Robinson Jeffers and the Bird of Prey
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.
Introduction: Solitary Hunters
Leonard Carmichael, the renowned animal behaviorist, once wrote that “our fellow creatures can tell us the most beautiful stories.”1 This book celebrates similar stories told to Robinson Jeffers by the birds of prey he so deeply loved and admired—stories that Jeffers then gave to us in his “Rugged Poetry Imbued with Spirit of the Hawk.”2
Over 50 years have passed since Stephen Spender’s review of Jeffers’ posthumously released volume The Beginning and the End and Other Poems first appeared in the Chicago Tribune Magazine of Books in 1963. Yet Spender’s title, bold and descriptive in linking Jeffers’ poetry to the image of a hawk, continues to verify to this day those distinctive qualities and characteristics that critics have long associated with the California poet and his legacy. That is to say, the linguistic association in Spender’s title relating Jeffers’ poetry to the image of a bird of prey recalls an entire body of narrative and lyrical verse, fundamentally anti-social in its vision, primitive in its basic, instinctual surge—indeed “a beautiful work of nature, like an eagle.”3
Spender evokes those many memorable images of red-tail hawks, goshawks, Cooper’s hawks, marshhawks, bald eagles, and other birds of prey that perch incessantly upon the lines of Jeffers’ poems. Indeed, the significance of Spender’s title—“Rugged Poetry Imbued with Spirit of the Hawk”—calls ← xxi | xxii → forth the essence and life-force of Jeffers himself, a poet whose spirit “is most often likened in...
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