Community Festival Celebrates Robinson Jeffers

Occidental College wraps up its month-long Big Read program, "Robinson Jeffers and the Ecologies of Poetry," this Saturday, Nov. 7, with a community festival of poetry readings, nature walks, art exhibits, music and dance performances, among other activities.


The family-friendly "Robinson Jeffers Day" event, held on the Occidental campus from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., is free and open to the public.

Oxy alumnus Robinson Jeffers, class of 1905, is known as the "poet of the American West Coast." Dana Gioia, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, called Jeffers ‘the great prophetic voice of American modernism.' He wrote about big ideas and subjects: nature, man's responsibility in a world not made solely for him, and American culture.

At the festival, Southern California poets, Occidental students and community members will recite Jeffers' poems. The Jeffers exhibit curator will also offer guided tours of "Jeffers and the Ecologies of Poetry" exhibit at the College's Clapp Library.

Jeffers' adaptation of Euripides' Medea will also be showcased: Lincoln High School students will perform scenes from the play, and a claymation version will be shown in the library. In addition, the Oxy Glee Club, folk dance troops and other student and community groups will sing, dance and perform shadow puppetry.

Nature, one of Jeffers' big themes, is highlighted in many of the festival activities. For instance, Occidental College biology professor Beth Braker and Audobon Center at Debs Park director Jeff Chapman will lead a bird-watching walk; the Wildlife Way Station, a nonprofit animal sanctuary and rehabilitation center, will give a raptor demonstration; and Bruce Steele, Occidental's environmental health and safety manager, offers a peek into the lives of bees.

The Big Read is an NEA initiative to restore reading to the center of American culture by collaborating with colleges and universities, K-12 schools, libraries and community groups to promote selected 19th and 20th century American fiction, poetry and writers.

The NEA gave a Big Read $20,000 grant to the College, and Occidental provided $20,000 in matching funds and in-kind contributions. Community partners for the Big Read include some 15 local schools and nonprofit groups, including the Historical Society of Southern California, Marshall High School, and the Friends of the L.A. River.

The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest.

For more information about Robinson Jeffers, go to: or the Special Collections website.

For more information about The Big Read, go to: