The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Place for No Story” is a short free-verse lyric of twelve lines varying in length from ten to two words. Despite its brevity, the poem is one of Robinson Jeffers’s most important, expressing succinctly and in concentrated form a major theme of his poetry: the supremacy of unconscious nature over the human social worlds of culture and civilization. In this poem, Jeffers returns to the majestic coastal California landscape of his long narrative poems but without the tragic passions of their human characters. That is the significance of the poem’s title; in this lyric, the rocky California coast which provides setting for most of Jeffers’s narrative poems and for the actions of his human characters is now treated as a subject in its own right.

In both Thurso’s Landing and Other Poems (1932) and The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (1938), “The Place for No Story” immediately follows the long title narrative of Thurso’s Landing, an especially sanguine story of infidelity, insanity, and murder. This positioning suggests that “The Place for No Story” is to be understood as a kind of palinode, a poem of apology or recantation, offered by Jeffers as a partial corrective for the fury and violence of his narrative.

The poem begins, as many of Jeffers’s poems do, with the place name of a real site along the California coast—in this case, Sovranes Creek, south of Monterey. Jeffers believed that poetry should conform to physical realities, and he expressed a reverence for the spiritual significance of specific...

(The entire section is 648 words.)