Robert Frost may just be America’s greatest poet. Far more attention is given today to the boundless nature of Whitman, and the bleak modernism of Eliot, but this says more about critics than it does about poetry. Whitman is the ultimate rebel, Eliot the ultimate elitist. Frost, however, straddles the divide.
Robert Frost stands as the last great poet of rhythm and meter. In our own era of loose, unstructured free verse which often reads more like a confessional than poetry, it is truly a wonder to read Frost, who eases us into a deceptive recline with his soft, quiet iambs. Whatever one might say about modern poetry, there isn’t a single American poet more remembered, beloved, or oft-quoted than Frost. Is it any surprise that he is also the most structured of American poets?
He is also one of the most elusive. Frost’s work reads, on the surface, like quaint yarns of pastoral folk, nostalgic reminisces upon nature and the simple life. His mastery of poetic form rarely jars the reader, and thus it is all too easy to dismiss his work as being well written, but not deep.
A closer reading reveals much, however. As it turns out, Frost’s work is hardly quaint, or nostalgic, certainly not simple, nor even truly happy. Frost writes often of nature, but the nature he sees is almost always dark, foreboding, merciless, and harsh. While Eliot’s Waste Land reads like a apocalyptic horror show, Frost’s poems are no less dark. He deals consistently with terror, threading dark ruminations through his many-layered poems, which become all the more horrifying because we are not at first aware of that these poems are haunted. Frost rocks us to sleep, and then spills the cradle.
Robert Frost Books to Read:
A Boy’s Will, North of Boston, West-Running Brook, Mountain Interval, New Hampshire, A Further Range, A Witness Tree.
Robert Frost Links: