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The son of a theology professor at Western Seminary in Pittsburgh, Jeffers was taught Greek, Latin, and Hebrew as a boy, and spent three years in Germany and Switzerland before entering the University of Western Pennsylvania (now Pittsburgh) at fifteen. His education continued on the West Coast after his parents moved there, and he received a B.A. from Occidental College at eighteen. His interest in forestry, medicine, and general science led him to pursue his studies at the University of Southern California, and the University of Zurich.
The poems in this volume have been selected from his major works, among them Be Angry at the Sun; Hungerfield; The Double Axe; Roan Stallion; Tamar and Other Poems; as well as The Beginning and the End, which contains his last poems.