Why it’s high time for a Robinson Jeffers renaissance.
With contemporaries like T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, it is little wonder that the name of poet Robinson Jeffers rings far fewer bells, even in the ears of avid poetry fans. Jeffers, who was born at the twilight of the 19th century and wrote most prolifically throughout the first half of the 20th, joined an audaciously talented chorus of American poets who—then, as now—were regarded as literary celebrities and cultural icons.
Jeffers is essential to understanding ourselves, the twentieth century, and the world.
But, on April 4th, 1932 the portrait of a reclusive California-based poet named Robinson Jeffers, photographed in contemplative profile, was emblazoned on the cover of Time magazine, nine years after Amy Lowell received a similar honor, and eighteen years before T.S. Eliot would adorn its pages. With the publication of Tamar and Other Poems in 1924, Jeffers’ fame sprung into being virtually overnight. One decade and multiple collections of poetry later, he had become arguably the most famous poet in the United States.
Despite his prominence and critical success—and the numerous literary honors he accrued notwithstanding—one poet and literary critic writing in the pages of the New York Herald Tribune asked, “Why does so much deep silence surround the name of Robinson Jeffers?”