Robert Gibbs was born in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1930. He joined the Bliss Carman Society at the University of New Brunswick in the late 1940s where he was mentored by Don Gammon, Elizabeth Brewster, Fred Cogswell, and Alfred Bailey, the founder of The Fiddlehead magazine. Gibbs's poetry started to appear in this publication in 1949.
In his more than twenty-five years of teaching at UNB, Gibbs taught general undergraduate and Canadian literature courses and was the director of UNB's creative writing graduate program. He served as both editor and poetry editor of The Fiddlehead. Upon his retirement from UNB in 1989, he was named Professor Emeritus.
Gibbs was the keynote speaker at the first Alden Nowlan Literary Festival, and the Festival two years later paid tribute to Gibbs. His body of work was further recognized in 1998 with New Brunswick's Alden Nowlan Award for Excellence in English-Language Literary Arts. He has been involved with the Maritime Writers' Workshop since its inception and continues to live and write in Fredericton.