Campus News

‘Big Read’ will focus on poetry of California environmentalist

The Athens area will have the chance to get to know a California poet and environmentalist thanks to a National Endowment for the Arts “Big Read” event held in conjunction with UGA.

UGA College of Education professor Melisa Cahnmann-­Taylor has lined up a slate of readings, lectures, hands-on events and performances as a way to intertwine the work of Robinson Jeffers with the culture and landscape of the South.

Launched in 2006, the Big Read unites a community around a classic novel. Several Georgia cities have championed a book since the program’s start, including Atlanta, Savannah and Brunswick. Athens last hosted the Big Read in 2008, when the community read Bless Me, Ultima.

Cahnmann-Taylor chose Jeffers as a way to “create art in response to art” rather than a more traditional novel like To Kill a Mockingbird. Jeffers lived much of his life in the Big Sur area of the California coast.

He wrote about the rough beauty of the natural world and is considered by some to be an early leader of the environmental movement.

Cahnmann-Taylor has planned events to help residents find a deeper meaning behind Jeffers’ work. Books of his poetry will be available at events and from the Athens-Clarke County Library. Also, The Georgia Review’s spring edition will feature a curated selection of poems.

But, Cahnmann-Taylor stressed, this Big Read selection is more than getting a community to read and discuss a book of poetry. Instead, she said she hopes people will find a handful of poems that speak to them and then apply their meaning to the landscape of the South.

Events also are scheduled in May and June. For complete details on all the events, visit