Robert Frost’s “doubleness,” revealed in his letters—and poems

JF14_42_001Adam Kirsch at Harvard Magazine:

Thompson’s portrait of Frost was like a bomb dropped on the poet’s legend. The critic David Bromwich, writing about the last volume of Thompson’s biography in 1977, said that after reading it, “one feels that to stand in the same room with a man about whom one knew a quarter of the things one now knows about Frost would be more than one could bear.” But biography could do so much damage only because that legend was itself so imposing, and so carefully tended. Starting in the 1910s, around the time he turned 40, Robert Frost became the most famous American poet—and not just the most famous, but the best-loved, the one who seemed to embody all that America liked most about itself. At a time when modern poetry was growing increasingly arcane, here was a poet who wrote in straightforward language about ordinary New England farmers and laborers—a democrat in form and substance.

On a thousand podiums, Frost helped to create the image of a homespun American sage, reading his poems and delivering himself of crafty jokes and wise sayings. You can see this performance in action in The Collected Prose of Robert Frost, a volume in the continuing Harvard University Press (HUP) edition of Frost’s complete work. Once he became famous, Frost did not write much prose, and many of the items in the book are lectures or occasional remarks.

more here.