Message from the President ~ September 2019

Attuned as he was to the natural rhythms of life, Jeffers spoke often about the changing seasons. In Tamar, he writes of “the high plateau of summer and August waning,” when the insufferable California sun flames “naked through the pale transparent” air and drains “the strengths of nature.” That burning time is behind us now, and we are entering the cooler atmospherics of Autumn Evening, when nights in late September promise rain. Soon enough, as Jeffers says in October Evening, the sky will turn over “to darkness, good storms, few guests, glad rivers.” And then, mercifully, the premonitory November Surf will be here, when “great waves awake and are drawn / Like smoking mountains bright from the west / And come and cover the cliff with white violent cleanness.”

Autumn is an important time for our association. As we move through the coming months, we have several important tasks before us.

One task concerns the election of two officers: president-elect and advisory board member. The president-elect will serve in 2020 and will become president for three calendar years beginning in 2021. The advisory board member will serve for three calendar years, from 2020 to 2022. A Call for Nominations will be posted in October. A list of candidates will be presented in November, and voting will take place at that time.

Another task involves planning for our next annual conference, scheduled for February 21–23, 2020 at the Carmel Woman’s Club. We hope to attract as many participants as possible for this event, so our theme—“Seeing Jeffers with 2020 Vision” — is wide open. A Call for Papers is included with this message. Please note: Travel grants are available for graduate students, junior faculty, and independent scholars. Application information can be found here.

In Calm and Full the Ocean, Jeffers reflects on the fractured human world, which seemed to him at times to be “perfectly separate from nature’s, private and mad.” Nature itself, all that really matters, continues on its own: “Sane and intact the seasons pursue their course, autumn slopes to December, the rains will fall / And the grass flourish, with flowers in it . . . .” But December is weeks away, we’re still in September, and that brings to mind The Day Is a Poem, dated by Jeffers September 19, 1939—the day Hitler invaded Poland, eighty years ago this month. “Well: the day is a poem,” Jeffers says, but too much like one of his own: “crusted with blood and barbaric omens, / Painful to excess, inhuman as a hawk’s cry.” Then as now, his words ring true.

James Karman
Emeritus Professor
Department of English
Department of Comparative Religion and Humanities
California State University, Chico

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