USC Libraries to celebrate California poet Robinson Jeffers
The USC Libraries will present a series of events on Oct. 25 celebrating the work and life of poet Robinson Jeffers. The panels and exhibition will explore Jeffers’ relationship to the natural world, Jeffers and the art of the book, and his story as a young poet in early 20th-century Los Angeles.
Jeffers’ manuscripts and photographs, many of which are rarely seen by the public, will be on view.
Jeffers’ literary and historical roots extend across the Golden State. He took an undergraduate degree at Occidental College before studying literature and medicine at USC. This year marks the 125th anniversary of his birth, as well as the 50th anniversary of his death in Carmel, Calif.
“Robinson Jeffers is probably the most important writer to have attended USC,” said Dana Gioia, USC’s Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture and former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. “His years on campus changed the direction of his life and led to his tempestuous courtship of his beloved wife, Una. This conference marks a long overdue homecoming to his alma mater.”
Now known as a preeminent poet of the West Coast, Jeffers worked in many forms and dealt with diverse subject matter — including tragedies, political verse, and romantic and pastoral poems. Underlying his poetry is an urge to resist a human-centered worldview. To do so, Jeffers believed, is the only way “to feel and speak the astonishing beauty of things.”
“This celebration will bring together so many aspects of what a great library like ours does for its community of students and scholars,” said Catherine Quinlan, dean of the USC Libraries. “We’ll explore the life and work of a poet from the perspectives of literature, environmentalism, conservation, visual art — even science fiction. It will be a remarkable afternoon of diverse perspectives and discovery at USC.”
Jeffers’ influence in literature and popular culture has grown in recent decades. Artists as distinct as poet Charles Bukowski and photographer Ansel Adams found inspiration in his work. Jeffers’ words also have appeared in popular entertainment through The Beach Boys’ recording of “California Saga: The Beaks of Eagles” for their album Holland and other media beyond the strictly literary.
The USC events will begin at noon on Oct. 25 at Doheny Memorial Library and conclude with a 4:30 p.m. keynote address by Jeffers’ biographer James Karman. A reception will immediately follow the speech.
Occidental College Library, the Robinson Jeffers Association, the Tor House Foundation and the USC Libraries are sponsoring the celebration. All panel discussions, the keynote and reception are free and open to the public. For more information, call (213) 821-1153; RSVP at usc.edu/esvp (code: jeffers).