Questions about Robert Frost
- 1. Why
did Robert Frost write poetry?
- Of course there is no easy answer
to this. He started writing poetry when he was 15 and continued
until he died at the age of 88. Both his parents were highly
educated. In childhood, his mother read to him from the Bible,
the classics, and the tales of her Scottish homeland. Frost was
a good student. He read Shakespeare for the fun of it. He studied
Greek and Latin in school and read the classic poets in their
native language. Frost was a great talker and conversationalist.
He liked language and the crafting of language. Why poetry? Poetry
is the highest art of language. Frost loved wordplay and the
challenge of creating a complex idea in the form of a poem. He
used traditional English meters but introduced conversational
language and tones of voice in poetry. Frost believed the advantage
of poetry over other literary forms was its compression or compactness
- 2. What
are Frost's most famous works?
- Frost is most remembered for Stopping
by Woods on a Snowy Evening and The Road Not Taken. Other
famous works are Fire and Ice, Nothing Gold Can Stay, Birches,
After Apple-Picking, The Death of the Hired Man, Home Burial,
and Mending Wall. A recent poll was taken by America's
Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky. The Road Not Taken was voted
America's favorite poem.
- 3. What was unique in Frost's approach to poetry?
- Frost started writing poetry at
the end of the 19th century in the late Victorian period. He,
along with others, wanted to reform poetic language away from
the stilted, archaic diction used by his predecessors.
Frost believed ordinary conversation could be poetic. However,
when it came to form and structure, Frost was a traditionalist.
He wrote rhymed verse and blank verse, but never free verse.
He said, "I would sooner write free verse as play tennis
with the net down."
- 4. What
do the poems mean?
- Frost wrote many of his best poems
on several levels of meaning. He describes a natural setting
with beautiful seasonal imagery and he connects this to human
beings. There is a literal meaning and there is a deeper more
profound meaning. Many poems are parables: a simple story which
is meant to remind the reader of something else - perhaps more
spiritual or psychological. Frost often cautioned the reader,
"Don't press the poem too hard." He said, "The
real meaning is the most obvious meaning." He was not a
poet of obscuration. He believed a good poem did not require
footnotes. Wordplay is very important, along with form and structure.
But for the reader to stop there is to miss the chance to know
a great mind in a deeper way. Frost is full of contradictions
and he is hard to pin down. Just when you think you have a poem
or the poet figured out, he eludes you. Don't think you're going
to get any answers out of Robert Frost. This is his great charm.
- 5. Wasn't Frost a terrible person?
- NO. He lived a very long and often
tragic life. He suffered unreasonable guilt and blamed himself
for everything that went wrong. Robert Frost loved his family
and did everything in his power to protect them. He loved one
woman for over forty years, who he described as "the unspoken
half of everything I ever wrote". He said, "No one
ever got far into my affairs and friendship that didn't succeed
with Elinor." At times, he suffered depression. He lost
so many of the people he loved, as you will discover reading
these pages. He was a man who aspired to find truth in ordinary
things and tell the truth in an eloquent but reserved way. He
valued courage and commitment. He wrote, "..The utmost reward
of daring should be still to dare." If you seek the man,
read his poetry.
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