I was fifteen and hated poetry when I first happened on the work of Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) in the summer of 1965. In spite of Jeffers having been hailed as a major American poet in the 1920s and 1930s, his work then was mostly out of print and largely absent from the major teaching anthologies that, in practice, defined the tradition. T.S. Eliot still ruled the canon. Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, H.D., and Wallace Stevens were finally starting to receive the recognition they and their work deserved and would soon be followed by H.D. Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and others. Jeffers was, at most, a footnote in critical and historical discussions of American poetry.
In the decades since that chance encounter in the Sebastopol Public Library (thank you, Andrew Carnegie), I’ve continued to read and think about Jeffers. The five-volume project, The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (Stanford University Press) is the most visible result of that. But the questions posed by Jeffers’ work have also factored into my thinking about writing as a textual medium (a strand of reflection taken up elsewhere on this site), my own poetry, and (most relevant here) my thinking about the American poetic tradition, especially in the first half of the twentieth century, which we tend to think of as the era of modernism.
The thumbnails for The Collected Poetry, The Selected Poetry, and Jim Karman’s masterful The Collected Letters link to the Stanford University Press website pages for these projects. Those interested in Jeffers may also want to explore the programs and resources of The Robinson Jeffers Association and The Tor House Foundation.
The links below lead to fuller descriptions of the books and to lightly edited drafts of conference papers and articles that focus on Jeffers and his poetry. The pieces are offered here as a kind of place holder as I work on an oft-disrupted and long-deferred book focusing on Jeffers in the context of modern and modernist poetry.
Articles, Notes & Papers:
- “’It is out of fashion to say so’: The Language of Nature and the Rhetoric of Beauty in Robinson Jeffers”
- “Constructed Witness: The Drama of Presence in Jeffers’ Lyric Voice”
- “‘Walls on a rock above the sea’: Tor House as Place and Figure in the 1919 Poetry of Robinson Jeffers”
- “Mornings in Hell”: Jeffers’ Struggle with Politics in The Double Axe
- Jeffers’ Roan Stallion and the Narrative of Nature
- The Problematic Nature of Tamar and Other Poems
- A Poetics of Witness: Jeffers’ “Salmon Fishing” and the Apology in “Apology for Bad Dreams”
- Jeffers: Craft & Reputation
- “Hurt Hawks”
- “Salmon Fishing”
- The Women at Point Sur (“Taking the Hawk’s Place”)
- Aesthetics & Politics in Jeffers’ WW II Poetry
- The Double Axe & the Censorship Question
- The Thickening Empire: Jeffers’ Struggle with History
- Jeffers’ “Pearl Harbor” (To Date or Not to Date)
- Didactic Confession: Where Does Jeffers “Sign-Post” Point?
- Constructed Sincerity: Voice and Nuance in Jeffers’ Short Poems
- Jeffers and “The Palace” of Tradition
- “The Great Wound” and the Problem of Reading The Beginning and the End
- Jeffers, Wordsworth & Narrative
- Jeffers and Modernism