Robert Frost: Some Personal Reflections

250 views

Published on

From time to time in these years of my retirement from half a century of a student-and-employment life, 1949 to 1999 and, in this case, in the last three weeks before I enter my 70s, I have taken an interest in some particular writer or poet, philosopher or historian, psychologist or sociologist, among other specialists in some discipline of learning.

Usually I remember what led to this interest; sometimes I don't. In this case I remember coming across a review by that fine Australian essayist, Clive James, of a new volume of letters by Robert Forst.1 This led to my bringing together several pieces of my prose and poetry written during these my retirement years, 1999 to 2014, on the subject of Robert Frost. While gathering together these several pages of writing, my interest in Frost's reasons for writing poetry were piqued.-Ron Price with thanks to 1 Clive James, "The Sound of Sense: Clive James on Robert Frost," Prospect, 23/1/'14, on 4/7/'14.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

LIKE ROBERT FROST

Part 1:

Like Robert Frost’s writing of poetry it was instinct that kept me going in the direction I took in the 1990s, and in the direction I also took in the 21st century. An inner feeling, an intuition, a combination of sense experience, my use of the rational faculty, and many decades of experience told me I was doing the right thing.1 Like Frost, I did not expect to have my poetry recognized although, after the first 25 years of my poetic production--say, 1980 to 2005-- I began to hope for, if not expect, recognition.

Now, in 2014, after nearly 25 years of extensive writing under my literary belt, and nearly 35 years of occasional work, to say nothing about the more than 3 decades before that of what you might call 'my lifespan warm-up', I still have not detected any sense of significant enthusiasm for my poems. There has been one individual exception, the editor of Kalimat Press, Anthony Lee, who offered back in 1999 to make a chapbook of my poems. There is also the surprising fact that, as a result of my efforts to promote, to publicize, my writing in cyberspace I now have millions of readers.

Published in: Education
2 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Ron, we are interested in the 8,000 websites you posted to from '06 to '11. How can we make contact with you -? Sincerely, grand tillman
       Reply 
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
  • Ron were those websites{8,000} that you owned personally?
       Reply 
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
250
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
3
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
3
Comments
2
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Robert Frost: Some Personal Reflections

  1. 1. Preamble: From time to time in these years of my retirement from half a century of a student-and-employment life, 1949 to 1999 and, in this case, in the last three weeks before I enter my 70s, I have taken an interest in some particular writer or poet, philosopher or historian, psychologist or sociologist, among other specialists in some discipline of learning. Usually I remember what led to this interest; sometimes I don't. In this case I remember coming across a review by that fine Australian essayist, Clive James, of a new volume of letters by Robert Forst.1 This led to my bringing together several pieces of my prose and poetry written during these my retirement years, 1999 to 2014, on the subject of Robert Frost. While gathering together these several pages of writing, my interest in Frost's reasons for writing poetry were piqued.-Ron Price with thanks to 1 Clive James, "The Sound of Sense: Clive James on Robert Frost," Prospect, 23/1/'14, on 4/7/'14. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- LIKE ROBERT FROST Part 1: Like Robert Frost’s writing of poetry it was instinct that kept me going in the direction I took in the 1990s, and in the direction I also took in the 21st century. An inner feeling, an intuition, a combination of sense experience, my use of the rational faculty, and many decades of experience told me I was doing the right thing.1 Like Frost, I did not expect to have my poetry recognized although, after the first 25 years of my poetic production--say, 1980 to 2005-- I began to hope for, if not expect, recognition. Now, in 2014, after nearly 25 years of extensive writing under my literary belt, and nearly 35 years of occasional work, to say nothing about the more than 3 decades before that of what you might call 'my lifespan warm-up', I still have not detected any sense of significant enthusiasm for my poems. There has been one individual exception, the editor of Kalimat Press, Anthony Lee, who offered back in 1999 to make a chapbook of my poems. There is also the surprising fact that, as a result of my efforts to promote, to publicize, my writing in cyberspace I now have millions of readers. Part 2: Like Frost, too, I try to get the qualities of intimate conversation into what I write. If what I write is not to the personal taste of
  2. 2. readers, I continue writing to my own taste. I have simplified my content and style over the years to make my work more accessible to readers and remove obscurities as much as possible. I have also added an analytical introspective dimension which appeals to me and, of course, I hope it also appeals to readers. I find, like Frost, that poetry is a way of saying things: everything has its own particular way, its own seeming inevitability, its own musicality in the rhythms of the language around us; it's also a finding of a form by fitting things into it, and is the result of discipline and not indulgence.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1 Morris P. Tilley, “Notes From Conversations,” The Inlander, University of Michigan, February 1918; and 2 Clive James, The Sound of Sense: Clive James on Robert Frost, Prospect, 23/1/'14. Part 3: Poetry became for you, what it is for me: a way of grappling with my life. Poetry was for you, what it is for me: a way of being true & and a way of being sincere, openhearted. Poetry was for you, what it is for me: a listening for the many conversations, voices. Poetry was for you, what it is for me: a kind of permanence which is perceived instantly or grows
  3. 3. and also becomes something loved. Ron Price 23/11/'00 to 1/7/'14. ---------------------------------------- Randall Jarrell(1914-1965) was an American poet, literary critic, children's author, essayist, novelist, and the 11th Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position that now bears the title Poet Laureate. Jarrell wrote that Robert Frost's letters "unmask" him "at least partially".1 They also show that "his life was as unusual as his poetry." I'm not so sure that is true of me and my life. It is very hard to judge your own life and work. Jarrell also says that Frost was very concerned to know what others thought of his work and whether he was "any good."1 This subject interests me, as well, but I know that this is always an unknown land filled with so many different reactions from total indifference to great enthusiasm. I will also leave the evaluation of my letters to future readers after my passing if, in fact, they are ever published.-Ron Price with thanks to 1 Randall Jarrell, Kipling, Auden & Co: Essays and Reviews 1935-1964, Carcanet Press, Manchester,1981, p.368. ------------------------------------------------------ Robert Frost(1874-1963), writing in the tradition of wisdom literature, sought to convey the truth that life’s golden moments must be followed by inevitable losses. While this is true regarding everything in the physical world and, as Frost says in the poem ‘none of that pure gold can stay’, the spiritual life beckons to us all and suggests with more than a brilliant clarity in the Baha’i writings that ‘something of gold can stay.’ Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank down to grief, So dawn goes down to day.
  4. 4. Nothing gold can stay. 1 Robert Frost, Selected Poems of Robert Frost, p.138. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- The process by which an essay, a memoir, a poem, indeed, any piece of writing, emerges is partly the way Robert Frost puts it succinctly and which I quote approvingly here: “Sight, excite, insight.” Like most good aphorisms this is only partly true. There is so much more to the process. I write about this process here, indeed, at many places in the corpus of my written work. “By the time you start to compose, more than half the work has been done," wrote Irish Poet Seamus Heaney. "The crucial part of the business is what happens before you face the empty page," he continued, "before the moment of first connection, when an image or a memory comes suddenly to mind and you feel the lure of the poem-life in it.”1 Most of the writing in my memoir has taken place from my mid-fifties and to my mid- sixties. I find that, like Frost, I can write when I hear the thoughts carrying-on the conversation which I record. Frost says he can hear the voices; I only get as far as the thoughts. Frost is also a delineator of pastoral life with a high degree of readability for the average punter. This is not true of my work. I am a delineator of my feelings and thoughts, and I want my readers to experience both my feelings and my thoughts. My readability for Everyman is nowhere near that of Frost's. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- ROBERT FROST: A PERSONAL RETROSPECTIVE When Robert Frost(1875-1963) died on 30 January 1963 he was the most famous of American poets. It was two months before his 89th birthday. Three months later on 30 April 1963, the long-awaited crown of the Baha’i Administrative Order, the Universal House of Justice, sent its first statement to the Baha’i 1 Seamus Heaney in "Notes From the Underground, " The Courtland Review, 25 March 2006.
  5. 5. world and opened the second epoch of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Divine Plan. In January 1963, the last month of his life, Frost knew nothing, as far as I know, about the Baha’i Faith. He had no idea that, from a Baha’i perspective, the ninth part of the spiritual evolution of man, an evolution than began with the Adamic Cycle, was about to be concluded, and that the tenth part of a divine process destined to culminate in the Christ-promised Kingdom of God on earth was about to open in less than three months. The tributes of President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev dominated the news stories as other final eulogies were pronounced on Frost in early February. Early in that month, too, the famous poet Sylvia Plath committed suicide and Barbra Streisand’s first album was released. The last months and weeks of what to the Baha’is was known as the Ten Year Crusade concluded on 21 April 1963, bringing to an end that first epoch in the grand design of what to the Baha’is was “God’s Holy Cause.” I was finishing my matriculation studies in Ontario at the time. I knew nothing about Robert Frost and had little appreciation of that grand design of the Baha’i community. Since 1963, though, I have come to appreciate much more the significance of this Holy Cause which I have now been associated with for over 60 years. The life and poetry of Robert Frost has become an inspiration.-Ron Price with thanks to: 11 The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, Baha’i Pub. Trust, Wilmette, 1969, p.1. "My object in living is to unite My avocation and my vocation As my two eyes make one in sight." --Robert Frost I have come to appreciate you, Robert, especially due to your fears, rages and
  6. 6. jealousies woven and muted poetically as you wrote poem after poem over all those decades. Your casualness and its understatement in your simple pastoral mode is something that I find difficult to emulate since it reflects a person, as your poems and life do, and as mine do as well. Your disquiet, anxiety about being in this world without any boundaries, a darkness due the absence of life-assurances, a fear of the awful silence of this universe, its infinite spaces. Without a faith to comfort you in the face of life’s ultimate bafflement & confusion, with no vision just art’s safety net: simple and rugged was your life and work, and what you stood for is gone. Is your poetry of much use to us now? asks William Stafford.1 1 William Stafford(1914-1993) was the poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress in 1970. He wrote “The Terror in Robert Frost” in The New York Times on the Web which appeared on 18 August 1974 and from which I draw in the above poem. Stafford at the time was the author of several collections of poems, including "Allegiances" and "Someday Maybe." He was also a professor of English at Lewis and Clark College in Portland Oregon. I was, at the time this article was published, having my first successes as a lecturer and tutor in post-secondary education; I was reading and enjoying immense quantities of print for the first time in my life, having a whole new set of personal tests, and was far removed from writing poetry as I would be until the 1980s about the age of 40. Ron Price 18/1/' 12 to 4/7/'14. -----------------------------
  7. 7. TWO POETS MEET IN THE SUMMER OF ‘62: MY TRAVELLING AND POETIZING HAD JUST BEGUN Part 1: Great Russian poets are, in some ways, like martyrs of the church in that vast land. They have thrived on persecution, on attacks, on being silenced. Such treatment has given a type of holy status to their work. Anna Akhmatova(1889-1966), certainly one of the most famous of 20th century Russian poets, was very conscious of this status. In 1962, four years before she died at the age of 76, Robert Frost, the American national poet, visited the Soviet Union and paid a call on her at the dacha, or country house, lent to her for the occasion at the writers' colony near Leningrad. The two distinguished old poets sat side by side in wicker chairs and talked quietly. For more on Frost’s trip to Russia go to this link: http://eraofcasualfridays.net/2010/06/13/on-thursday-august-30- 1962-robert-frost-dined-on-marinated-mushrooms/ I knew nothing of these poets, and little of Russia, at the time back in 1962. I was immersed in my small town life in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe at the age of 18: finishing my high school studies, working out the relationship to my libido and girls as well as to the new religion I had joined three years before, a religion which had been in Canada for some 60 years;1 finishing my short adolescent baseball and hockey careers, having fun in various forms: swimming in the lakes, eating sundaes and milk-shakes with my friends at the local Dairy- Queen, going to the movies at the Roxy theatre in that small town of 5000, playing touch-football in a local park; attending to my part-time jobs and ensconced in a small nuclear-family of three where I have been raised for 18 years between the banks of Lake Ontario and the Niagara escarpment. Famous poets were in another universe to mine.
  8. 8. Part 2: ''And I kept thinking,'' Akhmatova wrote after her meeting with Robert Frost, ''here are you, my dear, a national poet. Every year your books are published. They praise you in all the newspapers and journals; they teach you in the schools; even the President receives you as an honoured guest. All they've done here is slander me! I've had everything: poverty, prison lines, fear, poems remembered only by heart, and burnt poems. And humiliation and grief. You don't know anything about this and you wouldn't be able to understand it if I told you. But now let's sit together, two old people, in wicker chairs. A single end awaits us. And perhaps the real difference is not actually so great?''2 -Ron Price’s references include: 1 the Baha’i Faith had been in Canada for 64 years in 1962; and 2 John Bailey,” The Sheer Necessity for Poetry,” in The New York Times on the Web, 13 May 1990.3 3 John Bayley was in 1990 the Thomas Warton Professor of English at the University of Oxford. His books include 'Tolstoy and the Novel. The piece I have quoted is from warton's review of The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova, Vols 1 and 2, Zephyr Press, Somerville, Mass., 1990, edited by Roberta Reeder and translated by Judith Hemschemeyer. Part 3: We were all from different universes: me, Frost and Akhmatova back then. But, perhaps as Anna, said, “the real differences were actually not great!!” I wrote my first poem back then and it was somewhere out on the edge & periphery of my life—while society lived on the edge of extinction that October as the Cuban missile crisis nearly engulfed us all so silently….
  9. 9. As I watched TV in the smalltown smugness of childhood surrounded by salvation’s complacent trinity of Catholic, Protestant and Jew, while Akhmatova had been engulfed most of her life. Her grave is at a cemetery near St. Petersburg, if you are ever in Russia as a tourist for a holiday-visit. Ron Price....14/1/'12 to 4/7/'14. -------------------------------------------- LITTLE UNDERSTOOD ....by some Edmund Wilson(1895-1972), an all-purpose man of letters and American literary and social critic, wrote to Lionel Trilling in August 1959, two months before the TV program The Twilight Zone was released, and two months, too, before I became a card-carrying member of the Baha’i international community. In that letter Wilson said to Trilling: “In my opinion, Robert Frost is partly a dreadful old fraud and one of the most relentless self-promoters in the history of American literature.”1 Lionel Trilling(1905-1975) was, like Wilson, one of the great American critics of the twentieth century. Robert Frost(1874-1963) was an American poet and is now highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. He received four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry. -Ron Price with thanks to 1 Colm Toibin, “Edmund Wilson: American Critic,” New York Times, 4 September 2005. Your reviews and comments have been described as: brilliant but as uneven,1 with a restless mind, still
  10. 10. a central figure in the long history of America’s intellectual narrative. The only man I know who had an orgasm reading a book & who then went to the doctor to find out why! You were all finishing your life of letters as I was just starting out in mine. Little did I know back in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s what would become of me in life’s long haul; indeed, none of us know, do we, as we journey from the start to the finish, to the last syllable of our recorded time? What can I say in a short poem like this about you three great literary figures who passed by in a century of light when our world underwent changes so much more profound than any in our preceding history, changes that are very little, hardly, understood by a silent generation,2 the baby-boomers3 or the X,Y & Z generations who all coexist on the planet in this century, this 21st, which is now only 14 years old. 1 Colm Toibin, New York Times, 4 September 2005. 2 Born between 1925 and 1945; 3 born between 1945 and 1965; X=1965-1985; Y=1975-2005; Z=1995-2010. These are all complex and variously interpreted approximations. Ron Price 17/7/'10 to 4/7/'14. -------------------------------------------
  11. 11. THE THINGS WE CARE FOR Part 1: One of America’s finest poets(1874-1963), Robert Frost, published his writings during the years from the passing of Baha’u’llah in 1892 to the year of the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963. He published his first book of poetry, A Boy’s Will, three months before ‘Abdul-Baha’s return to Haifa from His western tour. In 1937, just seven weeks after the beginning of the first Seven Year Plan, he gave the commencement address at Oberlin College in Ohio. In that address he said, among other things, “You must seek reality forever in the things for which you care….(and)…..the whole function of poetry is the renewal of words.”1 The role of the poet, to Frost, was to make words mean again what they once meant. Frost was also trying to make sense of his experience and, in the process, readers make more sense of their own lives. To accomplish this he used language as it is spoken, the texture of the tongues.2 Part 2: This conversational style, the sound and tone in Frost were not things that appealed to all poetry critics. For Frost, writing poetry was his way of grappling with life; it was, for him, a voyage of discovery, a way out of something. Frost received four Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other writer.-1 Ron Price, “Notes on Robert Frost,” Pioneering Over Four Epochs, March 19th 2006; and 2 Philip Livingood, "On the Poetry of Robert Frost, Tripod, 6/2/'96. Complex interlacing strains blend in my literary ancestry as I go on seeking things for which I care and things for which millions have cared.
  12. 12. Some authentic original voice has been speaking to me for decades from somewhere in a realm of glory, uttered by a tongue of power and might, an influence which permeates and proceeds from some source, mysterious, creative, shatters my cup of speech and cannot be even approached as it remakes all my faculties, standards in a tired mind.1 1 Horace Holley in The Ocean of His Words, John Hatcher, Wilmette, 1997, p.3. Ron Price 20/3/'06 to 4/7/'14. --------------------------------------------------------- end of document

×