18th Annual Robinson Jeffers Association Conference, 25-27 May 2012, Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA
Conference Theme: "Posthumous Reputation … the Only Kind Worth Considering": Robinson Jeffers at 125.
Keynote Address, Christopher Cokinos, poet, science-and-nature writer.
No major poet has been treated worse by posterity than Robinson Jeffers," wrote Dana Gioia in December 1987, the final month of the Jeffers centenary. Thirty years before his death, Jeffers was considered one of America's preeminent poets, his place in the canon seemingly secure, his portrait featured on the 4 April 1932 cover of Time. Less than five decades later, he was excluded in the first edition of the Norton Anthology of American Literature (1979), included in a few subsequent editions, and then excluded again.
Evidence of an ongoing reappraisal, however, abounds. The decade that followed the centenary was marked by an outpouring of books by and about Jeffers, as well as the founding of the RJA (1994) and the appearance of Jeffers Studies (1997). Robert Hass's Rock and Hawk (1987), with its lucid rebuttal of much of the criticism that had threatened to doom Jeffers to obscurity, was followed by William Everson's powerful critical study The Excesses of God (1988). Essay collections by James Karman and Robert Zaller, appeared in 1990, refuting the notion of Jeffers as an isolated literary figure. The year 1995 saw the publication of books from Terry Beers, Robert Brophy, William Thesing, and Karman, convincing Arthur Coffin that scholars were restoring to Jeffers "the preeminence he once enjoyed." The publication of Tim Hunt's five-volume Collected Poetry (1988-2001) as well as his Selected Poetry (2001), Albert Gelpi's The Wild God of the World (2003), and Karman's first two volumes of Collected Letters (2009-2011), have done much to restore and expand Jeffers's visibility and to facilitate Jeffers scholarship. While eight Jeffers poems appear in the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry (2003) and five in the Norton Anthology of Poetry (2004), the newly printed Norton Anthology of American Literature (2011) bares no trace of him. As Bob Dylan wrote (fittingly, in the year following Jeffers's death): "Come writers and critics / Who prophesize with your pen …. And don't speak to soon / For the wheel's still in spin." This is certainly the case with Jeffers, as a critical consensus regarding his voluminous legacy remains in flux.
Robert Zaller pointed out at the latest RJA Conference in Long Beach that this year marks several Jeffers anniversaries: the fiftieth anniversary of his death (1962); the 100th anniversary of his first book, Flagons and Apples (1912); and the 125th anniversary of his birth (1887). This is a fitting time to reconsider Jeffers's literary contribution and his relevance in the 21st century. Jeffers himself insisted that "posthumous reputation … is really the only kind worth considering."
The Robinson Jeffers Association welcomes papers addressing Jeffers's place and stature in American Literature 50 years after his death. Essays may consider such topics as Jeffers's own ideas on literary reputation; Jeffers as modernist or anti-modernist; Jeffers and the critics, past and present; Jeffers as a nature writer; Jeffers as a scientific writer; teaching Jeffers in high school and college; Jeffers and the anthologies; Jeffers and his contemporaries; Jeffers's friends and acquaintances (i.e. the Steinbeck circle); Jeffers as prophet; Jeffers and war; the influence of Jeffers; Jeffers's poetics and/or aesthetic principles; the letters of Jeffers; Flagons and Apples; or any topic that assesses Jeffers's abiding contribution and significance.
Proposals should be brief and e-mailed by 15 March 2012. Papers and presentations should not exceed twenty minutes. Please e-mail proposals to John Cusatis: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may visit www.robinsonjeffersassociation.org for more information and updates. Presenters must be members of the Robinson Jeffers Association. Membership information is available on the website.
For more information about the Asilomar Conference Center on the Monterey Peninsula visit www.visitasilomar.com.