Poet in the City volunteer Jamie Field provides a personal perspective of Robert Frost
Robert Frost once remarked to a friend that he wanted to write a poem that would be remembered for years. Not only has he succeeded in this, he has surpassed his own expectations by writing many poems that are still being memorised, recited and loved. This was proved recently at the Poet in the City US Laureates event, where Robert Hass and Kay Ryan were seen reciting their favourite Frost poems from memory (including an improvised duet of “The Birches”).
This ability has not been limited to our American cousins (where their Frost is our Kipling); his poetry has been ingrained in our own consciousness almost unawares. You have only to hear someone say: “Good fences make good neighbours” or “Men work together whether they work together or apart” to hear the spirit of Frost, even if you have never heard of the man himself.
Personally I was first introduced to Frost by a battered copy of Mountain Interval in a decrepit St Annes bookstore. At that time I was introducing myself to the world of poetry and soaking myself in anything poetic. Although I recognised his name from some faded memory, I could not place it; I decided to buy the book from this reason alone.
To be honest on first reading I struggled. I naïvely thought that his was a pastoral poetry (great misconception), and being an urban creature I was ignorant to what a Birch or a Shrub should look like. It was not until reaching the infamous “Road Not Taken,” that I saw the work of a genius.
Once while travelling alone, Frost tells us, he stood in a fork in the road, undecided which road to take. He chose the one less frequented (though there is no such difference). The poet imagines that the choice was important and that in doing so he took the less travelled road.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference
Here was a poem written for my generation. For me it’s a celebration of non-conformity, a wink to those who rebel. For me the poem is an encouragement; for people to choose their own road, no matter how unsure. This road is the only road right for you and the only road you could have taken. Don’t live in regret. Through this poem of immense beauty Frost has condoned my own ambition to be a poet.
To thank the great man for this extra boost of confidence I memorised Road Not Taken and other personal favourites including: The Birches and In a Disused Graveyard and frequently recite them to anyone who will listen. By doing this I hope to play my own small part in keeping his poetry fresh in our minds, forty eight years after his death.
What is your own interpretation of a Frost poem? Tell us about a poem that inspires you (doesn’t have to be Frost) and it could be read out at our next Waterstones Piccadilly American themed drop in session Fire and Ice, being held on the 6th December.
To read an in depth analysis of Frost and his poetry watch this space or alternatively why not come to our Robert Frost event on Monday 21st November