The Robinson Jeffers Association (RJA) Conference for 2016 in Carmel-by-the-Sea was a great learning opportunity as usual, though participation was somewhat low. The twofold fact that I was able to (1) recite my own poetry at Tor House and (2) present on the state of Carmel in 1916 (when it was incorporated, a century ago), probably says a lot about the present state of the RJA. That is to say that the RJA ought to be able to draw more legitimate contributors so that the likes of yours truly might be kept out of the spotlight.
I do think that Robinson Jeffers as a topic, plus the important themes that his work addresses, is important enough to draw in researchers and artists. I suppose I need to help promote the RJA, in spite of the fact that I am nobody.
I do appreciate having been provided an opportunity to recite my poetry before the Jeffers community for the first time, and as well, to have been permitted to correct some common misconceptions about Jeffers and Carmel, albeit before a reduced Sunday audience.
Sunday was the 100th anniversary of Verdun, one of the most horrible slaughters in human history (the word ‘battle’ doesn’t seem to fit), so I started the morning off with a recitation of The Second Coming, a popular poem of Una’s idol William Butler Yeats. Next, I played a short movie consisting of images of old Monterey, Pebble Beach, Carmel, San Francisco from a hundred years ago—plus images from the Great War, to the music of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, a popular anthem of the war. I really put the “Ken Burns effect” to work in the little music video. After that, I just reeled off a slue of slides to address the said misconceptions. In a nutshell, my point was that Jeffers sometimes made the Carmel Point of 1916 seem more remote, rural, and wild than it actually had been. Jeffers was perfectly capable of “honeying his truth with lying” as he accused other poets of doing.
I hope I didn’t upset anybody too much. Nobody loves Jeffers’ poetry more than yours truly, but let’s do be honest. I can hardly imagine Jeffers himself seeing it any other way.