Adam Plunkett at Poetry Magazine:
It’s hard to shake the feeling, after reading the first volume of Robert Frost’s letters, recently published by Harvard University Press, of having come to know him somehow less than you would have after reading just the poems from those years. How could this be? Factually invaluable, the letters show much of Frost’s tortuous road from ambition to accomplishment, from newspaperman, factory worker, two-time Ivy League dropout, and middling poultryman to transatlantically acclaimed nature poet. But the more you learn about his personal life, the more it can obscure his inner life. You begin to lose him as the man becomes mannered, the private man becomes a public man, and his privacy retains its intimate vulnerability almost only in his very public poems.
Take, for example, “The Road Not Taken,” a poem written during the early excitement of his fame. Frost read it at the Phi Beta Kappa induction at Tufts in 1915, in what was likely the first of countless ingenuous ceremonial botchings of the deeply vexed and mischievous poem, only to complain to his dear friend Edward Thomasthat no one had gotten the joke. The last stanza (“the sigh”) “was a mock sigh, hypocritical for the fun of the thing,” he wrote. “I doubt if I wasnt [sic] taken pretty seriously. Mea culpa.”
And yet even this admission, written in earnest to Frost’s closest friend, obscures as much as it reveals.