Friday, September 15, 2006

First Frost Notes

No, I'm not giving a weather report here. Certainly no sign of frost yet! In fact, today's been a bit warm and muggy, reminding me that no matter how much most of us feel as though fall's already here, we're actually in the last few days of late, late summer.

My "first Frost notes" refer to what I suspect will be my first post of many on Robert Frost's poems in the coming months. I've begun my straight read-through of New Enlarged Anthology of Robert Frost's Poems, the beloved paperback that has been my favorite Frost companion for years. I've read "at" it again and again, but I have a bad habit of going mostly to the poems I know and love and not always venturing into the poems that don't immediately grab my attention in their first few lines. But Frost is one of the poets of my heart (among other things, he and I share a birthday) and I've decided this book merits slower, more methodical attention. Thus I am beginning at the beginning and plowing through, over, around and under all kinds of poems: beloved, strange, unfamiliar, not-read-that-one-for-years and more.

And my "Frost notes" here will be just that: jottings of lines that particularly grab my attention for whatever reason. I may or may not always add accompanying commentary. But I do want to use this blog as a repository for the Frost lines that speak to me with particular resonance.

Thus far, I've found (or re-found) these gems:

I had a lover's quarrel with the world. --from "The Lesson for Today"

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o'er night
Some resting flower of yesterday's delight...

"Men work together," I told him from the heart,
"Whether they work together or apart."
--From "The Tuft of Flowers"

It must be on charcoal they fatten their fruit.
I taste in them sometimes the flavour of soot.
And after all really they're ebony skinned:
The blue's but a mist from the breath of the wind,
A tarnish that goes at a touch of the hand,
And less than the tan with which pickers are tanned.
-- From "Blueberries"

You couldn't care! The nearest friends can go
With anyone to death, comes so far short
They might as well not try to go at all.
--From "Home Burial"

That last line, from "Home Burial" is one that I've always found particularly poignant. I don't think it's true, by the way, that since we cannot go the whole way with someone in their grief, we shouldn't try to go at all. But I think it feels deeply true to the person travelling through deep grief, as is the woman in this poem. Therefore the line has a solid ring of realness to it, a way of making me emphatically nod my head whenever I get to it. I'm frequently in awe of how Frost captures voices, not just that they sound interesting or quirky, but that the lines of dialogue in his poems have such authenticity. It's all the more astounding when you realize how carefully metered his dialogue is. Perhaps that's not as astounding as it seems; I suspect that most of our conversation is more rhythmic than we realize. Frost must have had an uncanny ear for that though. I wonder if he found it hard to make art seem so artless.


Erin said...

I've always been a big fan of Frost too and also have a massive anthology of his work. I should open it up one of these days; I also have the tendency to concentrate on the poems I already know while neglecting a great many others.

Incidentally, since there have been Simon and Garfunkel connections in several of your blog entries, I have to mention Paul Simon's fondness for Frost too. I'd say there were kindred poetic spirits. And "The Dangling Conversation" ("You read your Emily Dickinson and I my Robert Frost, and we note our place with bookmarkers that measure what we've lost.") is an under-rated song...

Beth said...

There's something about Frost that I just keep wanting to go back to. There's only a few poets in my life I feel that way about, and he's one of them. And I often want to go back to him in spring and autumn especially...

I'd forgotten "The Dangling Conversation" -- what a great song! I haven't heard that one in a long time. Most of the Simon and Garfunkel I have is, alas, on cassette or even (gulp) vinyl, so it doesn't get much airplay these days.

I hadn't really thought about Paul Simon and Robert Frost as kindred spirits, but I think you're on to something there. :-) Especially with Paul's propensity to write "conversations" as Frost liked to do. Do you know if Paul himself ever talked about that poetic connection? It would be interesting to know.

Reading Frost has made me want to try my hands at some narrative poems with dialogue...we'll see!

Erin said...

I'm not sure if he ever compared himself to Frost, but I'm pretty sure he's a fan at least. Poems with dialogue are a grand thing when done well. Can't wait to see some narrative poems from you! ;)

Beth said...

Thanks, Erin! I keep thinking I need to have a good poetry writing session, but when? I feel like I'm snatching minutes here and there from my class...

Have you had a chance to write any poetry at the kiosk, or has it been too busy?

Erin said...

I managed a handful on one very long, slow day, and another on an evening when the mall was pretty much deserted, but nothing since the first week...