Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I am a snoop; ergo, I love biographies. Not the boring oh-he-did-do-many-important-things ones, but more like the he hated his mother, loved his wife, and took baths every Monday evening ones.

So, shamelessly stealing from the Writer's Almanac: a man named Robinson Jeffers was born today in the early 1900s. Though from Pennsylvania, he went to boarding schools all through Europe, including Geneva, Zurich, and (!) Vevey. By the age of 19, he had completed his undergrad, studied philosophy in Europe, and enrolled in the USC medical school. But, after 3 years, he dropped out and enrolled in forestry school in Washington State. And dropped out of that too.

Meanwhile, he's been having an affair with a married lady named Uma. They met when he was 18 and she was 21. She divorced her husband and they married in 1913, at the ages of 24 and 27 respectively.

Ah, the drama. Don't you just love it? She throws away her marriage to a prominent Los Angeles lawyer to marry this boy. How does anyone see this working?

Also meanwhile, he publishes his first book of poetry, "Flagons and Apples" the year before they marry.

So, he keeps writing poetry, they have a baby girl who dies in infancy, they move to Carmel, and in 1916 (27 and 30 respectively) they have twin boys and Jeffers builds them a stone cottage. Later, he add on a 40 foot stone tower, and they spend the rest of their lives there. His critically-acclaimed career comes in 1924 with the publication of "Tamar and Other Poems."

Uma dies of cancer in late middle age and Jeffers doesn't hang on terribly long after that.

And this morning I didn't even know there was ever a Robinson Jeffers.

See his picture here:

And the tower here:

and by request, a poem:

To The Stone-Cutters

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems.

from Tamar (1920-1923)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a most stoney stone tower.
Do you have a sample poem, perhaps?