Presentation on theme: "Robert Frost. Foreword Robert Frost has been discovering America all his life. He has also been discovering the world; and since he is a really wise poet,"— Presentation transcript:
Foreword Robert Frost has been discovering America all his life. He has also been discovering the world; and since he is a really wise poet, the one thing has been the same thing as the other. He is more than a New England poet: he is more than an American poet; he is a poet who can be understood anywhere by readers versed in matters more ancient and universal than the customs of one country, whatever that country is. Frost's country is the country of human sense: of experience, of imagination, and of thought. His poems start at home, as all good poems do; as Homer's did, as Shakespeare's, as Goethe's, and as Baudelaire's; but they end up everywhere, as only the best poems do. This is partly because his wisdom is native to him, and could not have been suppressed by any circumstance; it is partly, too, because his education has been right.
He is our least provincial poet because he is the best grounded in those ideas--Greek, Hebrew, modern Europeans and even Oriental--which make for well-built art at any time. He does not parade his learning, and may in fact not know that he has it: but there in his poems it is, and it is what makes them so solid, so humorous, and so satisfying. His many poems have been different from one another and yet alike. They are the work of a man who has never stopped exploring himself--or, if you like, America, or better yet, the world. He has been able to believe, as any good artist must, that the things he knows best because they are his own will turn out to be true for other people.
He trusts his own feelings, his own doubts, his own certainties, his own excitements. And there is absolutely no end to these, given the skill he needs to state them and the strength never to be wearied by his subject matter. "The object in writing poetry" Frost has said, "is to make all poems sound as different as possible from each other." But for this, in addition to the tricks any poet knows, "we need the help of context--meaning--subject matter. That is the greatest help towards variety. All that can be done with words is soon told. So also with meters.... The possibilities for tune from the dramatic tones of meaning struck across the rigidity of a limited meter are endless. And we are back in poetry as merely one more art of having something to say, sound or unsound. Probably better if sound, because deeper and from wider experience."
Frost is one of the most subtle of modern poets in that department where so much criticism rests, the department called technique; but the reason for his subtlety is seldom noticed. It is there because it has to be, in the service of something infinitely more important: a report of the world by one who lives in it without any cause to believe that he is different from other persons except for the leisure he has given himself to walk about and think as well as possible concerning all the things he sees; and to take accurate note of the way they strike him as he looks. What they are in themselves is not to be known; or who he is, either, if all his thought is of himself; but when the two come together in a poem, testimony may result. This is what Frost means by subject matter, and what any poet had better mean if he expects to be read.
Frost is more and more read, by old readers and by young, because in this crucial and natural sense he has so much to say. He is a generous poet. His book confides many discoveries, and shares with its readers a world as wild as it is wide--a dangerous world, hard to live in, yet the familiar world that is the only one we shall ever have, and that we can somehow love for the bad things in it as well as the good, the unintelligible as well as the intelligible.
Frost is a laconic New Englander: that is to say, he talks more than anybody. He talks all the time. The inhabitants of New England accuse one another of talking too much, but all are guilty together, all are human; for man is a talking animal, and never more so than when he is trying to prove that silence is best. Frost has expressed the virtue of silence in hundreds of poems, each one of them more ingenious than the last in the way it takes of suggesting that it should not have been written at all. The greatest people keep still. From: http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/poetry/fr ost/vand.htm
Frost's Life-sketch Robert Frost was born in San Francisco in 1874. He moved to New England at the age of eleven and became interested in reading and writing poetry during his high school years in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He was enrolled at Dartmouth College in 1892, and later at Harvard, but never earned a formal degree. Frost drifted through a string of occupations after leaving school, working as a teacher, cobbler, and editor of the Lawrence Sentinel. His first professional poem, "My Butterfly," was published on November 8, 1894, in the New York newspaper The Independent.
In 1895, Frost married Elinor Miriam White, who became a major inspiration in his poetry until her death in 1938. The couple moved to England in 1912, after their New Hampshire farm failed, and it was abroad that Frost met and was influenced by such contemporary British poets as Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. While in England, Frost also established a friendship with the poet Ezra Pound, who helped to promote and publish his work. By the time Frost returned to the United States in 1915, he had published two full-length collections, A Boy's Will and North of Boston, and his reputation was established. By the nineteen-twenties, he was the most celebrated poet in America, and with each new book—including New Hampshire (1923), A Further Range (1936), Steeple Bush (1947), and In the Clearing (1962)—his fame and honors (including four Pulitzer Prizes) increased.
Though his work is principally associated with the life and landscape of New England, and though he was a poet of traditional verse forms and metrics who remained steadfastly aloof from the poetic movements and fashions of his time, Frost is anything but a merely regional or minor poet. The author of searching and often dark meditations on universal themes, he is a quintessentially modern poet in his adherence to language as it is actually spoken, in the psychological complexity of his portraits, and in the degree to which his work is infused with layers of ambiguity and irony. Robert Frost lived and taught for many years in Massachusetts and Vermont, and died on January 29, 1963, in Boston. From: http://www.poets.org/poets/poets.cfm?prmID=196&CFID=14962811 &CFTOKEN=60972021 From: http://www.poets.org/poets/poets.cfm?prmID=196&CFID=14962811 &CFTOKEN=60972021
A pang that makes poetry..... In 1912, at the age of 38, Frost with his wife and four children moved to England. It was in England that some of his finest poems appeared. But the inspiration for these were the images of the country - the people and places - of New England. In a letter he wrote, “ We can't hope to be happy long out of New England. I never knew how much of a Yankee I was till I had been out of New Hampshire a few months. I suppose the life in such towns … is the best on earth.”
In another he said, “…the snug downhill churning room with the view over five ranges of mountains, our talks under the hanging lamp and the fat blue book, the tea inspired Mrs. Lynch, baseball, and the blue black Lafayette. There is a pang there that makes poetry….” To lighted city streets we, too, have known, But now are giving up for country darkness. (In the Home Stretch) The Frosts returned to New England in 1915 and settled on a farm in Franconia, New Hampshire. He spent the rest of life on various farms he owned in New England. He wrote poetry and farmed. And he became 'the essential voice and spirit' of the place.
In the review of North of Boston, Ezra Pound wrote, “…He is quite consciously and definitely putting New England rural life into verse….Frost has been honestly fond of the New England people, He has given their life honestly and seriously. He has never turned aside to make fun of it. He has taken their tragedy as tragedy, their stubbornness as stubbornness...” From: http://frost.freehosting.net/lifesketch.htm
The First Three Poems and One That Got Away Sometime in 1912, before Robert Frost made his famous leap to "live under thatch" in England, where he would become known as a poet, he sent some of his poems to Ellery Sedgwick, the editor of The Atlantic Monthly, and in due course received a personal reply that read, "We are sorry that we have no place in The Atlantic Monthly for your vigorous verse." Frost's submission included some of his finest early poems -- "Reluctance," for example.
Sedgwick's ambiguous snub rankled in Frost's memory. During the two and a half years he lived in England his first two books of poetry, A Boy's Will (1913) and North of Boston (1914), were published there, though not yet in the United States. Thanks partly to Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and Harriet Monroe's Poetry magazine, Frost's poems were hailed in advance of U.S. publication as representing a new American voice. In February, 1915, North of Boston was published in New York, just as the Frost family set foot back in the United States.
Response to this new book of poems about New England was nearly immediate, and Frost was quickly in demand for public appearances. On May 5, 1915, he came to Boston from his new home in Franconia, New Hampshire, to be heard at Tufts University, where he read three of his as yet unpublished poems: "Birches," "The Road Not Taken," and "The Sound of Trees." The day after his Tufts appearance, he called on Ellery Sedgwick at the Atlantic offices, which the magazine shared with Houghton Mifflin Company at 4 Park Street. Sedgwick had just received a letter from the noted English editor and critic Edward Garnett (also the discoverer of Joseph Conrad and D. H. Lawrence), in which Garnett wrote that "since Whitman's death, no American poet has appeared, of so unique a quality, as Mr. Frost." It's not surprising that Sedgwick received Frost with a warm welcome and began by asking if Frost had any new poems for The Atlantic.
Pretending to be taken aback, Frost asked Sedgwick if he were sure he wanted to publish Frost's poems. "Yes," said Sedgwick. "Sight unseen?" asked Frost. "Sight unseen," said Sedgwick. Pulling from his pocket the three poems he had read at Tufts only the night before, Frost waved them under Sedgwick's nose, while, according to Frost, Sedgwick made little grabs for them. "Are you sure that you want to buy these poems?" Frost inquired. Sedgwick said of course he was. "Then," Frost said, releasing the papers to Sedgwick, "They are yours."
And so, in the August, 1915, issue of The Atlantic Monthly, there appeared "A Group of Poems by Robert Frost.“ These three famous poems--"Birches," "The Road Not Taken," and "The Sound of Trees,"--were the first new poems by Frost to be published in the United States since the publication of North of Boston. They were accompanied by Edward Garnett's critical essay "A New American Poet," in which he wrote, "it is precisely its quiet passion and spiritual tenderness that betray this to be poetry of a rare order, [quoting Goethe] 'the poetry of a true real natural vision of life.'" Here also is "Reluctance," the great poem Sedgwick declined.
A footnote: Frost went on, until his death in 1963, to publish twenty-eight more poems in The Atlantic Monthly. But it is amusing to note that the flirtatious relationship between Frost and Sedgwick proved uneasy. Only two more Frost poems appeared while Sedgwick was editor; all the rest came at the behest and during the editorship of Edward Weeks. From: http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/poetry/frost/frostint.htm