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.

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)

 

Message from the President ~ December 2021

 
As my term as president of RJA nears its end, I want to take this opportunity to introduce Aaron Yoshinobu, who steps into the position in January. Many of you already know Aaron from his erudite presentations at RJA and Tor House Foundation events, but those of you who have not yet met him might wish to know that he is a native of the Monterey Peninsula and a professor in the Department of Geosciences at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. His faculty profile at Texas Tech includes this statement:
 
I am a structural geologist who explores questions relating to the nature of magma/melt migration and emplacement in the lithosphere and the structural/tectonic evolution of arcs, oceanic spreading centers, and icy satellites. I combine field work with microstructural observations and theoretical models to explain the structural history of these systems. In collaboration with petrologists, geochemists, and geochronologists, I study arc evolution in the US Cordillera and central Norway. My passion is to combine a variety of datasets, observations, and collaborators, to optimally inform our understanding of geologic structures. In addition, I am also interested in the intersection of geology, stone masonry, and the poetics of 20th century American poet Robinson Jeffers. Im a HUGE SOCCER ADVOCATE (coach/player/observer) and I also like to run trail ultramarathons.
 
Aaron is an interdisciplinary thinker who moves easily between the domains of art and science. Under his leadership, RJA is certain to thrive.
 
I also want to thank advisory board members Gere diZerega, Tim Hunt, and Robert Zaller for their tireless efforts on behalf of RJA during my term; Brett Colasacco for serving faithfully as executive director; Jim Baird and Whitney Hoth for their skillful co-editorship of Jeffers Studies; Charlie Rodewald for his dedication as treasurer; Jessica Hunt for her expertise as social media coordinator; Paula Karman for her essential roles as administrative partner and Jeffers Studies editorial assistant; and all of you—living in thirty-one states and six foreign countries—for your participation and support. While changes in our administrative lineup will be announced by Aaron when he assumes the presidency, one new addition can be mentioned now: Lindsay Jeffers has graciously accepted our invitation to serve on our advisory board as an ex officio member, representing the Jeffers family. As the immediate past president of RJA, I will be an ex officio member of the advisory board as well, and I look forward to helping Aaron and the executive committee fulfill RJA’s goals.
 
Plans for the next issue of Jeffers Studies are underway, but there is still time to submit proposals. If you have an idea for an essay, a book review, a biographical note about Jeffers, or a study of a particular poem, please send it by the end of February to the editors at jseditor@robinsonjeffersassociation.org.
 
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: https://mailchi.mp/48c0b60fbd92/program-channel?e=065446b642.
 
Please remember to remit your 2022 membership dues by the end of this month. Here is a link to the “Join or Renew” page on our website: https://robinsonjeffersassociation.org/about-rja/join/.
For those of you who have already renewed, thank you!
 
Since this is the holiday season, it is fitting to recall a passage in a letter by Una and a stanza in a poem by Jeffers where Christmas eve at midnight is mentioned. “Christmas was very happy although rainy,” Una writes in 1927. “We four went to midnight mass in the old mission. Most impressive, the fragile music from the loft and the terrific rain and wind swirling around the old building. Above it and the boom of the sea—the clamor of the cracked old bells just at midnight. Many bright tall candles and fragrant greens and lilies and two big braziers of coals near the door to warm our hands.” Jeffers alludes to a storm of a different sort in “Two Christmas-Cards,” written in December 1940, when the world was sliding into the abyss of war. His message, as one might expect, is not one of merriment and good cheer. He speaks, rather, of the profound mystery of existence, and of the hope one­ finds—must find—in the reverberant silence of darkness and despair. The second set of verses begins with this stanza:
 
          For an hour on Christmas eve
          And again on the holy day
          Seek the magic of past time,
          From this present turn away.
          Dark though our day,
          Light lies the snow on the hawthorn hedges
          And the ox knelt down at midnight.
 
With warmest best wishes,
 
Jim
 
James Karman
Emeritus Professor
Department of English
Department of Comparative Religion and Humanities
California State University, Chico
 


News from Jeffers Country
 
We are pleased to welcome LAWRENCE SPANN (Santa Barbara, CA) as a new member of RJA.
 
Two important publications are scheduled for release in January: Robinson Jeffers Family Travel Diaries, Volume One: British Isles, 1929, edited by DEBORAH WHITTLESEY SHARP and designed and typeset by NORRIS POPE (Tor House Press, 2022), and The Point Alma Venus Manuscripts by Robinson Jeffers, edited by TIM HUNT and ROBERT KAFKA (Stanford University Press, 2022). Information on how to order volume one of the Travel Diaries will be available soon. An order form for Point Alma Venus, with a 20% discount, is available here.
 
JOHN CUSATIS, a former executive director of RJA, will publish Conversations with Billy Collins (University Press of Mississippi, 2022) next summer. Copies can be pre-ordered from:
https://www.upress.state.ms.us/Books/C/Conversations-with-Billy-Collins. A previous book in the same “Literary Conversations Series” is titled Conversations with John Banville (2020). Congratulations, John!
 
GEORGE HART, author of Inventing the Language to Tell It: Robinson Jeffers and the Biology of Consciousness (Fordham University Press, 2013) and former editor of Jeffers Studies, shares his thoughts on “The Poems of Robinson Jeffers” with Chris Evans on the June 27, 2021, Lit Matters podcast. Listen at: https://litmatters.podbean.com/?s=George+Hart.
 
DOROTEA BITTERLI, a student at Universität Bern, Switzerland, completed her work for a B.A. degree in September 2021 with a thesis titled “Martha Grahams und Robinson Jeffers’ Medea-Versionen am Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs 1945–1947: Von ‘human’ versus ‘not human’ zu ‘more than human’ und ‘inhuman.’”
 
“Self-Criticism in February” by Jeffers, along with a brief biographical portrait, was published in the San Diego Reader, February 4, 2021: https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2021/feb/04/poetry-robinson-jeffers-early-proponent-environ/.
 
Jeffers’ poem “Vulture” appeared in the April 2021 issue of the Sonoma County Literary Update: https://socolitupdate.com/2021/04/01/april-2021/.
 
“Rock and Hawk” by Jeffers was featured on the Vox Populi website in October 2021: https://voxpopulisphere.com/2021/10/22/robinson-jeffers-rock-and-hawk/.
 
The work of Jeffers is discussed in “Lo bestial de la crueldad” by LUIS JAVIER PLATA ROSAS, Nexos, 43 (Octubre 2021): https://www.nexos.com.mx/?p=61077.

Message from the President ~ September 2021

 
In “The Torch-Bearers’ Race,” Jeffers reflects on the progress of Western civilization as “it gleamed across Euphrates mud, shone on Nile shore” and then “lightened / The little homely Ionian water and the sweet Aegean.” Passed along by poets with “names like the stars’ names, Sappho, Alcaeus, / And Aeschylus,” the Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian tradition spread through Europe, crossed the Atlantic, and continued westward until, on the California coast, it reached a geographical—if not a spiritual and intellectual—end. As a late runner in that race, facing the “huge, inhuman, remote, unruled” ocean, Jeffers wondered what could possibly happen next.
 
I thought of this poem when I received word that Robert Brophy died, for Bob was a torch-bearer in the field of Jeffers studies. He was the primary link between readers and scholars who came of age in the first half of the twentieth century and those who came after. Melba Berry Bennett, the founding editor of the Robinson Jeffers Newsletter, reported on Bob’s dissertation research in the February 1964 issue (no. 4), telling readers that he “has tapped every source of information on both the east and west coasts and has been generous in keeping us informed.” By the time Bob completed his graduate studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill—with a dissertation titled “Structure, Symbol, and Myth in Selected Narratives of Robinson Jeffers” (1966)—he was already teaching at the University of San Francisco. Two years later, he accepted a position at California State University, Long Beach, where he remained for the rest of his career. In 1969, following the death of Melba Bennett, Bob took over as editor of the Newsletter, a position he held for almost thirty years. During that time, as Jeffers’ contemporaries passed away and new generations of scholars appeared, Bob was at the very center of Jeffers’ world, in touch with an international community of readers interested in the poet’s life and work. As a founding member of the Robinson Jeffers Association when it was established in 1990, and as the founding senior editor of Jeffers Studies when it was launched in 1997, Bob continued to inspire others. The course he set is the one we are on today. 
 
Because many current members of RJA never met Bob and may be unfamiliar with his legacy, I asked former presidents and our president-elect to say a few words about him. Their names are listed in the order in which they served. Two former presidents are no longer with us—Alex Vardamis, who died in 2014, and Ron Olowin, who died in 2017. Both shared Bob’s passion for literature and his selfless commitment to a higher cause. Please visit our website to read more about Bob, and to offer your own memorial message.
 
Tim Hunt: “Those of us who worked with Bob over the years knew him as a gracious and generous mentor.  Through his scholarship, through his editorial work, through his work with RJA, and through his teaching, he was the architect of what has become the Jeffers scholarly community, and he was its informing spirit.”
 
Robert Zaller: “Although several fine studies of Jeffers’ work existed, Bob’s study of myth, ritual, and symbol in his narratives achieved a range and a depth of insight that made it the foundational work of modern Jeffers scholarship, as it is indispensable to any student today. But no less important was his guidance and friendship for so many of us over the years, and perhaps most of all his great graciousness of spirit and his unwavering commitment to the values of justice and compassion he held so dear.”
 
Fran Vardamis, for Alex Vardamis: “He was, in his way, and in all ways, the soul for the Robinson Jeffers Newsletter and the godfather of Jeffers Studies. Jeffers scholarship owes an enormous debt to him. Lucky he was with us, and with his students, all those 93 years.”
 
Jim Baird: “I met Bob in 1974 when he came to North Texas to give a talk on Jeffers and thereby began my work as a scholar as well as a reader.  He helped me gain access to Tor House for my first visit there in 1977, reviewed and improved my contributions to the newsletter and the journal, surveyed my publications and recommended that I be promoted—and those are just a few of the things he did for me.  I know he helped countless others in the same way.”
 
Peter Quigley: “Without Bob’s generosity of spirit and welcoming warmth combined with his careful and loving treatment of Jeffers’ verse, the last three decades of my life would have been very different and much less rich.” 
 
David Rothman: “It was Bob who encouraged me to revise a chapter from my dissertation on Jeffers’ verse craft for Robinson Jeffers: Dimensions of a Poet, a book he edited for Fordham University Press. Bob was unfailingly kind and patient, yet highly (highly!) attentive to detail, as he shepherded my essay through the publication process. Bob drew me into the warmest, most engaging, supportive community of scholars and writers I had ever known.”
 
Geneva Gano: “Bob was incredibly dedicated to the Robinson Jeffers Association and I believe it is an understatement to say that his work was transformational and enduring.  He was so kind to me, and to so many. This world will miss him.”
 
Rob Kafka: “Apart from his perspicacity on matters touching Jeffers’ life and work, it is his mentorship and unstinting generosity that I remember most vividly about Bob—along with his quiet vivacity and engagement. I once knew someone who, after meeting Bob, commented to me that he had “dancing eyes.” Yes, he did. That is how I wish to remember him.”
 
Aaron Yoshinobu: “As an academic geologist presenting for the first time at a meeting of the RJA back in 2004, I had no idea what the response would be to my small contribution to Jeffers scholarship. After I spoke, Bob Brophy approached me with the kindest smile, an assuring handshake, and words of encouragement. I was floored; I simply could not believe that the man who had initiated the deep and rich scholarship of Jeffers was even marginally interested in what I said. Bob went on to send me many emails about Jeffers, my work, and the intersection of poetry, stone masonry and science. His gentle smile and earnestness I shall never forget.” 
 
In Jeffers’ poem we find words for a fitting epitaph:
 
            The torch-bearers’ race: it is run in a dusk; when the emptied racer drops
                  unseen at the end of his course
            A fresh hand snatches the hilt of the light, the torch flies onward
            Though the man die. Not a runner knows where the light was lighted, not
                  a runner knows where it carries fire to,
            Hand kisses hand in the dark, the torch passes, the man
            Falls, and the torch passes.
 
Ave atque vale
Hail and farewell
 
 
James Karman
Emeritus Professor
Department of English
Department of Comparative Religion and Humanities
California State University, Chico
 


News from Jeffers Country
 
We warmly welcome new RJA members ROBERT ATWAN (Pasadena, CA), JOSHUA BARTEE (Las Vegas, NV), KATHARINE BUBEL (Delta, British Columbia), and ANTONIA DOSIK (Yellow Springs, OH).
 
Volume 21 of Jeffers Studies will be mailed out within the next few weeks. The issue contains essays by TIM HUNT, JAMES KARMAN, ROBERT ZALLER, and newcomer KATHRYN CHEW, along with an editor’s note by JIM BAIRD and a review of GENEVA GANO’S recently published book, The Little Art Colony and US Modernism: Carmel, Provincetown, Taos, by WHITNEY HOTH. Plans for the September 2022 issue of Jeffers Studies are already underway, so please submit your proposals soon to: jseditor@robinsonjeffersassociation.org. Guidelines for submissions can be found on the RJA website.
 
Our fifth webinar, co-sponsored by RJA and the Tor House Foundation, was titled “New Voices and New Directions in Jeffers Scholarship” and featured presentations by KATHARINE BUBEL, BRETT COLASACCO, and GENEVA GANO. The well-received event was hosted by TIM HUNT and produced by JESSICA HUNT. A video recording will be available on the RJA website soon.
 
The publication date of The Point Alma Venus Manuscripts, edited by TIM HUNT and ROB KAFKA, has been postponed by Stanford University Press to January 2022.
 
Like Mabel Dodge Luhan in Lorenzo in Taos, RACHEL CUSK frames her new novel, Second Place, as an address to “Jeffers.” Second Place is on the long list for the 2021 Booker Prize.
us.macmillan.com/books/9780374279226
 
It’s Always 9/11, a dystopic political thriller by WENDY AVRA GORDON, begins with an epigraph by Jeffers—a quotation from “The Eye.”
barnesandnoble.com/w/its-always-9-11-wendy-avra-gordon
 
For the protagonist of A Parable of Lies —“an experiment in healing fiction”—by LAWRENCE SPANN, Jeffers is an important source of insight and wisdom.
amazon.com/Parable-Lies-Lawrence-Spann
 
A student essay by ADAM LUNDQUIST, titled “Dark Mountain’s Uncivilized Writing and Robinson Jeffers,” can be found on the Göteborgs Universitet website: https://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/68305