Message from the President ~ September 2023

Robinson Jeffers, U2, & Popular Culture

End of Summer, 2023

Greetings Members of the RJA,

As summer 2023 draws to a close, I’d like to revisit the summer of 2017. That summer, more than half a century after Jeffers’s death, an iconic rock band was on a worldwide tour that reached three million fans on five continents. The band, U2, prefaced their sold-out stadium performances with a selection of poetry for the audience prior to the start of the concert, and Jeffers’ “Juan Higera Creek” was one of several chosen by the band (bottom right). It’s important to note that U2 are counted among the most successful bands of the late twentieth century and, like Jeffers, have graced the cover of Time magazine.

Juan Higera Creek

Neither your face, Higera, nor your deeds
Are known to me; and death these many years
Retains you, under grass or forest-mould.
Only a rivulet bears your name: it runs
Deep-hidden in undeciduous redwood shade
And trunks by age made holy, streaming down                    
A valley of the Santa Lucian hills.
There have I stopped, and though the unclouded sun
Flew high in loftiest heaven, no dapple of light
Flecked the large trunks below the leaves intense,
Nor flickered on your creek: murmuring it sought
The River of the South, which oceanward
Would sweep it down. I drank sweet water there,
And blessed your immortality. Not bronze,
Higera, nor yet marble cool the thirst;
Let bronze and marble of the rich and proud
Secure the names; your monument will last
Longer, of living water forest-pure. (CP, v. 4).

In the context of such global rock stardom, the choice of “Juan Higera Creek” might seem discordant in a milieu where immortality is measured in the modern currency of sell-out crowds and monuments of gold records and Grammy awards. But U2’s choice of a Jeffers poem, I argue, reflects a growing cultural movement toward simplicity and simplified lifestyles. In the current vernacular it’s called “minimalism” or “voluntary simplicity.” Who better to demonstrate an austere lifestyle of art, science, intellectualism, religion, passivity, and reflection than the constellation of Jeffers, Una, the twins, and Tor House and Hawk.

U2’s choice of Jeffers’s poem speaks to this movement and demonstrates the synergy between our current moment in popular culture and Jeffers’s oeuvre. Indeed, as a member of the generation born immediately following Jeffers’s death, a person on the surface perhaps more firmly rooted in the cultural landscape of 1980’s rock than 1920’s poetry, I think the U2 story I’ve just recounted illustrates one of several possible synergies between Robinson Jeffers and our popular culture, synergies which give us opportunities to begin the conversation of popularizing the poetry and life of Robinson Jeffers.

The environmental movement is clearly another point of confluence between Jeffers’s poetry and popular culture. Since 1965 and the publication of the Sierra Club’s Not Man Apart, his poetry has been used as prophecy and solution for the environmental changes that are becoming increasingly apparent. Few authors evoke the terrible grandeur of nature and the miniscule scale, yet existential necessity, of humans to fully comprehend the universe like Jeffers. As Carl Sagan wrote, “we [humans] are the sense organ of the universe”, and few artists better articulated the beauty, pain, and suffering of the human-lived world than Jeffers.

From a letter Jeffers wrote to Sister Mary James Power, 1 October, 1934, CL, v. 2):

I believe that the universe is one being, all its parts are different expressions of the same energy, and they are all in communication with each other, influencing each other, therefore parts of one organic whole (This is physics, I believe, as well as religion.) The parts change and pass, or die, people and races and rocks and stars; none of them seems to me important in itself, but only the whole. This whole is in all its parts so beautiful, and is felt by me to be so intensely in earnest, that I am compelled to love it, and to think of it as divine. It seems to me that this whole alone is worthy of the deeper sort of love; and that there is peace, freedom, I might say a kind of salvation, in turning one’s affections outward toward this one God, rather than inward on one’s self, or on humanity, or on human imaginations, and abstractions – the world of spirits. …I think that one may contribute (ever so slightly) to the beauty of things by making one’s own life and environment beautiful, so far as one’s power reaches.

Isn’t this a good time for humanity to be re-introduced to a little bit of humility through the careful curation and presentation of Jeffers’ best works so to contribute to “the beauty of things”?

And finally, every time I introduce a student, colleague, friend, or stranger to Jeffers, they become absorbed and flabbergasted, and exclaim: “How did I never read him?!” “His poems are so timeless!”, “He is truly an environmental prophet!”. My canvasing of people across the country and continents, when mentioning Jeffers and his achievement, indicates that they are hungry for his art and lifestyle. Shouldn’t his books be more available, more read? Shouldn’t Tor House be mentioned in the same breath as the Mark Twain House or Fallingwater, recognized as quickly as Dostoevsky’s desk or Yeats tower?

So, I ask you to ponder the following: If a hugely successful rock band projects Jeffers’ verse onto the screen every night during a global tour, thus demonstrating the possibility for the continued relevance of poetry in our popular culture, how might we, as a community dedicated to Jeffers, translate this action in terms of deepening the general populations’ knowledge and appreciation of Jeffers’ prophetic verse and aesthetic life?

Over the past year the RJA has begun to re-evaluate its role in the promotion and maintenance of Jeffers’ literary achievement in the academy. Thanks to Executive Director Tim Hunt’s initiative, we have expanded the programming of the Association to reach beyond the traditional halls of academic scholars and to begin curating resources to promote the literary achievement of Robinson Jeffers to a wider population. Such programming includes regular “book group meetings” where members may discuss various poems; webinars that feature new study or presentation from the Jeffers canon, and the creation of a newly designed open-source and on-line version of Jeffers Studies, as well as a new mode of Annual RJA conferences. Look for future announcements regarding these initiatives.

But this is simply not enough. In the 21st century a vast array of multi-media outlets play the dominant role in shaping public perceptions. It is in our best interests to promulgate the lifestyle and poems of Robinson Jeffers, “ever so slightly”, to make sure that he remains relevant to the modern movements of artistry and to earnestly improve the world around us. What if each of us donated a copy of The Wild God of the World to a local high school or library or random, but possibly interested, stranger? What if we regularly posted images and poems of beauty in our social media? A lovely Instagram account “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” (@poetryisnotaluxury; right), a title that refers to Audre Lord’s seminal 1977 essay, has over 750,000 followers. The account simply posts a stanza or a whole poem every day, including the work of Rainer Maria Rilke, Jane Hirshfield, Emily Dickinson, and many others; a sure sign of the continued relevance of the role of poetry in sustaining our popular culture. How else might we imagine and innovate new ways to bring Robinson Jeffers to the forefront of the public dialog on art, politics, culture and science? Certainly, we may begin by saturating our local worlds with images, verses, and actions that are Jeffersian. Let’s follow on the example of rockstars and social media influencers as far as our powers may reach to demonstrate that this is the moment for America to become reacquainted with Robinson Jeffers.


Aaron Yoshinobu
President, Robinson Jeffers Association

P.S. Special thanks to Dr. Laura diZerega for the photograph from U2’s show at the Olympia Stadion, Berlin, on 12 July, 2017, depicting Zabriskie Point above the stage, and poet Clarissa Aykroyd’s blog, The Stone and the Star, for the image of Juan Higera Creek projected next to the stage.

Message from the President ~ June 2022


Greetings RJA Members,

Giving thanks and a welcome…

Much has evolved in our Association since our last President’s Message: publication of two new volumes of Jeffers’s previously unpublished works, several changes in leadership, plans for the first cohosted, in person RJA/Tor House Foundation Fall Festival in October 2022, and the initiation of a THF Jeffers webinar series. The intellectual space for this growth is due in no small part to our past president, Emeritus Professor Jim Karman. We all are well acquainted with Jim’s erudite Jeffers scholarship: the three-volume Collected Letters of Robinson Jeffers, with Selected Letters of Una Jeffers and the Poet and Prophet biography. His leadership and compassionate consideration of the ways and means of keeping the RJA relevant, progressive, and sustainable are equally significant. I also happily acknowledge my gratitude to Paula Karman who has contributed immeasurably to the work of RJA and the continual and uninterrupted dissemination of Jeffers Studies. As your new president, I am extremely grateful to have Jim on “speed dial,” as this will enable a successful transition and the maintenance of the innovative programming that he, Tim Hunt, and others have begun.

In that vein, I would like to formally introduce Emeritus Professor Tim Hunt as our new executive director. If I need to introduce Tim to the RJA membership, then we may have a problem at the very core of our mission! After editing four volumes of Jeffers’s verse craft and composing a fifth on the chronology, exposition, and textual analysis of the poems, many would retire and enjoy their laurels. Instead, Tim has gone on to edit, with Rob Kafka, the extraordinary Point Alma Venus manuscripts and create a series of new Jeffers programming initiatives to engage both Jeffers scholars and the general public. Tim has also published a new volume of original poetry—more on this to follow.

The final addition to our leadership team is the election of new Advisory Board member, Louise Economides, who will join existing members Robert Zaller and Gere diZerega. Louise is a professor of literature at the University of Montana, where she focuses on the intersection of environmental studies and the humanities. Louise has written on “Robinson Jeffers, Geopoetry, and the Anthropocene,” as well as numerous articles and published volumes, including Blake, Heidegger, Buddhism and Deep Ecology: A Fourfold Perspective on Humanity’s Relationship to Nature; The Ecology of Wonder in Romantic and Postmodern Literature; and the forthcoming Wild Anthropocene: Literature, Environmental Justice and the Future of Biodiversity (Routledge). I am extremely excited to welcome Louise to the Board.

President’s Message: Why the RJA?

“Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice.” This quote, often attributed to Will Durant, contextualizes our modern condition and allows us to recognize the fragile connection between the environment and the culture—civilization—through which we interpret our existence. If we include the organic changes that arise from evolutionary biology in the broader context of Earth evolution, we might consider “biological consent” as equally subject to change without notice (read: viruses). Our existence has always been subconsciously predicated on the notion of earthly and biological stability. Yet here we are, amidst a global pandemic, the recent eruption of Hunga Tonga (right), and natural and anthropogenic climate change. We are faced with geologic phenomena that would find a fitting home in the poetry of Robinson Jeffers.
Given the increasing global recognition of this fragility, several questions arise. How can the RJA increase and sustain Jeffers’s voice in the larger dialogue on the reevaluation of our position in the environmental, spiritual, and political landscape? Where do we go 60 years on from Jeffers’s death? Has he reached a wider reading public? Is he regularly anthologized and taught? How has his work shaped subsequent generations of readers, poets, artists, and critics? As even casual readers are aware, Jeffers claimed not to be swayed by popular opinion nor even the desire for readers. Perhaps a bit of braggadocio, but not without some rationale. Jeffers crafted his poetry, and indeed his larger artistic project, involving the design and construction of Tor House and Hawk Tower, with the intentions of existential longevity and endurance.

How can the RJA endeavor to demonstrate that Jeffers’s artistic achievements provide a fundamental metaphor for the 21st century homo sapien? That is, one who is patient, observant, constructive, compassionate—yes, despite his assertions of hawks over humans, Jeffers was deeply compassionate—and, ever more resonant today, one who leads a life of sustainability.

I have no definitive answers for these questions, but there are many possibilities waiting to be explored. I look forward to working with all of you to increase and sustain the influence of Robinson Jeffers on homo sapiens. He and we are worth the effort.

My very best wishes to each of you, and I look forward to future dialogues with all of you.

Aaron Yoshinobu (he/him)
President, RJA

2022 Joint RJA/Tor House Foundation Fall Festival Announcement

We would like to invite you to attend the upcoming in-person 2022 Fall Festival, co-hosted by the RJA and the Tor House Foundation, in Carmel, CA, from October 14 to 16. The theme of the festival will be the Jeffers family’s 1929 travels to Ireland and Scotland, with special emphasis on the recently published 1929 Travel Diaries and the connections with Jeffers’s volume, Descent to the Dead. Presentations on other topics are welcome, as well.

The festivities will begin with a Sunset Celebration at Tor House on Friday evening. Public presentations will follow on Saturday at the Carmel Woman’s Club; Saturday evening will include a dedication of sculptures at Jeffers Plaza in Monterey, followed by dinner; on Sunday morning we will gather at Tor House for a farewell breakfast. Specific details and registration information will be sent later in the summer.

The deadline for proposals is July 15. Please submit your proposal and any questions you may have to

New Programming and Membership Benefits…

Jeffers Studies is one way we share insights and ideas concerning Jeffers. Other ways include our RJA–THF webinars and our newly introduced programming channel for Zoom-based seminars and open discussions. For more information about the programming channel and for a sign-up link, click here:

If you have not already done so, please remember to remit your 2022 membership dues. Here is a link to the “Join or Renew” page on our website: For those of you who have already renewed, thank you!

News from Jeffers Country

We are pleased to welcome Rick Applegate (Tucson, AZ), Ronald Janssen (Huntington Station, NY), Clark McCann (Issaquah, WA), John Ryan (Howell, NJ), and Katrien Vander Straeten (Wayland, MA) as new members of the RJA.

Cory Willard published “Uncenter Yourselves: Revisiting Robinson Jeffers’s Inhumanism in the Age of The Overstory” in Western American Literature, Vol. 56, No. 3-4 (2021), 237-52:

An art exhibit titled The Fire of Heaven: Enrique Martínez Celaya and Robinson Jeffers is on display at the Monterey Museum of Art (Monterey, CA) from May 12, 2022, to October 9, 2022:

Elise M. Eden performed three recitals and submitted a “Voice Dissertation” for a DMA at the University of Michigan in 2021. One of the recitals featured a performance of Songs of Autumn—five poems by Jeffers set to music by composer Jessica Hunt.

Sara Judy completed a PhD dissertation at the University of Notre Dame in April 2022 titled “Singing in the Late Season: Prophetic American Poetry in the Post-War Period.” Her study “shows how social protest poetry written in the U.S. after the second World War, by Robinson Jeffers, Muriel Rukeyser, and Jorie Graham, challenges and complicates traditional notions of prophecy in American poetry.”

Carter Davis Johnson earned an MA at Virginia Tech University in April 2022 with a thesis titled “The Dust Dwellers: The Environmental Philosophy of John Steinbeck, Robinson Jeffers, and Jack London.” Johnson examines “the environmental philosophy of three Californian modernists . . . collectively named the Dust Dwellers: John Steinbeck, Robinson Jeffers, and Jack London” from a Jungian perspective.

Congratulations to Tim Hunt on Voice to Voice in the Dark, a new collection of poems scheduled for publication by Broadstone Press on July 15. As one appreciative reader writes, “I love how this luminous book sees a person—any person, not just a poet, or a singer, or a revolutionary—as a voice among voices—and by doing so, enables us to hear America again.” For more information see

RJA-THF Webinar Videos

The webinar series co-sponsored by the Robinson Jeffers Association and Tor House Foundation explores the nature, impact, and cultural contexts of the work of Robinson Jeffers.  For recordings of the  webinars to date, please use the links below.

Tamar and Other Poems: A Centennial Conversation: Brett Colasacco, Robert Faggen, Geneva Gano, and Susan Shillinglaw hosted by Tim Hunt (April 30, 2024)

Robinson Jeffers & Contemporary Poetry—The On-Going Dialogue: A Conversation with Katie Peterson and André Naffis-Sahely hosted by Tim Hunt (August 18, 2022)

Robinson Jeffers, Herman Melville & Lorine Niedecker—Poets of Transhumanity: A Conversation with Elisa New and Gillian Osborne hosted by Tim Hunt (April 21, 2022)

Two Newly Published Robinson Jeffers Titles presented by Debbie Sharp and Tim Hunt and hosted by Aaron Yoshinobu (January 27, 2022)

New Voices and New Directions in Jeffers Scholarship featuring Katharine Bubel, Brett Colasacco, and Geneva Gano (August 26, 2021)

Looking at Jeffers: Portraits – Weston, Hagemeyer, and Contemporary Bronzes hosted by Amy Essick and featuring Carol Matranga Courtney, Will Pettee, and Matt Weston (April 30, 2021)

Robinson Jeffers’ “Shine, Perishing Republic,” “Shine, Republic,” and “Shine, Empire: A Panel Discussion featuring Shelley Alden Brooks, Whitney Hoth, and Robert Zaller (January 28, 2021)

Setting Robinson Jeffers to Music: A Conversation with Christopher Anderson Bazzoli and Jessica Hunt. Hosted by Melinda Coffey Armstead (October 25, 2020)

Robinson Jeffers’ “The Purse-Seine”: A Panel Discussion featuring James Karman, Elliot Ruchowitz-Roberts, and Susan Shillinglaw (July 29, 2020)