What Gives Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” Its Power?

David C. Ward in Smithsonian:

FrostIt’s a small irony in the career of Robert Frost that this most New England of poets published his first two books of poetry during the short period when he was living in Old England. Frost was very careful about how he managed the start of his career, wanting to make the strongest debut possible, and he diligently assembled the strongest lineup of poems possible for his books A Boy’s Will and North of Boston. Frost had gone to England to add further polish to his writing skills and to make valuable contacts with the leading figures in Anglo-American literature, especially English writer Edward Thomas and expatriate American Ezra Pound; Pound would be a crucial early supporter of Frost. While reviews of the first book, A Boy’s Will, were generally favorable, but mixed, when it was published in 1913, North of Boston was immediately recognized as the work of a major poet. Frost’s career was as well-launched as he could have hoped, and when he returned to the United States in early 1915, he had an American publisher and a dawning fame as his work appeared before the general public in journals like The New Republic and The Atlantic Monthly.

The years in England were crucial to Frost, but they have also caused confusion in straightening out his publishing history – the books appeared in reverse order in America and the poems that appeared in the magazines had in fact already appeared in print, albeit in England. What mattered to Frost was that his English trip had worked. 1915 became the year in which he became recognized as America’s quintessential poet; in August, the Atlantic Monthly published what is perhaps Frost’s most well-known work, “The Road Not Taken.”

More here.