Saturday, February 22, 2014

Briefly On Robinson Jeffers

     I only remembered his name vaguely; perhaps I had read something in an anthology once, a long time ago.  (He was born in the 1880s and died in the early 1960s, before I came of age.)

     In meandering around the blogosphere, I had just run across a commenter who posted a copy of Jeffers' poem, "Purse Seine," which I hope you will link to and enjoy.  A poet this good, I thought, ought not to have been forgotten, so I decided to look him up:  Wikipedia -- that flawed-but-helpful reference for the most of us (who are the great "uncredentialed") -- came through.   What did it say?

     Born in 1887 in a respected Presbyterian family; check.  Child prodigy; check.  University of Southern California; check.  Brother became an eminent astronomer; check.   Scandalous affair with wife of a lawyer; check.  Lived in Carmel, California; check.  Outdoorsman and poet; check.  Favorable connections with D. H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams,  and Jiddu Krishnamurti; check.  Made cover of Time magazine; check.

     Staunch opposition to U. S. entry into World War II; uncheck.  Ah.

     Wikipedia says:

"In fact, his book The Double Axe and Other Poems (1948), a volume of poems that was largely critical of U.S. policy, came with an extremely unconventional note from Random House that the views expressed by Jeffers were not those of the publishing company. Soon after, his work was received negatively by several influential literary critics. Several particularly scathing pieces were penned by Yvor Winters, as well as by Kenneth Roxroth, who had been very positive in his earlier commentary on Jeffers' work. Jeffers would publish poetry intermittently during the 1950s but his poetry never again attained the same degree of popularity that it had in the 1920s and the 1930s."

     An "extremely unconventional note from Random House that the views expressed by Jeffers were not those of the publishing company."  Hmm, what was Random House so afraid of?  Maybe there really is, and has been, a media establishment that pretty well controls what shall be permitted to be popular, and what shall not.   (Remember these three things -- the Narrative, the Narrative, and the Narrative.)

     But thank you, Robinson Jeffers, for keeping your own voice.  You did have something important to say -- there are sardines, and there are also other sardines.  Point well taken; very well taken, all things considered.  (If they read the poem.)

1 comment:

  1. Still catching my breath after reading it.

    He knows.