Failed Tribute to the Stonemason of Tor House, Robinson Jeffers

By James Tate b. 1943 James Tate
We traveled down to see your house,
Tor House, Hawk Tower, in Carmel,
California. It was not quite what
I thought it would be: I wanted it
to be on a hill, with a view of the ocean
unobstructed by other dwellings.
Fifty years ago I know you had
a clean walk to the sea, hopping
from boulder to boulder, the various
seafowl rightly impressed with
your lean, stern face. But today

with our cameras cocked we had to
sneak and crawl through trimmed lawns
to even verify the identity of
your strange carbuncular creation,
now rented to trillionaire non-
literary folk from Pasadena.
Edged in on all sides by trilevel
pasteboard phantasms, it took
a pair of good glasses to barely see
some newlyweds feed popcorn
to an albatross. Man is

a puny thing, divorced,
whether he knows it or not, and
pays his monthly alimony,
his child-support. Year after year
you strolled down to this exceptionally
violent shore and chose your boulder;
the arms grew as the house grew
as the mind grew to exist outside
of time, beyond the dalliance
of your fellows. Today I hate
Carmel: I seek libation in the Tiki

Bar: naked native ladies are painted
in iridescent orange on velvet cloth:
the whole town loves art.
And I donate this Singapore Sling
to the memory of it, and join
the stream of idlers simmering outside.
Much as hawks circled your head
when you cut stone all afternoon,
kids with funny hats on motorscooters
keep circling the block.
Jeffers, ...

James Tate, “Failed Tribute to the Stonemason of Tor House, Robinson Jeffers” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1991 by James Tate. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Selected Poems (1991)

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Poet James Tate b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Travels & Journeys, Activities, Social Commentaries, Disappointment & Failure, Living, Class, Money & Economics

Poetic Terms Elegy

 James  Tate

Biography

James Tate’s poems have been described as tragic, comic, absurdist, nihilistic, hopeful, haunting, lonely, and surreal. His many poetry collections include The Ghost Soldiers (2008); Worshipful Company of Fletchers (1994), which won the National Book Award; Selected Poems (1991), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award; Distance from Loved Ones (1990); Constant Defender (1983); Viper Jazz (1976); and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Travels & Journeys, Activities, Social Commentaries, Disappointment & Failure, Living, Class, Money & Economics

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Elegy

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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