In late 1910, Robinson Jeffers finally gave up on graduate school for good, and entered his self-described “mere drunken idleness” phase. It was during this period that he spent a portion of his inheritance to get his first book of poetry Flagons and Apples printed. It was a failure by all accounts, including his own.
Meanwhile, American poetry was experiencing a renaissance. New poets with new approaches to verse began to pop up: Ezra Pound, Vachel Lindsay, Robert Frost, Carl Sandberg, and Edgar Lee Masters. Pound had run off to England and a wider world, but the others remained staunchly American, each in his own way. Whereas in Britain and Europe a literary revolution would be sparked by the coming war, change was already afoot in America. Classics such as “Miniver Cheevy” (1910), “Chicago” (1914), “Mending Wall” (1914), and “Spoon River Anthology” (1914-15) bear witness to this.
With war, more young innovators appeared, and established poets such as W. B. Yeats and D. H. Lawrence succumbed to the winds of change. A generation of “war poets” appeared (and died). By the time Robinson Jeffers was working on the beginnings of Tamar and accompanying work, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915), “The Road Not Taken” (1916), “Grass” (1918), “Dulce et Decorum Est” (1920), “The Second Coming” (1921), “Queen-Ann’s-Lace” (1921), “The Waste Land” (1922), and other poems had already established a revolution in English-language poetry.
Jeffers expressed little interest in the innovations of his contemporaries. If anything, he denounced such innovations as mere novelties. Even Yeats, whom his wife Una revered, received little or no praise from Jeffers. His reverences were ever in the past. He would continue to resist the revolution for a long time yet, but he would ultimately succumb. —Next—>