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Complete Poems of Robert Frost by Robert…

Complete Poems of Robert Frost (1949)

by Robert Frost

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Spent my morning with these trying to find RF's critical assessment of fame, how his neighbors come last to recognize him. Turns out, it's not in the Complete, since he was elected Poet Laureate of Vermont (where he'd moved from N.H. forty years before) in 1961, at age 85. Year after he recited from memory at JFK's Inauguration. Wryly, Frost responds "On Being Chosen Poet of Vermont," "Breathes there a bard who isn't moved/ When he finds his verse is understood…By his country and his neighborhood." And that IS the order, friends: The Country will recognize you before your neighbors do, especially yankees, mebbe.
I found this stunning, despite almost five decades of familiarity, many of them teaching certain poems like "Home Burial" and "A Servant to Servants," and of course property feeling in "Stopping by Woods", as well as the role of Edward Thomas and England in the universally misunderstood and admired "Road not Taken," with the most famous aposiopesis in English and American lit, "and I--/ …I took…."
My perusal this morning suggested I had neglected a dozen bird poems I should have noted in my "Birdtalk", like "Never again would Birds' Sounds be the Same," "Directive" about the Phoebes weeping to those not versed in country things, "Minor Bird" possibly about Titmouses or Phoebes, and others. Then, for this Amtrak rider, Boston to Colorado six times, some poems start from trains, "A Passing Glimpse," "Figure in the Doorway," and "On the Heart's Beginning to Cloud the Mind."(One, a train in Utah.) And several on wells, from the prolog "Pasture" to "For Once, then, Something." And even old shoes, "A Record Stride."
Above these subjects looms the writer's flexible, ironic, undercutting voice and tone, still uncommon in American poetry, so often elevated, sublime, the "I" growing as s/he speaks.
And may I say, as a lifelong "liberal," community college teacher, supporter of the American Dream and fulfillment thereof, I was amused at RF's parodic political satire mostly from the R--Rep or Right. His "Departmental" could be a satire on Hillary anthill: "Death's come to Jerry McCormick,/ Our selfless forager Jerry" (372); as could "A Roadside Stand" be a satire on my whole political and professional life, "Where they won't have to think for themselves anymore;/ While greedy good-doers, beneficent beasts of prey,/ Swarm over their lives enforcing benefits/ That are calculated to soothe them out of their wits…"(370).
Frost famously conflicted with the Amherst College liberal President Meiklejohn, whose policies RF termed at the time, "Micklejaundice." But later in life, Frost conceded, "Meiklejohn was right."
Well…I find Frost's poetry filled with nuggets, turns of phrase, sometimes parodic turns, and especially quick changes in tone--rare in any but cummings and Dickinson, who lived down the street from where Frost taught in 1919, and whose life overlapped his by eleven years. Bill Pritchard's literary biography is unsurpassed as a poetic reading, and it contains a photo of Frost regaling my two great, witty Amherst College teachers, Baird (Shakespeare) and Craig (In Freshman Comp, he asked my class, staring out the window, if any of us saw drumlins out there? No-one did. Craig, "You can't see them if you don't know the word." See RF, "Drumlin Woodcock.") and Craig's upperclass Seminar on Dickens and James). Both Baird and Craig endorsed my senior honors thesis on Renaissance prosody and tone, directed by the learned and witty Richard Cody.
I rejoice in having had such teachers, but I do wonder at all that I have missed through decades of familiarity. As Baird once wrote me of my grad subject, Andrew Marvell, his "To His Coy Mistress' is much better than familiarity suggests. I would say, this goes for most of Frost--though may I add, his neighbor down the street, of another gender, surpasses him…and all but one or two poets. But both ED and RF expand our New England dialect vocabulary, like "aftermath" for the second mowing. ( )
  AlanWPowers | Sep 24, 2016 |
  saintmarysaccden | Nov 7, 2013 |
Book Description: New York/Chicago/San Francisco: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964. Cloth. Fine/No Jacket. 17th Printing. Private Use. 8vo - over 7" - 9¾" tall. 666pp.
  Czrbr | Jun 7, 2010 |
Master poet. The art of seeming to tell a simple homespun story on one level and speaking to much deeper issues at the same time is an incredible gift. In his later years the poetry flagged in volume and quality, but there are still gems in the last of his work. ( )
  Poemblaze | Aug 7, 2006 |
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A feast for lovers of American literature, the work of our greatest poet. No poet is more emblematically American than Robert Frost. From "The Road Not Taken" to "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" ; he refined and even defined our sense of what poetry is and what it can do. Prior to Frost's death, T.S. Eliot judged him "the most eminent, the most distinguished Anglo-American poet now living," and he is the only writer in history to have been awarded four Pulitzer Prizes. This comprehensive volume of Frost's verse comprises all eleven volumes of his poems; this collection has been the standard Frost compendium since its first publication in 1969.… (more)

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