The Letters of Robert Frost: Volume 1, 1886-1920

22LOGAN-thumbStandard-v2William Logan at The New York Times:

In the early fall of 1912, a blandly handsome, tousle-headed American schoolteacher arrived in London. Nearing 40, coming without introduction or much of a plan — except, as he later confessed, “to write and be poor” — he was making a last attempt to write himself into poetry. It would have taken mad willfulness to drag his wife and four children out of their ­settled New Hampshire life in a quixotic assault on the London literary scene. Still, he was soon spending a candlelit evening with Yeats in the poet’s curtained rooms, having come to the attention of that “stormy petrel” Ezra Pound, who lauded him in reviews back home. Little more than two years later, the schoolteacher sailed back, having published his first two books, “A Boy’s Will” (1913) and “North of Boston” (1914). He had become Robert Frost.

The modernists remade American poetry in less than a decade, but like the Romantics they were less a group than a scatter of ill-favored and sometimes ill-tempered individuals. Frost was in most ways the odd man out: He despised free verse, had only a patchy education and wrote about country life. He knew the dark and sometimes terrible loneliness that descended upon stonewalled farms and meager villages. Looking back on his work, this throwback to Chaucer and Virgil plaintively asked one of his correspondents, “Doesnt [sic] the wonder grow that I have never written anything or as you say never published anything except about New England farms?” (“North of Boston” was originally titled “Farm Servants and Other People.”)

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