Talked over the phone to a friend from high school the other day, George Edens. George and I both wrestled at Kirkwood High in Missouri, outside St. Louis. George was pretty good, though no match for me.
Wrestlng's been on my mind lately. The other day I talked to the very fine poet, or poetess if you prefer, Joan Meyers, and she is a docent at Tor House in Carmel, California, where Robinson Jeffers lived and wrote some of his great poetry.
Not only did Jeffers live and write at Tor House, he built it, leveraging huge stones up from Carmel Beach (there was no Coastal Commission at the time to say no to that), then constructing the house and looming Hawk Tower.
Some people wondered how he could do this. Well, he was smart and knew about levers. But Joan thinks it helped, and I agree, that he was a college wrestler, which takes considerable upper body strength to do successfully. So that, taken with his knowledge of levers, explains him being able to deal with boulders.
I've written before about there being many writers who were wrestlers. Playwright David Mamet and novelists John Irving and Ken Kesey come quickly to mind. All were/are very good – writers and wrestlers. The late Kesey came within a few seconds of making the American Olympic team. Irving writes about wrestling often. I met Mamet several years ago in San Francisco and he said he still wrestled. He asked if I still did; not really, but I think I remember most of the moves.
I've wondered why so many writers were wrestlers, and I think it's because writing and wrestling attract similar personalities, people who are somewhat loners. You don't get big crowds at wrestling meets – not like basketball or football – unless you are wrestling in one of the wrestling hotbed states, like Oklahoma or Iowa.
I don't know about Mamet or Irving – Kesey defintely seemed to be an exception to my theory, often surrounding himself with people it seemed – but Jeffers was definitely a loner. Very inward. Strikingly good-looking, which wrestlers usually are if they can stay away from cauliflower ears, he seemed to keep his feelings to himself, or his poetry.
I wrote once of the great marine biologist Ed Ricketts taking his friend John Steinbeck over the hill from Pacific Grove to Carmel and Tor House to meet Jeffers. The young, upcoming novelist and the older, world-wise poet sat quietly looking at each other not uttering a word and later the intimidated Steinbeck told Ricketts to never again leave him alone with Jeffers.
Basically, though, Jeffers was probably just being Jeffers. To make that point, another story is that Charlie Chaplin visited Jeffers at Tor House and when the conversation didn't go swimingly Chaplin stood up and nervously started performing. Finally, exasperrated because he wasn't getting a response, Chaplin stopped performing and said maybe he should go. Jeffers said something like, ``But why? You've been very entertaining.''
So, you see, wrestlers can be enigmatic, hard to read. They don't give much away. But they have presence. In a poem by Joan Meyers titled ``Revenant,'' she concludes –
``I observed the front door open wide
seemingly of its own volition
and an amazing `presence' strode purposefully forward
through the sunlit entrance, in long loping steps.
It moved through space though it possessed no human form,
filling the space vertically as of an erectly tall figure.
I stood in awe of this commanding `presence'
as if a great revenant had crossed my path
and I knew at once that it was the poet
Robinson Jeffers, the long deceased stone mason
come to visit the reliquary that held his heart, his life blood.''
So you see, that wrestler-poet had presence, and remained a loner.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...