“The beauty of things was born before eyes and sufficient to itself . . .” Poet and activist, Robinson Jeffers preference for the natural world and his thoughts on the negative influences of humankind on nature made him an icon of the environmental movement, especially the more radical factions.
Jeffers was born in 1887 in Alleghany, Pennsylvania and died in his beloved Tor House in Carmel-By-The- Sea, California in 1962. Jeffers traveled extensively throughout Europe as a youth and spoke several languages fluently. He graduated from Occidental College at the age of eighteen and it was there he met his soulmate and future wife amidst scandal. In 1913 the couple married and moved to northern California. There, in the untamed beauty of of the Big Sur country of the Pacific Coast, Jeffers found his muse and his voice. It was the beginning of his lifelong relationship with nature, California, and the themes of radical environmentalism.
His epic- narrative form of poetry took the literary world by storm and his themes of incest, parricide and murder where considered shocking by many. His outspoken ideas about “inhumanism” and his criticism of American involvement in World War II, turned public opinion against him and his work. Later in the 1960’s, his star rose again as a giant among the environmental movement.
His poems are known internationally and have been translated into many languages. Although his most productive period was in the years between 1917-1937, he continued to write into his later years. In 1938, a 600- page volume THE SELECTED POEMS OF ROBINSON JEFFERS was published and stayed in print for fifty years. Stanford University Press published a five-volume collection, THE COMPLETE WORKS OF ROBINSON JEFFERS in 2001. A solitary man, Jeffers chose to live alone and write about the “difficulty and beauty of the wild and man’s inability to appreciate either.”