Message from the President ~ September 2021

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

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 four webinars to date, please use the links below.  The fifth webinar, focused on recent research by Katharine Bubel, Brett Colasacco, and Geneva Gano, will be held July 29, 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 ~ January 2021

January 2021
 
“All things are full of gods,” said Thales twenty-five hundred years ago. Whatever he may have meant by that, I thought of his claim recently when I encountered the name of a Roman deity previously unknown to me, or long forgotten: Cardea, goddess of hinges. Yes, hinges. Cardea was a beautiful nymph of the wilderness when Janus spotted her and, as usually happens in such tales, fell immediately in love. In gratitude for surrendering to his will, Janus gave Cardea power over doorways—more specifically, over the dowel-like pivot hinges at the top and bottom of a door that allowed it to swing open and closed. This was a gift and a power only he could bestow, because Janus—the gatekeeper-god with two faces, one looking forward and the other back—presided over the beginning and end of things, over entries and exits, thresholds, and transitions. The first moment in every day belonged to him, as did the first day of every month, and the first month of every year: January. In accepting Janus’ gift, which marked a major change in life for her, Cardea became the defender of boundaries, the guardian of civil and domestic spaces, and the special protector of children within the home. Words like “cardiology” and “cardinal” derive from her, for she was at the heart of things, central to them, fundamental. Wherever something turned on something else—not just doors, but anything axial, such as the earth on its poles, or the heavens around the north star—she was there. Pivotal moments in a person’s or a nation’s life were a concern of hers as well.
 
Perhaps Cardea is with us still, or if not her specifically, then the numinous power she represents—for if ever there was a pivotal moment in American history, the one we are in right now, this very month of January, would qualify. Will Covid-19 be conquered? Will the Black Lives Matter movement make a difference? Can the environment be saved? Are women free and equal, along with all people generally, no matter who they are and how they choose to live? Is America a democratic country? Will the economy survive? With 2020 behind us, the year in which all these issues came to the fore, and 2021 just now underway, we’ll find out soon enough. One thing is certain: forces beyond anyone’s control have been unleashed—from the magnified fury of natural events (fires, hurricanes, pandemics) to the anger erupting in the halls of Congress and on America’s streets. A revolution of some sort is in the air.
 
Amidst all this, the Robinson Jeffers Association managed to fulfill its mission. Looking back at the past year, we see a number of new names added to our membership list (please renew your membership, if you haven’t done so already); guided by editors Jim Baird and Whitney Hoth, we published two issues of Jeffers Studies; Tim Hunt and Mick McAllister overhauled our website; and with the help of Jessica Hunt, we presented two well-attended webinars. As we look forward to the year ahead, we hope to maintain our momentum with two more issues of Jeffers Studies (contributions welcome), additions to our website, and a series of thought-provoking webinars. We also hope to host an October conference in Carmel, held in conjunction with the Tor House Foundation, provided it is safe to meet at that time. A talented team of officers is committed to helping us achieve our goals: president-elect Aaron Yoshinobu, executive director Brett Colasacco, and advisory board members Gere diZerega, Tim Hunt, and Robert Zaller.
 
Our next webinar is set for later this month—Thursday, January 28, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Pacific time. Tim Hunt will moderate a panel discussion of three poems by Jeffers that directly address political issues: “Shine, Perishing Republic,” “Shine, Republic,” and “Shine, Empire.”  Participants include Shelley Alden Brooks, Whitney Hoth, and Robert Zaller. Additional information about the program will follow in a separate announcement.
 
The three poems selected for the webinar were published in 1925, 1935, and 1941 respectively—all major moments in American and world history. Jeffers regarded the entire period in which he lived as a turning point, or breaking point, for civilization. “I believe that we live about the summit of the wave of this age,” he says in the introduction to At the Birth of an Age (published in Solstice, the book that contains “Shine, Republic”), “and hence can see it more objectively, looking down toward the troughs on both sides.” However frightening it might be to live through a period of tumultuous change, the process—whether seen as rising and falling, opening and closing, or beginning and ending—is natural and, for Jeffers, divine. “All things are full of God,” he says in “De Rerum Virtute,” affirming Thales’ basic principle while giving it a pantheistic spin: “Winter and summer, day and night, war and peace are God.” Jeffers said the same thing in different ways throughout his career, but never more eloquently than in the closing lines of “Point Pinos and Point Lobos”: “For the essence and the end / Of his labor is beauty, for goodness and evil are two things and still variant, but the quality of life as of death and of light / As of darkness is one, one beauty, the rhythm of that Wheel, and who can behold it is happy and will praise it to the people.”

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


News from Jeffers Country
 
RJA welcomes new members BRUCE and DEBBIE GRELLE (Chico, CA), TONY and SONDRA KARMAN (Chicago, IL), ADAM KLINKER (Genoa, NE), TRIFIN ROULE (Silver Spring, MD), and JOSÉ SENTMANAT (Riverside, CA).
 
ENRIQUE MARTINEZ CELAYA, Provost Professor of Humanities and Arts at the University of Southern California, plans to create a series of Jeffers-inspired paintings at Tor House as soon as travel allows. Celaya has written about Jeffers in Collected Writings and Interviews, 2010–2017 (University of Nebraska Press, 2020) and other works: nebraskapress.unl.edu/search/?keyword=Celaya. See also martinezcelaya.com.
 
Poet, cowboy, Jeffers scholar, and Old Norse professor JACKSON CRAWFORD has attracted a large following on YouTube. A selection of his videos, a few of which deal with Jeffers, can be accessed through his website (scroll down to “Miscellaneous”): jacksonwcrawford.com.
 
RJA member ED CROCKER noticed a detail on the cover of the first edition of Thurso’s Landing: a hammer and sickle beneath the gilt illustration of a crouching woman, made to look like the artist’s initials. Although the name of the artist responsible for the cover design is not known for certain, some evidence points to Franz Felix (1892–1967). Thurso’s Landing was published in 1932, when admiration for the Soviet Union was high. 
 
GENEVA GANO published “The Poetry of Ecological Witness: Robinson Jeffers and Camille T. Dungy” in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Vol. 27, Iss. 3 (2020): academic.oup.com/isle/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/isle/isaa088/5918080.
 
PETR KOPECKY contributed a chapter titled “Czeching American Nature Images in the Work of Robinson Jeffers and John Steinbeck” to Framing the Environmental Humanities, edited by Hannes Bergthaller and Peter Bjerre Mortensen (Brill, 2018): brill.com/view/title/36037.
 
Jeffers is included in a ten-disc set of audio CDs titled The Poets’ Collection: Englischsprachige Lyrik im Originalton und in deutscher Übersetzung [The Poets’ Collection: English-Language Poetry in the Original Language and in German Translation], edited by Christiane Collorio and Michael Krüger (der Höverlag / Random House, 2018): randomhouse.de/Hoerbuch/The-Poets-Collection/Christiane-Collorio/der-Hoerverlag/e496225.rhd.
 
MARIA POPOVA included an article on Jeffers in her popular Brainpicking newsletter. See “Robinson Jeffers on Moral Beauty, the Interconnectedness of the Universe, and the Key to Peace of Mind”: brainpickings.org/2019/06/03/robinson-jeffers-sister-mary-james-power.
 
 
Recently completed PhD dissertations and MA theses:
 
FRÉDÉRIC POUPON, Trois poètes du sauvage: Robinson Jeffers, Gary Snyder et Kenneth White, thèse de doctorat, Littératures française, francophonees et comparée, Université Bordeaux Montaigne, 2020.
 
KATHARINE BUBEL, Edge Effects: Poetry, Place and Spiritual Practices, University of Victoria, 2018.  Bubel’s PhD dissertation “focusses on the intersection of the environmental and religious imaginations in the work of five West Coast poets: Robinson Jeffers, Theodore Roethke, Robert Hass, Denise Levertov, and Jan Zwicky.” Bubel also wrote the Jeffers entry for The Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, edited by Stephen Ross (Routledge, 2016).
 
JOSHUA D. BARTEE, Reality and Nature in Robinson Jeffers, PhD dissertation, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2017. In this study of the words Jeffers uses to communicate his thoughts, Bartee contends that Jeffers’ “poetry is ecological, but it is also cosmological, and with this equation Jeffers created some of the most profoundly wild and spiritual language of the Modernist era.”
 
MARK A. HUTTON, “Only the Earth Remains: Exploring the Machine in Selected Lyric Poetry of Robinson Jeffers,” MA thesis, East Tennessee State University, 2017.
 
CHRISTINA M. BERTRAND, “Place, Space, and the Not-Self: A Study in Ecopoetics,” MA thesis, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2017.
 
 
Books containing chapters about or extended references to Jeffers:  
 
Robyn Creswell, City of Beginnings: Poetic Modernism in Beirut (Princeton University Press, 2019): press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691182186/city-of-beginnings.
 
Gouven Le Brech, Échappées océanes: sur les pas de Jean Grenier, Albert Camus, Fernando Pessoa, Llewelyn Powys, Nescio, Kenneth Rexroth, Robinson Jeffers et Jack Kerouac (Éditions du Petit pavé, 2018): petitpave.fr/petit-pave-echappees-oceanes-710.html.
 
David Mason, “To Humanize the Inhumanist” in Voices, Places: Essays (Paul Dry Books, 2018): pauldrybooks.com/products/voices-places?_pos=5&_sid=c11e54177&_ss=r.
 
Peter O’Leary, “Robinson Jeffers: The Man from Whom God Hid Everything” in Thick and Dazzling Darkness: Religious Poetry in a Secular Age (Columbia University Press, 2018): columbia.edu/book/thick-and-dazzling-darkness/9780231173308.
 
Joy A. Palmer-Cooper and David E. Cooper, editors, Key Thinkers on the Environment (Routledge, 2018): routledge.com/Key-Thinkers-on-the-Environment/Cooper-Cooper/p/book/9781138684737.
 
Peter Betjemann, “The Ecology of Desire: Coastal Poetics, Passion, and Environmental Consciousness” in Coastal Heritage and Cultural Resilience, edited by Lisa L. Price and Nemer E. Narchi (Springer, 2018): springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-99025-5.
 
Claudia Keelan, “A Hinge-History: Robinson Jeffers and Brenda Hillman,” Ecstatic Émigré: An Ethics of Practice (University of Michigan Press, 2018): press.umich.edu/9867982/ecstatic_emigre.
 
Leslie Williamson, Interior Portraits: At Home with Cultural Pioneers and Creative Mavericks: A California Design Pilgrimage (Rizzoli International, 2018): rizzoliusa.com/book/9780847861569.
 
 
Journal articles:
 
Julian Murphet, “Astonied: The Mineral Poetics of Robinson Jeffers, Hugh MacDiarmid, Francis Ponge and Muriel Rukeyser,” Textual Practice, Vol. 34, Iss. 9 (2020): tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0950236X.2020.1808298.
 
Pradip Mondal, “‘These Grand and Fatal Movements Toward Death’: Apocalyptic Visions in Robinson Jeffers’s Poetry,” Literary Criterion, Vol. 53, Iss. 1-2 (2018): printspublications.com/journal/the-literary-criterion.
 
Jarosław Zawadzki, “Robinson Jeffers’s Inhumanism vs. Tao’s Unconcern,” Studia Litteraria Universitatis lagellonicae Cracoviensis, Vol. 13, Iss. 4 (2018): ejournals.eu/Studia-Litteraria/2018/Volume-13-Issue-4.