Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Notebooks of Robert Frost

Robert Frost is a necessary poet, though I have never been a big fan of his work. Something about his poetry, like the man himself, has always left me (no pun intended) cold. That Frost seemed to lack empathy for others in his work--and life--has often been noted. In Robert Frost: A Life (Henry Holt & Company, 1999), Jay Parini writes, at p. 264:

"On the subject of Frost's prejudices, Peter J. Stanlis is helpful: 'You may recall a famous remark that Johnathan Swift says in a letter to Alexander Pope (September 29, 1725): "I have ever hated all nations, professions and communities, and my love is toward individuals: For instance, I hate the tribe of lawyers, but I love Counselor Such-a-one, and Judge Such-a-one: so with physicians--I will not speak of my own trade--soldiers, English, Scotch, French, and the rest. But principally I hate and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth. This is the system upon which I have governed myself for many years." I think that Frost is very much like Swift; he loved particulars and disliked abstract categories. This is at heart the basis of his hatred of all sentimental responses in life. It also underscored his belief in self-interest far above claims of social benevolence.' "

With that said, I remain fascinated with how other poets work, and while we were in Iowa City, bought a copy of The Notebooks of Robert Frost, (Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2006), edited by Robert Faggen. These are literal transcriptions (with strike-throughs, original punctuations, and extensive source notes) of 48 of Frost's notebooks. If you like Frost's work--and even if you don't--this is an interesting book; worth looking at and worth adding to your collection.

5 Comments:

Blogger sam of the ten thousand things said...

You've been tagged for a meme... from a post at 10,000 things

Enjoyed the Frost post, by the way.

9:32 AM  
Blogger John Gallaher said...

Frost has never meant much to me either. I've had a hard time with that now and again, as people keep throwing him at me, demanding something.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

I would never toss Frost in anyone's general direction, but I've always been a huge fan. I sometimes wonder if it is a regional thing with me--my family has been in New England since, like, the 1600s and his distances and, I dunno, rectitude maybe, feel both real and natural to me.

Plus I think he pulled wool over everyone's eyes when it comes to his position in the modernist canon. Which makes me laugh.

6:56 PM  
Blogger ashok karra said...

I just wandered on in searching for posts about Frost. There was an excellent review of the book you mentioned at the NY Sun, and I thought I should give you link to it.

Frost's coldness is the one thing I really like about him, I think.

2:33 PM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...

John, Leslie, Ashok:

Thank you for the thoughtful comments.

It is an interesting book; not least because it encouraged me to go back and think again about Frost.

5:42 AM  

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