Robinson Jeffers-Rediscovering a Poet for our Tumultuous Times


On a recent visit to Carmel, California, we stopped to see the home of the poet Robinson Jeffers. Overlooking the Pacific, the home, a lovely cottage, is named Tor House. Tor meaning hill in the Irish language. Adjacent to Tor House is Hawk Tower, reminiscent of the Norman Towers found in Ireland. Una Jeffers, an Irish-American, loved all things Irish, and her husband, along with a handyman, built the tower themselves from local granite boulders that matched those used in the construction of the cottage.
Robinson Jeffers was a contemporary of Robert Frost, and both achieved wide recognition of their poetry. Jeffers was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1932. Yet today, we seem to remember Frost and his work rather than Jeffers, the latter somewhat relegated to obscurity.
But now reading some of Jeffers’ poetry, one finds startling relevance to our tumultuous political times. Here are excerpts from “Be Angry at the Sun,” written in the tumultuous year of 1941 and echoing the power of poetry in the context of the madness of mankind:
“That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new………..
Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you………..
Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack”
Or read this passage from “Shine Perishing Republic” written in 1925:
“While this America settles in the of its vulgarity,
Heavily thickening to empire
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops
And sighs out, and the mass hardens.”

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