Robinson Jeffers, Dimensions of a Poet

Robinson Jeffers, Dimensions of a Poet

Robinson Jeffers, Dimensions of a Poet

Robinson Jeffers, Dimensions of a Poet

Synopsis

American Poet Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) was educated in the classics from an early age and published his first book of poetry in 1912. Most of Jeffers' work is distinguished by strong elemental narratives set in the California Carmel/Big Sur area. His imagery often puts the rugged beauty of the landscape in opposition to the degraded and introverted condition of modern humanity. Jeffers' themes draw on classical and biblical sources from his early education, and his strong interest in Nietzsche's concept of individualism. Many of his contemporaries erroneously regarded him as a nihilist. This collection of essays attempts to illustrate the art and complexity of Jeffers, while presenting new insights into his work and its perception among his contemporaries. The essayists are Robert Brophy, Alex Vardamis, Robert Zaller, Terry Beers, Tim Hunt, David J. Rothman, Alan Soldofsky, Kirk Glaser, and William Everson. The essays represent a range of critical points of entry-some are on the cutting-edge of criticism and break new ground, others attempt to place Jeffers in the established perspectives of Western civilization's Christian humanism and American poetry's landscape-centered mysticism. The collection constitutes some of the most conversant and active research in the field of Jeffers studies. The critiques speak to the nature of Jeffer's poetry- how it challenged both the minds and hearts of its readers and prompted them to carefully define their own values and authentically find their own center.

Excerpt

The essays that follow attempt to illustrate the art and complexity of Robinson Jeffers, while at the same time presenting new insights into his reception among his contemporaries. the essays presume some familiarity with Jeffers's works but should be intelligible without close or recent contact with the poet. It is hoped the reader will be moved to renew acquaintanceship.

For many years, Jeffers was best available through the Modern Library Roan Stallion, Tamar and Other Poems (1935) and The Se- lected Poetry (1938). Since 1965 he has been on bookstore shelves in a Vintage paperback Selected Poems. That same year the Sierra Club issued Not Man Apart, a stunningly beautiful book of photographs of the Big Sur Coast opposite lines from Jeffers. in 1977 his poems appeared in three Norton-Liveright reissues: The Women at Point Sur, Dear Judas and Other Poems, and The Double Axe. His Selected Letters were edited in 1968 by Ann Ridgeway and illustrated with moving photographs by Leigh Wiener. Since 1987, Jeffers's centennial year, his poetry has been newly available in Rock and Hawk: a Selection of Shorter Poems, brilliantly edited by Robert Hass, and in Robinson Jeffers: Selected Poems, compiled by the English poet and critic Colin Falk. the standard edition for Jeffers's poems is The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, edited by Tim Hunt in three volumes (1988–1991), with the fourth to appear shortly.

Some of the contributors' critical points of entry may come as a challenge to the reader; Zaller, Hunt, Beers, and Rothman, in particular, have moved beyond even the current status of Jeffers criticism. Their essays are at the cutting edge. the writers take for granted the importance of the poet and the complexity of his art; in many ways they are proposing to break new ground. Soldofsky, Glaser, and Everson take up an equally daunting task— an attempt to place Jeffers in the perspective of Western civilization's Christian Humanism and American poetry's landscapecentered mysticism. Each contributor to the collection has been long and thoroughly immersed in Jeffers scholarship. Together . . .

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