Thursday, October 9, 2008

Poem du jour

I have a somewhat contentious relationship with Robert Frost. For reasons unknown, I have always felt inclined to dislike him and his work. Seriously, doesn't he look like a mean old crusty man?

On a recent trip to his hometown of Bennington, VT, I passed up the opportunity to visit his house, which is now a museum in his honor. I chose instead to visit the Annual Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival. When forced to choose between Frost ephemera and homemade garlic pesto, I went with the pesto.

My favorite possibly apocryphal Frost anecdote (and don't we all have one of those) concerns his issue with reading his work in public. According to J.D. McClatchy, Frost HATED to read his poetry on a bill with other poets. He only liked to read when it was just him. One time, he agreed to do a reading at Harvard (his alma mater) on the condition that he would be the only poet reading. But someone screwed up and Frost finds out on the day of that some other nobody poet is supposed to be reading as well. He freaks out and tries to back out. Finally, he concedes and agrees to read only on the condition that he can read first. Harvard says "Fine, whatever."

So Frost gets on stage and reads about apple picking, fire and ice, and snowy woods and whatnot. Everyone claps and Frost returns to his seat in the front row. The next poet gets on stage to read and before he's even finished with his first poem, the smoke alarm goes off and the whole auditorium has to be evacuated. Why? BECAUSE FROST LIT HIS PROGRAM ON FIRE.

Which is kind of a gangsta move. I can't validate this story anywhere, so don't even bother trying. Google search for "Robert Frost asshole" turns up zilch.

But recently, I actually read some Frost poetry and I gotta say, the man knows what he's doing with language. My favorite poem at the moment is "For Once, Then, Something":

Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths--and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

I mean, DAMN. I hope someday in my writing to find "something more of the depths."

Not on this blog, though. My next post will be an academic deconstruction of the text message "Hey."

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