Book Review: Selected Works of Robert Frost

By Melissa Fortuin

Author: Robert Frost
Year Published: 1969
Genre: Poetry

As Winter slowly comes to a close, and the first blooms of Spring appear, the cold and barren landscapes give birth to new life. There is something deeply sensitive and metaphorical about the passing of seasons, the ticking by of time through imagery, the falling leaves and the budding seed, the crawling baby and the cane bearing old gentlemen. All in all, there is the representative element of human life and its cycles through the reflection of natural settings. Pick anything, a tree, a rock, a lone hulking beast traversing the savanna in solitude. Any one of these images contain within it some facet of us, our ways, our habits and our conditions. 

Using natural elements or themes in poetry is nothing new. From Tennyson, who employed nature to further a philosophically centered approach, Wordsworth and his Romanticism, or the metaphysical musings of Shelly. Nature becomes a center piece, a tool to further express or round off an idea concerning the poets own individual thoughts and concerns. Sometimes it was purely for the appreciation and celebration of nature within itself. More often than, it wasn’t just descriptions of peonies and the delicate shiver of lilies in a pond. Nature in itself, the epitome of a duality, contains within it all the facets of balance – of giving and taking, of nurturing and independence, non- discriminating balance weighed in life and death. So with nature, as in humanity, many similarities can be found. Our own balance weighed against that of the non man made scale of how all around us can tip its scale and right itself again. Because of how extremely connected we are with nature, nature becomes the perfect way to describe many things related to us, and this is why it tends to hit harder. 

Robert Frost, probably one of the most celebrated and well known nature poets, is who I am going to be focusing on today because its Spring, and Spring is the season most associated with nature strangely enough. Maybe because Summer is more the closing of the cycle, wherein everyone is simply outside enjoying all their possibilities, and Spring is the mother of possibilities, reaching for air after the long and quiet struggle of winter. Spring is the birth of all things and holds more of a spiritual and mystical aspect. Sitting on a bench and noticing a barren wind beaten branch release a single bloom in the steady cold breeze immediately transported me to childhood. Why and how… Therein lies the powerful silent message of nature. From bench to page, I found myself craving for and finding work based greatly around a natural theme. 

Robert Frost could be described as direct. In fact, first impressions might give off the idea that this was in fact a very direct poet. The words hold little to no embellishments. The sentences fall within clear cut simple meter. And a poem may seem as if it is describing a pure daily occurrence in a matter of fact manner. When reading a Frost poem, one gets the feeling that it is like a stone hitting the clear mirror like surface of a pond. There seems to be a much deeper meaning, buried right within reach, carrying on forever like ripples. An every day walk passed a forest becomes a darkly rich metaphor for death. An uneventful choice of passage through plant growth becomes a destiny difficult to wrap the brain around. It is no wonder Frost is considered one of the most valuable literary assets of the American nation. 

Here is a little background on our author. Robert Lee Frost was born in San Francisco, on the 26th of March, 1874. His family soon moved following the passing of his father to Lawrence, Massachusetts, a return for Frosts family to New England, the same New England that would go on to play a huge role thematically in his work. He graduated from Lawrence high school in 1892 as class poet and shared valedictorian with his future wife Elinor White. After several rejections, Frost moved to England where his work garnered more traction thereafter settling back in the USA where many who had scorned his work before were vying for the publishing rights. In his lifetime Frost would go on to win a total of a record four Pulitzer prizes and becoming the most famous poet of his time. 

Reading through Frost is like finding an old photo album tucked into a forgotten and dust covered box. The sun glared photos. Parents or grandparents wading in the dark sparkling waters of some forgotten lake or pond. Scabbed knees in thigh high grass. Windswept hair of someone holding us along the jagged borders of a rocky shoreline or in front of a stand at the fair. There’s a mix of emotions as we turn from photo to photo. Some are sun drenched and full of smiles we would not question for a moment. Others may bring on wistfulness, sadness, or thoughtfulness. Whereas some of Frosts poems may seem lighthearted, life imitates art here and there as the family was struck heavily by depression, some of which echoes through the weaving simplistic sentences. Every poem I would read could never release me. There would be the process of reading, and then steady contemplating. No poem ever seemed just as is. Every few lines were definitely a deeper adventure. 

I loved reading these poems while immersed in nature, while in a park, at the beach or in my own backyard. It definitely heightened my experience of the crashing shoreline as a lilting voice in my earphones read out some of his works. One look and one could see that Frost did not care to associate himself with any particular style or school of thought, but to simply express himself as seemed fit to only him. From love to death to loss and childhood pleasures, its all there in nature, and Frost serves as the mouth piece of describing such a thing simply as he sees it. 

A perfect beginning to your Spring.