Poetry in the morning

Not long ago, I was in Carmel, and I took a tour of the Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House. Robinson Jeffers was a poet widely known in the 20s, 30’s, 40’s. He appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1934. His poetry can be dark and convoluted, but also starkly beautiful. That’s how his house was, starkly beautiful. It was rich in its simplicity. He built it from stones on the beach, apprenticing himself to a stonemason, who did a simple house of living room, guest bedroom, bath, attic for sleeping. Jefferson wrote as well as slept in the attic.


He learned enough to build a square tower for his wife, Una––another story, his wife, Una, with her charm and Celtic leanings; he said they made love like hawks––and he built a wall and later a dining chamber himself. Rolling stones weighing 400 pounds, he worked with his hands in the afternoon and with his poetry in the morning. Friends brought gifts, jade from China, rocks from graveyards, and those gifts are in the walls. So are sayings on stone tablets: “Fight on, my men, I am hurt, but I am not slaine; I’le lay mee downe and bleede awhile, And then I’le rise and fight againe.”Energy still plays in the house, touching those who enter. The beautiful and wild Carmel coast is just out the door and down the path. Passionate docents read Jeffers’ poetry at the bed he died in. He described his death: “….the patient daemon behind the screen of sea-rock and sky/ Thumps with his staff, and calls thrice: Come Jeffers.” Someone large lived there, who made his living writing. The house is authentic in a way that makes me inarticulate.


4 responses to “Poetry in the morning

  1. Inarticulate you are not. A Romantic you are, Ms. Koen.

    I’m acquainted with Jeffers, having read some of his work in the 1970s when I was learning about writing, and had forgotten him …until now.

    Writers are interesting; some more than others. Robinson Jeffers is (present tense because his work lives on) one of the more interesting; intertwining body and mind. And beloved by those who knew him.

    Thanks for the reminder. I would visit Tor next I’m in Carmel.

    – E

  2. Karleen,
    You vividly described the agony of attempting anything creative. Always, there conflict. Ideas and characters compete for the page.

    “Don’t write me out of this scene,” they beg. “Sorry, you just don’t fit,” may be the curt reply.

    Drawing is the only other pursuit I can compare with writing: false starts, rubbing out, then finding the rhythm and taking up the line until something decent is on paper.

    I’m not sure which is more taxing but I sure like reading a good book more than looking for hours at something I drew.

    Best wishes and congratulations on your beautiful blog.


  3. I was there that day, on the tour with you in Tor House, and can attest to the magic afoot….our tour guide was in love with the Jeffers and their lifestyle, as well as the times in general in that tiny California coastal town. He gave us such lovely descriptions of what it must have been like to have been there.
    Hey, isn’t that what a writer of historical fiction aspires to?
    (And of course, with Alice there, there has historically been magic afoot! She has a way of seeing things with lovely colors around them, and I have enjoyed that for over 30 years!)
    I blogged!

  4. Pingback: 7×7 | Karleen Koen — writing life

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