Shadows Of The Cattail, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
Robert Frost was an American poet who lived from March 26, 1874, to January 29, 1963. He was born in San Francisco, made his way to Massachusetts via Harvard, and finally settled in New Hampshire.
My 3rd grade English teacher, Mrs. Boykin, loved three poets: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost. She would recite their poetry to us while she slow walked past dusty slate boards, 6-pronged chalk holders with wire fingers, and a rattly, roll-down map of the world, circa 1963.
I became familiar with Frost’s poetry around the age of 9. But it wasn’t until adulthood that I became obsessed with learning about the geographical places that writers call Home.
The Robert Frost Farm in Derry was home to Robert Frost from 1900-1911. In October of 1900, he settled on the Derry farm in New Hampshire, just over the Massachusetts line, purchased for him by his grandfather. But from 1915 to 1920, it was The Frost Place, in Franconia, New Hampshire where he and his family lived full-time, and went on to spend nineteen summers.
Frost received four Pulitzer Prizes, in 1924, 1931, 1937, and 1943. He lived a long life, and his poems are often recited and remembered by heart. The Road Not Taken, one of his most famous poems, was published in 1916 in his collection Mountain Interval.
But I was reminded of another Frost poem by amuirin from Stop & Wander, in her comment on Listening to Silence. It led me to go back and read Frost again, to revisit his life. So it is Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, published in 1923 in his New Hampshire volume, that I am choosing to post.
My favorite research find was a 1960 interview with Robert Frost by Richard Poirier in The Paris Review. The interview took place in Frost’s home in Cambridge, Massachusetts near the end of his life.
He was wearing plaid slippers and was seated in a blue overstuffed chair (with no arms) where he often sat to write. He never had a writing table, a desk, or a writing room. He wrote on a writing board, or the sole of his shoe.
That’s where Frost and I part ways. Though I often write in coffee shops on the back of a crumpled Post-It (just ask Liz how many pieces of paper she finds scattered all over the house), or in a pocket notebook at a sunken spot near the living room window — I still long for a writing room. A comfortable desk, floor to ceiling bookshelves to display my personal book collection, a room of my own.
Robert Frost wrote Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening in June, 1922 at his house in South Shaftsbury, Vermont (now home to the Robert Frost Stone House Museum). He lived in the Stone House from 1920 to 1929 (there is an excellent chronology with photographs at The Friends of Frost).
It is said that Frost had been up the entire night writing the long poem New Hampshire, and had finally finished when he realized morning had come. When he went out to view the sunrise, Stopping By Woods came to him like a hallucination.
I thought of Natalie’s chapter in Thunder and Lightning entitled Hallucinating Emeralds. Sometimes writing comes like that. You hear songwriters talk about flashes of inspiration, or dream sequences where whole songs write themselves, and the next morning flow magically from their pens.
My second favorite research find was an audio version of Robert Frost reciting, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. You can listen to it at Salon Audio - Robert Frost. If you’ve been reading red Ravine, I guess you know by now, I’m a big fan of writers reading their work. I want to hear their voices.
Robert Frost is one of the classical poets — traditional enough to capture those who have been around awhile; detailed enough to lead us across that bend in the woods; wide enough that anyone can find a small opening. And if someone asked me to choose the Frost of our time, I might look no further than Ted Kooser.
Cattail Forest, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
-Robert Frost, New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1923), p. 87. D-11 0397 Fisher Library.
-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, February 21st, 2008
-related to post, Listening To Silence
-Additional links (as a result of more research after the post Comment thread):
- Robert Frost Reads His Poems (LINK) – link from the Dartmouth Class of ’61 website. Frost reads 6 poems with clear audio (HarperAudio). (Note: you need QuickTime but it downloads quickly if you don’t already have it.)
- Class of ’53 Salutes Frost in Newsletter (LINK) – commentary and photograph of the Dartmouth statue of Robert Frost
- Dartmouth Class of 1961 website (LINK) – gifted Dartmouth with the Robert Frost statue in 1996 on their 25th Class Reunion