Better Know A Poet Laureate: Robert Frost
"He has bequeathed his nation a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding." – John F. Kennedy, who invited Frost to read at his inauguration.
Normally I would tell you, “Wait, it’s okay, I’ve never heard of him either!” but Robert Frost (1874 - 1963) is a beloved giant in the poetry world and shame on anyone who does not enjoy his shade. While he paid close attention to meter and rhyme, his poetry often dealt with universal themes and was pleasing to the ear. Let’s take a look (Or listen! Links below.) at “The Road Not Taken.” Notice how many lines start with “And” like it’s no big deal while sharing a story of choosing between two paths? I don’t care if Frost's first published poem was about a butterfly and he never earned a college degree, that’s talent.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Here’s a shorter poem, again dealing with an abstract thought that is nonetheless universal and easy to identify. What do you do when the last line breaks itself in two? Is that an extra special pause? This poem is said to have potentially been inspired by either The Inferno by Dante Alighieri or astronomer Harlow Shapley. It's the end of the world as we know it, and Frost's poetry feels fine.
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Finally, here is what could be called Frost’s signature poem. It is often referenced, such as in the title for the young adult book Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara. Repetition is a good tool for conveying an important detail. Repetition is a good tool for conveying an important detail.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
"The Road Not Taken," Copyright © 1916 by Robert Frost; originally published by in Mountain Interval by Henry Holt
"Fire and Ice," Copyright © 1923 by Robert Frost; originally published in New Hampshire by Henry Holt
"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," Copyright © 1923 by Robert Frost; originally published in New Hampshire by Henry Holt
Amazon Amazon Says:
This is the only comprehensive volume of Robert Frost's published verse; in it are the contents of all eleven of his individual books of poetry-from A Boy's Will (1913) to In more...
This is the only comprehensive volume of Robert Frost's published verse; in it are the contents of all eleven of his individual books of poetry-from A Boy's Will (1913) to In the Clearing (1962). The editor, Edward Connery Lathem, has scrupulously annotated the more than 350 poems in this book. less...
Amazon Amazon Says:
Robert Frost is one of the most widely read, well loved, and misunderstood of modern writers. In his day, he was also an inveterate note-taker, penning thousands of intense a more...
Robert Frost is one of the most widely read, well loved, and misunderstood of modern writers. In his day, he was also an inveterate note-taker, penning thousands of intense aphoristic thoughts, observations, and meditations in small pocket pads and school theme books throughout his life. These notebooks, transcribed and presented here in their entirety for the first time, offer unprecedented insight into Frost's complex and often highly contradictory thinking about poetics, politics, education, psychology, science, and religion--his attitude toward Marxism, the New Deal, World War--as well as Yeats, Pound, Santayana, and William James. Covering a period from the late 1890s to early 1960s, the notebooks reveal the full range of the mind of one of America's greatest poets. Their depth and complexity convey the restless and probing quality of his thought, and show how the unruliness of chaotic modernity was always just beneath his appearance of supreme poetic control. Edited by preeminent Frost scholar Robert Faggen and annotated to help readers with the poet's more elusive references, the notebooks are also thoroughly cross-referenced, marking thematic connections within these and Frost's other writings, including his poetry, letters, and other prose. This is a major new addition to the canon of Robert Frost's writings. less...
Amazon Amazon Says:
During his lifetime, Robert Frost notoriously resisted collecting his prose--going so far as to halt the publication of one prepared compilation and to "lose" the transcripts more...
During his lifetime, Robert Frost notoriously resisted collecting his prose--going so far as to halt the publication of one prepared compilation and to "lose" the transcripts of the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures he delivered at Harvard in 1936. But for all his qualms, Frost conceded to his son that "you can say a lot in prose that verse won't let you say," and that the prose he had written had in fact "made good competition for [his] verse." This volume, the first critical edition of Robert Frost's prose, allows readers and scholars to appreciate the great American author's forays beyond poetry, and to discover in the prose that he did make public--in newspapers, magazines, journals, speeches, and books--the wit, force, and grace that made his poetry famous. The Collected Prose of Robert Frost offers an extensive and illuminating body of work, ranging from juvenilia--Frost's contributions to his high school Bulletin--to the charming "chicken stories" he wrote as a young family man for The Eastern Poultryman and Farm Poultry, to such famous essays as "The Figure a Poem Makes" and the speeches and contributions to magazines solicited when he had become the Grand Old Man of American letters. Gathered, annotated, and cross-referenced by Mark Richardson, the collection is based on extensive work in archives of Frost's manuscripts. It provides detailed notes on the author's habits of composition and on important textual issues and includes much previously unpublished material. It is a book of boundless appeal and importance, one that should find a home on the bookshelf of anyone interested in Frost. less...
This Library of America edition was consulted in the construction of this blog post and its citations and is a handsome edition overall
Amazon Amazon Says:
A scholarly, annotated, and uniquely comprehensive edition gathers all of Frost's major poetry, a selection of previously unanthologized poems, and the most extensive offering more...
A scholarly, annotated, and uniquely comprehensive edition gathers all of Frost's major poetry, a selection of previously unanthologized poems, and the most extensive offering of his prose writings ever published, along with an essay on the texts by the editors. less...
Amazon Amazon Says:
The Inferno, by Dante Alighieri, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reade more...
The Inferno, by Dante Alighieri, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars Biographies of the authors Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events Footnotes and endnotes Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work Comments by other famous authors Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations Bibliographies for further reading Indices & Glossaries, when appropriateAll editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influencesbiographical, historical, and literaryto enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works. The Inferno remains literature’s most hallowed and graphic vision of Hell. Dante plunges readers into this unforgettable world with a deceptively simpleand now legendarytercet: Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark For the straightforward pathway had been lost. With these words, Dante plunges readers into the unforgettable world of the Infernoone of the most graphic visions of Hell ever created. In this first part of the epic The Divine Comedy, Dante is led by the poet Virgil down into the nine circles of Hell, where he travels through nightmare landscapes of fetid cesspools, viper pits, frozen lakes, and boiling rivers of blood and witnesses sinners being beaten, burned, eaten, defecated upon, and torn to pieces by demons. Along the way he meets the most fascinating characters known to the classical and medieval worldthe silver-tongued Ulysses, lustful Francesca da Rimini, the heretical Farinata degli Uberti, and scores of other intriguing and notorious figures. This edition of the Inferno revives the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation, which first introduced Dante’s literary genius to a broad American audience. Opening the book we stand face to face with the poet,” wrote William Dean Howells of Longfellow’s Dante, and when his voice ceases we may marvel if he has not sung to us in his own Tuscan.” Lyrically graceful and brimming with startlingly vivid images, Dante’s Inferno is a perpetually engrossing classic that ranks with the greatest works of Homer and Shakespeare. Features a map of Hell and illustrations by Gustave Doré. Peter Bondanella is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and Italian at Indiana University and a past president of the American Association for Italian Studies. His publications include a number of translations of Italian classics, books on Italian Renaissance literature and Italian cinema, and a dictionary of Italian literature. less...
Frost was a stoic defender of form in poetry, and his thoughts on writing have a lot to offer to curious artists.
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Book by Frost, Robert more...
Book by Frost, Robert less...