I told them I'd been reading Jeffers since I was a sophomore in college, about 35 years before I got the invite. I talked about how I have a tower where I write in summers in North Carolina but my tower is sheetrock and two-by-fours, so maybe mine isn't quite as sturdy as Jeffers, but it's still a tower.
I thanked my other panalists, both poets, and then I quoted Jim Harrison as cover, "I am the bird, and not the ornithologist." Then I read an old unpublished poem called "Where Three Springs Meet" in which both Oedipus and Odysseus make appearances, and said that makes me mythic and tragic like Robinson Jeffers.
In Q&A somebody asked me how I'd come to read Robinson Jeffers in college in the 1970s in the South and I said I had a professor for Joyce, Pound, Eliot, and one day in class he said, "Frost and Jeffers are crap," and so of course I went straight to the library and checked out NORTH OF BOSTON and THE DOUBLE AX and actually liked both of them more than THE CANTOS. I made a B in the class and I still blame it on Robinson Jeffers.
There were only about 20 scholars that day at The Robinson Jeffers Conference. There was an Italian scholar who handletters Jeffers books and even had his power point handlettered (well, hand lettered and then photographed). There was a Czeck actor, a woman in her 80s who had played Jeffers' Medea off-broadway and she did one of the monologues in a black wig and thick makeup and a thick accent. She wore a shawl and I thought for the whole monologue it was the golden fleece, but I then realized I had my myths crossed. She ended up sprawled on the floor with a plastic dagger in her breast. And then there was the scholar of literature who has written several Jeffers books who ended his talk by saying, "Jeffers was the only modern poet to read and understand evolutionary theory and cosmology."
I asked him about AR Ammons and Theodore Roethke. "What about "Corson's Inlet?" What about Roethke's "The lowly worm climbs up the winding stair?" I'd say that's pretty Darwinian."