The California poet Robinson Jeffers called his philosophy “inhumanism.” Since no school of inhumanism has arisen since he coined the term, he can safely be referred to as the inhumanist. These pages are inspired by a profound respect, admiration, and compassion for the man and his work and so are dedicated to the same.
You read right: the man. The word dedicated should not be read to imply that the content of these pages will never be critical of the poet. He is treated herein as a mere man, perfectly capable of writing a bad verse.
A further point of clarification: these pages are not focused upon the philosophy of inhumanism, a world view that is not treated herein as a philosophy per se, but principally as an attribute, an appendage, and an artifice of a man who himself wasn't always dedicated to it as a philosophy in an abstract sense.
These pages have been composed and organized by Dan Jensen, a Jeffers enthusiast, husband, father, dogwalker, and software developer who resides in San José, California. Dan's primary web presence is kaweah.com. He has also operated Idol Chatter, a collection of articles on religion and idolatry, featuring Dan's religion of birth.
It is good to see another Jeffers site coming online. Together with Alma Venus, we now have a start toward a more robust online presence for Jeffers. This is needed. I do not believe we will ever see the "Jeffers Renaissance" predicted and promised -- (sometimes even announced) -- by various Jeffers critics. Jeffers is hard medicine and not likely to find a large audience in the gentle groves of academe. I could be mistaken, of course, but over the last 30 years, I have not seen any evidence of broad assimilation. True, the poetry is all published now in a uniform edition complete with editorial apparatus, and the letters have been collected in three enormous indexed volumes. A new collection of essays has just been issued. All welcome signs of continued interest and devotion, but no indication of renewed popularity or academic assimilation. One still does not find Jeffers on the shelves of big box bookstores along with Frost, Whitman, Yeats and Eliot. Jeffers is still being weeded from standard anthologies to make room for others more welcome to the contemporary taste of American universities. No, Jeffers is not waiting to be returned to a mass readership, and why should we wish it in any case? If we do, I submit we have not been reading him very well.
I am convinced, however, that there is a Jeffers diaspora. Readers who know the poet and his poems and value both without misgivings about his lack of critical approval in English Literature departments. This dispersed readership needs a forum. The noble Robinson Jeffers Association (RJA) does not currently serve this purpose. It is focused now on academic conferences and publications. Both important activities, but more is needed to serve and support the Jeffers legacy. Sites like this are needed to activate an ongoing discussion and exchange between readers who may not be academic professionals (or who may be), but who are readers of the poet, and for whom the poet is something more than an academic property or a professional interest. For some, Jeffers is a living presence whose words matter as much as life. I count myself among them. I am always glad to encounter someone who knows Jeffers. I am always pleased to hear is work discussed. I have lived with his words for many decades now, and I find as I grow older that he becomes more important than ever. If his influence is not broad, I believe it has been deep. That is the legacy that needs to be preserved.
Jeffers was not always a careful writer. He is guilty of various faults. He is provocative and problematic and disturbing. Regardless, he remains a great poet and a profound thinker, one of the most shatteringly challenging writers we have ever had.
Thanks to Dan (and Alma Venus) for beginning to open discussion.
Agreed. I'm sure Robinson Jeffers craved recognition like anyone else, but then he may have had much less use for "popularity" and academic accolades. There was clearly an inner tension at work in the man in this regard.
This site started as an exercise to sharpen my skills as a web developer. It looked a bit silly without content, so I added some text that I at leat had the rights to. Maybe it can be steered toward something that can be of more general use, to at least help in drawing discussions on Jeffers out into light of public awareness. For folks like yourself, maybe a site like this can become a means to discuss topics that interest you, or maybe just a means to feeling that you're not the only person outside of the California coast reading Jeffers! Maybe there is an opporunity to develop more of a sense of community. As concerned as so many Jeffers enthusiasts seem about his lack of popularity and academic recognition (and "anthological" recognition), it often seems as though Jeffers is the idol of a secret society. This, of course, is essentially due to the fact that there are so few fans of Jeffers' work, many of them getting on in the years, so we have ourselves a de-facto cult (said with ironic pride).
All that said, the RJA may yet come through with discussion forums. Mick McAllister, Mr. Alma Venus himself, is working to add forums to the RJA web site.
Still, there may yet remain a point to the existence of "unaffiliated" sites (such as Alma Venus) that might not need to follow the same guidelines that authorized organizations such the RJA and THF might be tied to. I named this site "the inhumanist," using Jeffers' own subversive language, thinking that I would prefer it to be a site that isn't too worried about advocacy or public impressions. That might limit its popularity, but I doubt that Jeffers would mind!
Appreciate commentary. Was reading Roan Stallion and appreciated the notes.
But alas the generation that appreciates RJ is not necessarily drawn to the intricacies of the web. This is in spite of the very interesting materials found here, which represent considerable effort.
I live in St Louis, but grew up in Carmel, and brother and I have kept our family home, so I am in town for a third of the year, usually split into late summer/fall and Dec/Jan. Have come to the House often, but never seem to be there for the social events.
Good to hear from you, and glad you found some value in this site. -Dan