The Laura Riding Jackson Foundation has brought the poet's historic, "cracker"-style home to IRSC's Mueller Campus.
Laura (Riding) Jackson (1901-1991) was a poet, essayist, novelist, critic, and writer of short fiction. She is best known for her avant-garde poetry and unconventional personal life including a twelve-year relationship with the English writer Robert Graves (McIver 15).
She was born Laura Reichenthal in New York City on January 16, 1901 and attended Cornell University on scholarship (McIver 16). While at Cornell, she married Louis Gottschalk and began writing under the pseudonym Laura Riding. Her poetry was praised by the Fugitives, a group of Southern poets centered around Vanderbilt University who published their own very influential literary journal by the same name. They published her poetry in The Fugitive and awarded her Nashville Poetry Prize in 1924 (“Riding, Laura (1901-1991)”).
In 1925, her marriage with Louis ended and Laura briefly moved to New York City. She began to correspond with the English poet Robert Graves who had praised her writing in a 1925 essay. He invited Laura to collaborate with him so she then traveled to the United Kingdom to meet him and his wife in 1926 (“Riding, Laura (1901-1991)”). The three of them began a relationship which lasted for 12 years that Laura referred to as "three-life". Laura and Graves were very prolific during this time period, writing separately and together as well as editing the journal Epilogue, and publishing books through their small press, Seizin Press (“Laura Riding Jackson”). Laura was close friends with modernist American writer and fellow big personality Gertrude Stein (McIver 15). In 1929, Laura attempted suicide following an explosive argument with Geoffrey Phibbs, an Irish poet who had joined her relationship with Robert and Nancy Graves. The incident was investigated but ultimately nobody faced punishment (McIver). Laura and Graves lived in Majorca, Spain for a period after the location was suggested to them by Stein. They were friendly with artists and writers, often hosting them in their home in Majorca. In 1938, Schuyler Jackson, a poetry critic with Time Magazine, favorably reviewed Laura's work.
Laura returned to America and brought Graves with her. She met Schuyler Jackson through their mutual friend, T.S. Matthews, the editor of Time Magazine. Laura and Schuyler began a relationship. Graves returned to England without Laura and in 1941, Schuyler and Laura married. In 1943, they purchased a citrus grove with a cracker house on the land in Wabasso, FL where they lived until their deaths. Upon returning to America, Laura renounced poetry. She collaborated with her husband on a project about the meanings of words. Schuyler died in 1968 but Laura did complete their book called Rational Meaning: A New Foundation for the Definition of Words which was published after her death. Laura took care of the home and cooking meals and, while she never returned to poetry, continued to write nonfiction (McIver 23). Her accomplishments include the Mark Rothko Appreciation Award which she was awarded in 1971, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship awarded in 1979, and Yale University's Bollingen Prize for her lifetime contribution to poetry awarded in 1991 (“Laura Riding Jackson”). Riding Jackson died on Labor Day in 1991 at ninety years old (McIver 15). She is buried next to her second husband at Winter Beach Cemetery (McIver 16).
“Laura Riding Jackson.” Poets.org, poets.org/poet/laura-riding-jackson.
McIver, Stuart B. "The Muse of Indian River the Inscrutable Laura Riding -- Poet, Femme Fatale and Lover to the Famous Writer Robert Graves -- Spent the Last 50 Years of Her Life in a Tiny Florida Citrus Town." Sun-Sentinel, 23 May 1993, www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1993-05-23-9302130372-story.html.
McIver, Stuart B. "Poet in a Citrus Grove." Dreamers, Schemers, and Scalawags: The Florida Chronicles, vol. 1, Pineapple Press, 1994, pp. 15-24.
“Riding, Laura (1901-1991).” Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia, Gale Research, 2002, Encyclopedia.com, www.encyclopedia.com/women/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/riding-laura-1901-1991.
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From the Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation's website:
The mission of the Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation is to preserve and interpret the historic home of poet Laura (Riding) Jackson and promote literary programs that nurture a passion for the written word. A primary mission is to preserve the 1910 homestead of Laura (Riding) Jackson both as an example of environmentally sensitive Florida architecture and as a valued emblem of her significant contributions made in a life devoted to language and literature.
In addition to the preservation of the Laura (Riding) Jackson home, with the help of generous partners, the Foundation sponsors public programs that focus on literary history and the relationship of man and the environment. Programs have included Teen Writers Workshops, the annual Poetry & Barbecue outdoor reading, Poetry Open Mic, an Oral History Program, Adult Writing Workshops and Retreats, guest speakers for the Emerson Center’s Special Engagement Series, as well as the Vero Beach Book Festival.
Learn more about their programs here.