sneaky unpretentiousness


About Robert Frost, it should be borne in mind that he was fashioning his distinctive style and voice long after Walt Whitman’s “barbaric yawp” had sounded to raze the old structures of meter and rhyme, when poets like Robinson Jeffers, say, were building up from that rubble. Perhaps partly for this reason, the several neat rows of poems Frost left behind look now, in posterity, to be weathering well, some maybe tilting in the turf these days, but deeply inscribed with a traditional, formal simplicity to keep them legible through many more ages’ storms of fashion. Frost always did say it was his goal “just to lodge a few poems where they’ll be hard to get rid of,” and in that effort he apparently sacrificed innovation. (If he was tempted at all by innovation.) Right up until his death in 1962, he went on offering out the same four trusty iambs, mostly—or sometimes three iambs, sometimes five—while the world’s podiums were occupied by such free-verse innovators as T. S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens and even the first raiding parties of so-called “Beats.” All these phenomena Frost ignored or openly deplored. Wallace Stevens he called “the bric-a-brac poet.” Eliot he snubbed most churlishly on a number of awkward public occasions, always in the face of Eliot’s more debonair grace and forgiveness. He met with Pound in London before he’d ever published a book, and the great mentor did try to educate him in the new manner, though it didn’t stick.

more from Louis B. Jones at the Threepenny Review here.