Selected Poems
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Selected Poems

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  599 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Robinson Jeffers died in 1962 at the age of seventy-five, ending one of the most controversial poetic careers of this century.

The son of a theology professor at Western Seminary in Pittsburgh, Jeffers was taught Greek, Latin, and Hebrew as a boy, and spent three years in Germany and Switzerland before entering the University of Western Pennsylvania (now Pittsburgh) at fift...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published August 12th 1965 by Vintage (first published 1938)
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John Doe
Jeffers is my favorite American poet. He made some weird comments about FDR and the second world war, and he was taken out of the cannon. He is better known in eastern Europe than in his home country. In my opinion, his shorter poems got even better after he was blacklisted.

He was famous for his plays and for his long narrative poems. Most of his longer poems had to do with incest. Jeffers thought mankind's preoccupation with itself was a kind of incest. In his shorter poems, he wrote about roc...more
In my view Jeffers deserves the widest possible readership. Stark, sweeping, eagle-eyed verse. To the bone. 'Shine, Perishing Republic' and 'Cassandra' stand out.
Andrew Sydlik
Jan 22, 2010 Andrew Sydlik rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Andrew by: Don Wentworth
Shelves: poetry
At the end of the book, I was even more impressed than when I had begun. Honestly, I was going to give this 4 stars instead of 5, because some of the earlier poems are so-so, or have awkward moments. But he really bloomed as the years went on, despite the fact that his popularity took an opposite turn. I rarely feel the sensation that Emily Dickinson said indicates good poetry, feeling like the top of your head has been blown off. But I felt this from a number of Jeffers' poems.

Jeffers took a ha...more
M. Sarki
Certainly not my cup of tea and most likely another reason I could give for the general mass of humanity taught at all ages through their schooling experience to not like poetry either. I am sure there are some redeeming qualities of Jeffers' poetry to the historians among us, but that is something I am simply not interested in. Having cultural, civic, and worldly events chronicled through narrative poetry is a media that quickly puts me to sleep and I find no pleasantries in it. My body almost...more
drunken charlie, part iv

she lay in the stern of the boat,
and her body sang like a lark:

i curse the war-makers i curse
those that run to the ends of the earth
to exalt a system or save
a foreign power or foreign trade.

my boy was killed by a sea-lion,
and that was cruel but it was clean.
there are men plotting to kill
a million boys for a dead dream.

oh my dear there are some things
that are well worth fighting for.
fight to save a sea-gull's wings:
that would be a sacred war.
Read the poem Hurt Hawks.

Mar 07, 2011 Matt rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
This is my first real Robinson Jeffers reading (aside from random class-assigned poems), and is already one of my favorite poets. He called the Big Sur region home, and perhaps that's why he resonates with me, as I have a recently acquired particular love for that stretch of mid-California coastal gorgeousness (helped in part by Jack Kerouac's Big Sur).

His themes consistently cover nature, the sea, God (both the existence of and a lack thereof), and mankind--its hypocrisies, its created conflict...more
Creighton Brown

Shine, Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening
to empire
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the
mass hardens,
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots
to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and deca-
dence; and home to the mother.

You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stub-
bornly long or suddenly
A m...more
I found this slim volume on the bookshelf of the home we are staying in in Carmel. I had been meaning to visit Tor House while we were here and now hope that perhaps I will before we leave.

Along with the book I found a Reader's Guide published by The National Endowment of the Arts in collaboration with the Poetry Foundation in an effort called The Big Read. I encourage anyone who sees this to visit their site at It is an amazing site filled with books of all kinds and informa...more
Shine, Republic:

The quality of these trees, green height; of the sky, shining; of water, a clear flow; of the rock, hardness.

And reticence: each is noble in its quality. The love of freedom has been the quality of Western man.

There is a stubborn torch that flames from Marathon to Concord, its dangerous beauty binding three ages.

Into one time; the waves of barbarism and civilization have eclipsed but have never quenched it.

For the Greeks the love of beauty, for Rome of ruling; for the present...more
Manifest  Terror
everything must be reconsidered after reading these poems. i also really liked the small selections of his prose, which were mostly introductions to his works. "the loving shepherdess" is the only one of the longer works which i liked, although all of the longer poems have parts of sheer brilliance. the beginning of "hungerfield" was deeply moving, as was the ending, but the middle was "typical" dense, obscure Jeffers; not unenjoyable, but not ecstatic.

one way to describe him is as "a nature po...more
Robinson Jeffers was born on January 10, 1887. In this, the definitive selection of Jeffers poetry, there is a broad selection that includes his best efforts. Ranging from Roan Stallion and Cawdor from the twenties to his last poems in the late fifties, the collection demonstrates that he belongs in the pantheon with the best poets of the ages. "Rock and Hawk" is both one of his greatest poems and one of my favorites; but I also relish the great thoughts found in some of the smallest poems:
"I a...more
Could not get into his style; even though I wanted to love the descriptions of nature, something would always sound a sour note. His poem I like the best an untitled piece starting with "The unformed volcanic earth, a female thing" was not in the edition available in my library...
If you are going to have one book of Jeffers, and if you are interested at all in 20th century American poetry you must have at least one, this is the one. Jeffers wrote a lot of beautiful shorter poems, but to really feel his passion it is necessary to become immersed in the longer narratives and this book gives some of them. It necessarily omits some of the long poems that are titles for sections of the book; Dear Judas, The women of Point Sur, Double Axe are three. Each of these narrative poe...more
J. Alfred
I have never felt so much radical ambivalance toward a poet. If you want to read poems that are the poetic equivalant of being hit with rocks, read this dude. He is seriously amazing. And hates God. And does a better job of articulating and defending the position of the rational, "manly" atheist than anyone I've ever come across, except for maybe Camus and/or professor Lewis (the "manly" bit is his quote, read about it in Mere Christianity).
Unapologetic, brave, and utterly hopeless.

"Surely one...more
Colin Bailes
Despite this book of poems being just over one hundred pages it took me awhile to finish it. I read the first half in a year, and then the second half in about two weeks. The poems in this collection are in chronological order and span the lifework of Jeffers. It’s obvious to me that Jeffers really picked up in his later years; although, the poems written when he was younger are still good. Jeffers’ insights and wisdom are brilliant, no matter how misanthropic, and each poem contains a unique qu...more
Making space on the bookshelves and trying to be brutal with myself in my attempt to give stuff away... I've hung onto this since college, but in truth, I don't remember a single poem from it, (one about birds, maybe?) And I know I'll never delve into it again.

I DID come away from the Contemporary American Poetry class with an appreciation for other poets I'd never heard of before then, such as William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens. But poor ol' Jeffers is getting the boot from my persona...more
Jan 19, 2008 Robert rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Poet. People following contemporary politics.
Recommended to Robert by: William Everson
I'm not aware of any political poetry more astute than Jeffers'. No poet saw and wrote as clearly of the consequences of our interdependency and the monsters our cities would become. His portraits of the natural world are rare in their clarity—without any sentimentality or the banality that frames our current discussions of nature and the "natural" world. A hard but lovely view of life, cruel and beautiful. When he thought of Mother Nature, classically schooled Jeffers, never forgot mothers such...more
It was more than several years after I had left school, that I discovered that poetry could simply be read for pleasure, that it did not need to be analyzed to be enjoyed. It was the poetry of Robinson Jeffers that opened that gateway for me. Poems such as Hurt Hawks, The bed by the window, and The World's Wonders showed me that poetry could be as simple and sharp as the edge of a knife. I can honestly say that I think if more people read his poetry, the world would be a better place.
Religions could and should be formed based out of this guy's point of view. I know it has informed the way I look at the world. Wait until those long winter nights, turn off the TV and open this book to just about any poem and just read. I find some of the longer form pieces which he's known for to be a little hard to follow and get through, so usually I'll just focus on one paragraph or sentence which really resonates. "I seem to have stood a long time and watched the stars pass."
You have to be in the right mood to read Jeffers--a little tired, a little melancholy, a little pessimistic. And only read a little of him at a time, if you don't want to be forced into utter despair. So this is a little book of Jeffers, and that's good. Though even at times reading this one, you just want to say to old Robby, Geez, lighten up. Have a beer. Get laid. Go play catch with your dog. Gossip with a friend. Listen to Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio....
Jeffers poetry is very......interesting. He covers a wide variety of topics from nature to scandal to religion. He also has a wide variety of writing styles from poetry to plays from lengthy stories to very short poems. His time frames vary from ancient times to WWII. A vast array is covered in this poetry with a little for everyone.
Ron Wallace
Feb 09, 2008 Ron Wallace rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Again any man who thinks poetry isn't worth the time.
Recommended to Ron by: Chuck Ladd
Shelves: top-shelf
I picked this up on ebay before Christmas. I've always loved Jeffers poems. "Hurt Hawks" is another one of those poems that may rank among the best work ever. This is a great representative collectionof his work, glad I stumbled across it.
Frederick Jackson
Wonderful free verse narrative poems of a rural, littoral California long gone by (Depression era). I carried this tome around for quite a while. Many poems are like Greek tragedies. All the verse is strong, moving, gripping.
Dayna Smith
A small booklet of some of Jeffers' most famous and moving poetry. A controversial poet, but nevertheless a national treasure. Tor House, Roan Stallion, Carmel Point, and Una are particularly moving.
violence, hawks, rocks, big sur, a healthy distaste for man meets a sharp reverence for classical lit. homer meets muir. jarring, uncomprimising, resounding, righteous poetry. Jeffers is underrated.
Dec 14, 2010 James added it
Tremendous work in an unbelievably small space. My copy became essentially on giant dog-ear. Although, a little preachy in parts, the overall tone of the indictment of the 20th century was pitch-perfect.
Aug 29, 2008 Andy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: solid poetry
Shelves: poetry-corner
This collection features "Roan Stallion", one of Jeffers' best works. I don't know how to describe his poetry but its very powerful. Put down that stupid Patti Smith collection and read a real poet.
Rama Bauer
In my opinion, Robinson Jeffers is the greatest American poet of the 20th Century. A true visionary and a good antidote to the hollow,Panglossian optimism that our society holds so sacred.
My favorite poet. Not for everyone, chock full of adult themes but very much an insight into the feral California male and his living off and in step with the untamed land.
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  • The Selected Poetry
  • The Selected Poems
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  • The Complete Poems
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  • The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems
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  • Garbage
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  • Moy Sand and Gravel
  • The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You
  • Collected Poems
John Robinson Jeffers (January 10, 1887 – January 20, 1962) was an American poet, known for his work about the central California coast. Most of Jeffers' poetry was written in classic narrative and epic form, but today he is also known for his short verse, and considered an icon of the environmental movement.

The largest collections of Jeffers' manuscripts and materials are in the Harry Ransom Huma...more
More about Robinson Jeffers...
The Wild God of the World: An Anthology of Robinson Jeffers Cawdor & Medea Robinson Jeffers: Selected Poems Medea Roan Stallion, Tamar  and Other Poems

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“As for me, I would rather be a worm in a wild apple than a son of man. But we are what we are, and we might remember not to hate any person, for all are vicious; And not to be astonished at any evil, all are deserved; And not to fear death; it is the only way to be cleansed.” 16 likes
“What is this thing called life? I believe
That the earth and the stars too, and the whole glittering universe, and rocks on the mountains have life,
Only we do not call it so--I speak of the life
That oxidizes fats and proteins and carbo-
Hydrates to live on, and from that chemical energy
Makes pleasure and pain, wonder, love, adoration, hatred and terror: how do these things grow
From a chemical reaction?
I think they were here already, I think the rocks
And the earth and the other planets, and the stars and the galaxies
have their various consciousness, all things are conscious;
But the nerves of an animal, the nerves and brain
Bring it to focus; the nerves and brain are like a burning-glass
To concentrate the heat and make it catch fire:
It seems to us martyrs hotter than the blazing hearth
From which it came. So we scream and laugh, clamorous animals
Born howling to die groaning: the old stones in the dooryard
Prefer silence; but those and all things have their own awareness,
As the cells of a man have; they feel and feed and influence each other, each unto all,
Like the cells of a man's body making one being,
They make one being, one consciousness, one life, one God.”
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