Occidental College has received a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to launch The Big Read celebrating Oxy alum and ‘poet of the American West Coast,’ Robinson Jeffers, class of 1905.
The Big Read is an NEA initiative to restore reading to the center of American culture and bring the transformative power of literature into the lives of its citizens. It does so by collaborating with colleges and universities, K-12 schools, libraries and community groups across the country to promote selected 19th and 20th century American fiction, poetry and writers. This year, the NEA distributed $3.7 million to 269 nonprofits, including Occidental, to participate in The Big Read program from September 2009 to June 2010. The college is also providing $20,000 in matching funds and in-kind contributions to promote the program,
Former NEA chairman Dana Gioia 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. The lyricism and moral seriousness of Jeffers’ free verse is evident in poems such as "The Beauty of Things" and "Shine, Perishing Republic," which warns against the evils of war and violence.
"Occidental College has had an enduring relationship with this eminent alumnus, and the college has preserved, supported and promoted his legacy. In particular, Jeffers is a poet of place and an early environmentalist," said Dale Ann Stieber, Occidental’s Special Collections Librarian, who is collaborating with Occidental faculty and students to develop campus and community events.
"So when the NEA selected Robinson Jeffers as one of three national poets for The Big Read, we were quick to see the potential for the Oxy community and our fellow northeast Los Angeles communities to come together and connect to our natural world through his poetry."
Occidental’s Big Read program, "Robinson Jeffers and the Ecologies of Poetry," will be presented this October and November in partnership with some 20 local schools and community organizations. Partners include the Historical Society of Southern California, John Marshall High School, and the Friends of the L.A. River.
The kick-off event at Occidental on Thursday, Oct. 1, will feature musical presentations, poetry readings, and the unveiling of the Robinson Jeffers exhibit at Occidental’s Mary Norton Clapp Library, among other activities. Events by Occidental and its partnering schools and organizations will continue through October and culminate on Saturday, Nov. 7, "Jeffers at Occidental Day." Plans include a full day of workshops, multimedia presentations, arts performances, exhibits and even bird-watching centered around the poet. All events are free and open to the public.
The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. Support for The Big Read is provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Transportation for The Big Read is provided by Ford.
For more information about The Big Read and events, go to: www.NEABigRead.org .
For more information about Robinson Jeffers, go here.