative writing workshops in a mental hospital, a prison, in pre-schools, grade schools, high schools, and to the elderly, the socially disadvantaged, and the illiterate.
Peter's nine books of poetry are The Company of Strangers, The Room Where Summer Ends, Nightseasons, The Van Gogh Notebook, The Astonished Hours, Sacred Conversations, A Place Made of Starlight, Divine Margins, and Night Bus to the Afterlife. His poems have appeared in over seven hundred magazines including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The Nation, The New Republic, and The Southern Review, and in more than one hundred anthologies. His work is in three editions of The Best American Poetry.
He has given readings of his poetry throughout the United States and in Paris, London, Madrid, Prague, Honolulu, Melbourne, and in Wellington, New Zealand, the latter as the US representative to the International Poetry Festival.
Three times a recipient of Mortar Board commendations at Tulane, Cooley received the Inspirational Professor Award and the Newcomb Professor of the Year Award. From 1970-2000 he was Poetry Editor of North American Review and is currently Poetry Editor of Christianity and Literature. He has been an Atlantic Younger Poet, The Robert Frost Fellow at the Breadloaf Writers' Conference, a Yaddo Fellow, and an Ossabaw Island Fellow. Peter has received fellowships from the University of Wisconsin, The Louisiana Division of the Arts, and the state of Louisiana's ATLAS Program. He is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize and of the Marble Faun First Place Prize in Poetry given by the Faulkner Society.
Peter is Director of Creative Writing, Professor of English, and Senior Mellon Professor in the Humanities.