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Detractors Recognize Joaquin Miller’s Literary Contribution

Many critics of the flamboyant Western dress and extravagant poetry of Joaquin Miller have also recognized his enthusiasm and contribution to Western literature.

A contemporary detractor, author Ambrose Bierce, called Miller “the greatest liar this country ever produced. He cannot, or will not, tell the truth."  He added, “… but he never tells a malicious or thrifty falsehood.”  Miller responded, “I always wondered why God made Bierce.”

In the 1880’s, Miller mingled with other authors in San Francisco, among them Mark Twain, Bierce, Brett Harte, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walt Whitman and Jack London. 

The noted anthologist Louis Untermeyer said Miller “shouted platitudes at the top of his voice. His lines boomed with the pomposity of a brass band; floods, fires, hurricanes, extravagantly blazing sunsets, the thunder of a herd of buffaloes----all were unmercifully piled up. And yet, even in its most blatant fortissimos, Miller's poetry occasionally captured the grandeur of his surroundings, the spread of the Sierras, the lavish energy of the Western World."

Miller himself said, “My poems are literally my autobiography.  If you care to read further of my life, making allowance for poetic allowance, you will find these (poems) literally true.”

Sources: Jones, Carolyn. "Joaquin Miller’s Abbey to be Restored." SFGate. 21 Oct. 2019. Web. 19 Aug. 2015. http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Joaquin-Miller-s-Abbey-to-be-restored-3213401.php#photo-2355997;  Fisher, Jim. "Joaquin Miller - Historical Essay." FoundSF.org. Web. 19 Aug. 2015. http://www.foundsf.org/index.php?title=JOAQUIN_MILLER]; 

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.