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The Poetry of Robert Frost

The Poetry of Robert Frost

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The Poetry of Robert Frost

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  1. The Poetry of Robert Frost

  2. Robert Frost (1874-1963) • Robert Frost was the most popular American poet of the twentieth century. • Most Americans recognize his name, the titles of and lines from his best-known poems, and even his face and the sound of his voice.

  3. Robert Frost (1874-1963) • Given his immense popularity, it is a remarkable testimony to the range and depth of his achievement that he is also considered, by those qualified to judge, to be one of the greatest, if not the very greatest, of modern American poets. • Frost was awarded the Pulitzer Prize four times

  4. Early Life • Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California on March 26, 1874. • His father, a journalist and local politician, died when Frost was eleven years old. His Scottish mother resumed her career as a schoolteacher to support her family.

  5. Early Life • The family lived in Lawrence, Massachusetts, with Frost's paternal grandfather. • In 1892 Frost graduated from a high school and attended Dartmouth College for a few months. • Over the next ten years he held a number of jobs

  6. Marriage and Family • In 1894 the New York Independent published Frost's poem "My Butterfly" and he had five poems privately printed. • Frost worked as a teacher and continued to write and publish his poems in magazines. • From 1897 to 1899 Frost studied at Harvard, but left without receiving a degree.

  7. Dark Years • In 1895 he married a former schoolmate, and co-valedictorian, Elinor White; they had six children. • He married Elinor on December 19, and Elliott, their first child, was born on September 29, 1896. • Elliott's death, from cholera, in July of 1900, was the first of many family tragedies that Frost would endure.

  8. Dark Years • Between 1899 and 1907, Elinor and Robert had five more children--another son, Carol, and four daughters, the last of whom lived for only three days. • Frost's mother also died in 1900, of cancer.

  9. Dark Years • The following year saw the death of his grandfather, William Prescott Frost, Sr., who left his grandson a yearly annuity of $500.00 (a substantial amount at the time) and the use of his farm in Derry, New Hampshire, for a period of ten years, after which Robert would become its owner.

  10. A Risky Move • Despite his popular image as a farmer-poet, those ten years were the only period of Frost's life in which he worked seriously at farming, and in the last five of them he also found it financially necessary to teach school.

  11. A Risky Move • He sold the farm in 1911 when it became his, and with the proceeds he moved his family to England in August 1912, hoping to find there the literary success that had eluded him in his own country.

  12. Success Abroad • There he published his first collection of poems, A Boy's Will(1913) followed by North of Boston (1914), which gained international reputation. • Frost met numerous literary figures, including Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle, and William Butler Yeats (who tells Pound that A Boy's Will is "the best poetry written in America for a long time").

  13. Success Abroad • The collection contains some of Frost's best-known poems: "Mending Wall," "The Death of the Hired Man," "Home Burial," "After Apple-Picking," and "The Wood-Pile."

  14. The New American Genius • After returning to the US in 1915 with his family, Frost bought a farm near Franconia, New Hampshire. • There, his wife Elinor suffered a miscarriage. • 1916: Frost began teaching at Amhert College

  15. The New American Genius • 1924 - Awarded Pulitzer Prize for New Hampshire in May. • Receives Honorary Litt.D. degrees from Middlebury College and Yale University. • Gives notice to Amherst of his acceptance of lifetime appointment at University of Michigan as Fellow in Letters.

  16. The New American Genius • Frost's images - woods, stars, houses, brooks, - are usually taken from everyday life. • With his down-to-earth approach to his subjects, readers found it easy to follow the poet into deeper truths, without being burdened with pedantry.

  17. Tragedy and Depression • Behind the largely unruffled public facade was a personal life of great stress and sorrow. • His daughters Lesley and Irma underwent unhappy marriages and painful divorces; Irma was at one point committed to a mental hospital, as Frost's sister had been some years earlier.

  18. Tragedy and Depression • 1925: Daughter Marjorie is hospitalized in December suffering from pneumonia, a peri-cardiac infection, chronic appendicitis and nervous exhaustion. • Marjorie, in many ways the favorite of both her parents, died shortly after the birth of her first child in 1934, a loss from which neither Frost nor his wife ever fully recovered.

  19. Tragedy and Depression • In March 1938, after a long and often difficult marriage, Elinor herself died of heart disease. • In October 1940, Frost's son Carol, feeling himself a failure despite Frost's strenuous efforts to convince him otherwise, committed suicide.

  20. Tragedy and Depression • His wife died in 1938 and he lost four of his children. • Two of his daughters suffered mental breakdowns, and his son Carol, a frustrated poet and farmer, committed suicide. • Frost also suffered from depression and the continual self-doubt led him to cling to the desire to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

  21. A Poet Who Terrifies • None of these traumatic experiences found their way directly into Frost's poetry. • At a far remove from the confessional tendencies of many later American poets, he did not see his art as a form of therapy.

  22. A Poet Who Terrifies • But these experiences, and the sense of helplessness and self-recrimination that many of them bred, inevitably worked to shape and color the views of life's possibilities and its limits that inform his work.

  23. The Darker Side • To the broad public, Frost may be a painter of charming postcard scenes and a front-porch philosopher dispensing consolation and cracker-barrel wisdom, but behind these stereotypes there is in Frost's work a tragic and (in Lionel Trilling's phrase) a terrifying poet, whose deepest note is one of inevitable human isolation.

  24. The Darker Side • In a life more painful than most, Frost struggled heroically with his inner and outer demons, and out of that struggle he produced what many consider to be the single greatest body of work by any American poet of the twentieth century.

  25. A Venerated Poet • The capstone of his public career was his appearance at John F. Kennedy's Presidential inauguration in January 1961. • When the sun and the wind prevented him from reading his new poem, 'The Preface', Frost recited his old poem, 'The Gift Outright', from memory.

  26. A Venerated Poet • Over the years he received a remarkable number of literary and academic honors. • Among the honors and rewards Frost received were tributes from the U.S. Senate (1950), the American Academy of Poets (1953), New York University (1956), and the Huntington Hartford Foundation (1958), the Congressional Gold Medal (1962), the Edward MacDowell Medal (1962). • In 1930 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Amherst College appointed him Simpson Lecturer for Life (1949), and in 1958 he was made poetry consultant for the Library of Congress.

  27. A Venerated Poet • Kennedy also sent him to the Soviet Union as a sort of cultural envoy in 1962, not long before Frost's death in a Boston hospital on January 29, 1963, eight weeks short of his eighty-ninth birthday. • At the time of his death, Frost was regarded as a kind of unofficial poet laureate of the United States

  28. Frost’s Legacy • "I would have written of me on my stone: I had a lover's quarrel with the world," Frost once said. • His independent, elusive, half humorous view of the world produced such remarks as "I never take my side in a quarrel", or "I'm never serious except when I'm fooling."

  29. Frost’s Legacy • Later biographers have created a complex and contradictory portrait of the poet.

  30. Frost’s Legacy • In Lawrance Thompson's humorless, three-volume official biography (1966-1976) Frost was presented as a misanthrope, anti-intellectual, cruel, and angry man, but in Jay Parini's work (1999) he was again viewed with sympathy: ''He was a loner who liked company; a poet of isolation who sought a mass audience; a rebel who sought to fit in. • Although a family man to the core, he frequently felt alienated from his wife and children and withdrew into reveries.

  31. Frost’s Legacy • While preferring to stay at home, he traveled more than any poet of his generation to give lectures and readings, even though he remained terrified of public speaking to the end

  32. Not a Nature Poet • Frost has often been referred to as a “nature” poet because so many of his poems are set in rural or pastoral surroundings • Frost said that he had only written one poem without a man in it • Nature, for Frost, was an arena for action

  33. Aspects of Frost's poetry: • using contraries and contradictions • using common, everyday speech • poems set in nature • deep meanings exist beneath a simple exterior

  34. A Modern Poet • uses ordinary speech within formal patterns of line and stanza • uses traditional forms and structures while exploring modern themes of alienation and isolation • Frost believed that the poet's response to modern life was to revert back to traditional forms which provided a sense of order

  35. Motifs in Frost's Poetry: • the cycle of the seasons • the alternation of night and day • natural phenomenon • rural images

  36. A Poet Who Terrifies • The literary critic Lionel Trilling called Frost “a poet who terrifies.” • Often in Frost’s poems, there exists a subtle undertone of fear or uneasiness – a “hinting” at something dark or dangerous

  37. A Poet Who Terrifies • This juxtaposition of the calm, often rural, peaceful surface with an underlying darkness is not uncommon in Frost’s poetry • He uses these “contraries” or “opposites” often in his poetry

  38. Frost Quotations • “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” • “A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” • “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”

  39. Frost Quotations • “The best way out is always through.” • “One of the hardest things to accept as just is a called third strike.” Perfect Day -- a Day of Prowess • “…some baseball is the fate of us all. For my part, I am never more at home in America than at a baseball game…”

  40. Sources •