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Remembering Robinson Jeffers:
January 10, 1887–January 20, 1962

274 words

Robinson Jeffers was born on January 10, 1887.

Once regarded as one of the greatest American poets, Jeffers is largely forgotten by the literary establishment today, no doubt because of his politically incorrect subjects and views. A Nietzschean who was accused of fascist sympathies (which he denied), he celebrated nature and the outdoors in his work, eschewing the abstruse modernist style that was fashionable in his day. He opposed the entry of the United States into the Second World War, and published a poem toward this end, “A Day is a Poem,” in 1941. His 1948 volume, The Double Axe and Other Poems, is filled with criticisms of the US and its actions and policies, and the publisher insisted on excising ten of the more controversial poems from the book, which were only published posthumously. Although the Second World War particularly inspired his ire, he had always been critical of America, which he had already accused of slipping “into the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire” in his 1923 poem, “Shine, Perishing Republic.” He continued to write after 1948, but as a result of the controversy surrounding his politics, his work declined into obscurity throughout the remaining years of his life, and remains so today.

Jonathan Bowden was particularly enamored of Jeffers, and in 2007 he gave a lecture entitled “Robinson Jeffers: Misanthrope Extraordinaire,” the text and audio of which is available on this site, here. Bowden also spoke about Jeffers during the last interview he gave before his untimely death, which was given to Counter-Currents Radio; the text and audio can be accessed here.

Counter-Currents has run the following excerpts from Jeffers’ work:

In spite of his obscurity, Jeffers does retain a following, and many of his works can be found at Amazon, both new and used.

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  1. Simon C Drew
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    After watching the Bowden talk on Robinson Jeffers I tracked down a selection of his poems. They are worth reading. The most poignant is ‘The Loving Shepherdess’. It is the story of a beautiful half- insane shepherdess who, with clearly no male relatives, wanders landless with an ever perishing flock. She is naturally taken advantage of.
    As soon as I read this poem I saw her as the ’empowered womyn’ of today.
    Her flock, who she is unsuited to protect, dies and so does she.
    Jeffers is both relevant and ‘woke’- read him.

  2. Vegetius
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Always haunted by “Be Angry At The Sun” and “Woodrow Wilson” myself.

  3. J. Goodlow
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    One of my favorites. I wrote a tribute poem for him a few years back:

    For the Stonemason of Tor House

    Let humanity laugh!
    Backbones are a burden
    Like composure & honor
    Before the only smirk that’s certain;
    Mastery & slavery,
    Sloth & glory,
    Passion & ennui
    All leveled by the laugh.

    But the Man, perched above, like
    Cliffs around the sea, is
    Master of the sea and
    Master of it all…

    You, who caught the stench of moss so well in our Western cities,
    Beamed soil & sky with a wingéd, Grecian gaze,
    yet immortalized your words not in marble, but weathered rocks,
    Heaved up cliffs, beaten by the
    bellows of the sea.

    Your countenance of scarred stone against the surging sea!
    As man, you ennobled death in your rugged stillness.
    You saw earth blessed by the spirit of taloned angels:
    The Holy Hawk descending with God’s law of
    Tooth & claw.

    Few men fain ascend the molten mass of progress,
    (That hope for utopian tomorrow, not eternity of today!)
    Or drive their Spirit like a spear through rusted iron of our age,
    Or beat rabble of American flies with wings of Icarus.

    But you are still immortal on the cliffs:
    Soil & sky, wind & rock, sea & land, life & death,
    Composing poems with mighty currents of silence;

    The Sur river, ceaselessly surging seawards from the cliffs.

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