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Voices of the Headland

Robinson Jeffers and the Bird of Prey

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Alan J. Malnar

Voices of the Headland: Robinson Jeffers and the Bird of Prey explores the image of the raptor in the poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Emanating from the continent’s end of the American West, Jeffers’ poetic eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, and other birds of prey symbolize the compelling presence and voice of nature, a pantheistic universe of beauty and splendor, death and destruction. It is the perilous bird of prey which calls forth the very essence and life-force of Jeffers himself, winging its way through his expansive body of narrative and lyrical verse, a poetry fundamentally anti-social in its vision and primitive in its basic, instinctual surge. Voices of the Headland examines this distinctive imagery from many critical viewpoints.

 

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Chapter 3. Of Flight & Sky

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· 3 ·

OF FLIGHT & SKY

“[T]he landscape of the Monterey coast” constitutes much of the visual imagery in Jeffers’ poetry and includes hawks as a major sub-theme.1 Jeffers’ passionate reverence for the land and his deep love for its many birds of prey supplied an endless source of inspiration for his muse. Never once did he deviate from the dogma of his “passionate hawks,” from the “things and things” of the mountain (CP 2: 409). This was the food for Jeffers’ thoughts, a boundless wellspring of nourishment to serve his creative needs for his entire professional life.

A close examination of Jeffers’ poetry reveals a subtle pattern of growth in his applied allusions to all birds of prey, suggesting that much of this imagery coincided autobiographically with experiences he had endured at particular times in his life. Of course, given that many artists draw upon experience directly related to their personal lives, such occurrence particular to Jeffers would be nothing out of the ordinary.

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