Tag Archives: Robinson Jeffers

Oh Pale and Brittle Pencils

Some days, some weeks, you just need the poets.

Maybe it feels that way because it’s Spring and spring cleaning is calling — for our closets and our minds — but it sure feels like a pushing through some barrier.  Maybe I’m being too literal here, but so what.  My pencil does feel brittle.  The ebb and flow, with a little too much ebb.

So today.  Today, I thought I’d share one of my favorite Robinson Jeffers poems.  Five years ago I’d never even heard of him.  But ever since I set foot inside his Tor House and Hawk Tower, he’s been right there.

Love The Wild Swan

“I hate my verses, every line, every word.

Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try

One grass-blade’s curve, or the throat of one bird

That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky.

Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch

One color, one glinting

Hash, of the splendor of things.

Unlucky hunter, Oh bullets of wax,

The lion beauty, the wild-swan wings, the storm of the wings.”

–This wild swan of a world is no hunter’s game.

Better bullets than yours would miss the white breast

Better mirrors than yours would crack in the flame.

Does it matter whether you hate your . . . self?

At least Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can

Hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan.


My Favorite Literary Experiences of 2010

(what can I say … it’s the end of the year and I love lists)

#1   Seeing Michael Moore accept the John Steinbeck Award

The award is for artists who capture “the spirit of Steinbeck’s empathy, commitment to democratic values, and belief in the dignity of the common man.”  I had no expectations, and it ended up being so entertaining, so endearing, and so poignant, I felt like I’d cry.  Michael read with such depth of feeling from Cannery Row and The Grapes of Wrath. It was heartbreaking to hear how the passages he chose spoke – sadly – to today’s troubles in the United States.

And if Thomas Steinbeck looked any more like his dad … Wow.

#2   Attending the Aimee Bender reading

Man is she charming.  I’d never read any of her work, but by the time she was finished reading that Potato People short story I was ready to buy her books.  What a quirky mind she has.  I’m looking forward to The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which has been waiting on my shelf for at least a month.

#3   Visiting the Robinson Jeffers Home:  Tor House

Admittedly, it was my fourth visit.  But this time it was evening, and I was with non-literary friends.  It was heartwarming to see how fascinated they were with Robin and Una’s life story, as well as his poetry, even though they’d never even heard of him.  If you have a chance to visit this place, don’t pass it up.

#4   Having lunch with Ayelet Waldman

We met at one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants – Betelnut – for lunch.  I’ve appreciated Ayelet’s work – and admired Ayelet as a person – ever since she was raked over the proverbial coals on Oprah (and everywhere, really) in 2005 for that teeny little essay where she said she loved her husband more than her children.  She was absolutely crucified, but she did not back down one bit.  I was so proud of her and I didn’t even know her.

#5   The Tobias Wolff reading

It was a small gathering, and he didn’t talk very long (a disappointment) but all these months later I still think of the short story he read about a man and his dog.  Simple, powerful prose, well-read by the author.  A treat.