One of the most complete educational resources on Robinson Jeffers was created by The Big Read staff at the National Endowment for the Arts, where Executive Director Erika Koss worked before coming to RJA. Under the leadership of poet and former Chairman Dana Gioia, the NEA partnered with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest to create the largest literary program in U.S. history. The Big Read gives grants to communities in order to support month-long programs that celebrate a single book or poet.
Thirty-one writers are on The Big Read list, and Robinson Jeffers is one of four poets (the others are Longfellow, Dickinson, and Poe). These educational materials were created with the support of The Poetry Foundation.
The Reader’s Guide provides an overview of Jeffers’s life and poetry designed for those with little to no knowledge of Jeffers, including students. Featuring essays by Dana Gioia, James Karman, Erika Koss, and Elliot Ruchowitz-Roberts, the guide summarize Jeffers’s lyric and narrative poetry; Jeffers’s relationship to California; Jeffers’s enduring legacy; and Jeffers’s beloved Tor House and Hawk Tower.
The Teacher’s Guide is an introduction to Jeffers for high school teachers, especially those who have never before taught Jeffers’s poetry. Most lessons can be adapted for middle school classrooms. This guide—written by James Karman and edited by Erika Koss—includes ten lesson plans on poems such as “Carmel Point,” “Rock and Hawk,” and “Hands.” Three handouts deal with important themes ideas from Jeffers, including his often misunderstood philosophy called “Inhumanism.”
The Audio Guide, written and narrated by Dana Gioia, provides an introduction to the life and poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Poems such as “Tor House,” “Vulture,” and “Shine, Perishing Republic” are read by Robert Aubry Davis. Originally created as a radio show, these Audio Guides can be used in your classroom to create interest in Jeffers before you begin teaching his poetry. The Jeffers Audio Guide was produced by Josephine Reed and Pepper Smith at the National Endowment for the Arts.
All poems by Robinson Jeffers used in The Big Read materials may be read and printed through The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Tool. Click on the “Poetry Tool” and search for Robinson Jeffers. A full biography and more than a dozen poems are there.
Additional poems are available on this RJA site in Poetry and Prose.
Please contact RJA Executive Director Erika Koss if you are a teacher with lesson plans, writing exercises, or essays that you would like to publish here. She is interested in knowing what Jeffers poems you teach and how your students have responded to them. Erika welcomes comments or suggestions from teachers and students of all levels, ages, and countries. Please write her at executivedirector @robinsonjeffersassociation.org.