Robert Frost

"The Presidential Poet"

By: Heather Clancy

    Robert Lee Frost was born on March 26th, 1874, in San Francisco, California.  His poetry is written mostly in traditional verse form.  During his time, he did not follow the poetic movements & fashions but continued to write the way he always had.  He is best known for poems such as "The Road Not Taken", "My Butterfly", and many more.  His poetry isn't directed to one specific age group.  Robert Frost's death was caused by a heart attack and he passed away January 29th, 1963, in Boston.  

    When Robert was 2 years old, his mother took him and fled to Lawrence, Massachusetts to get away from his father who was a drunk in San Francisco.  They lived in Lawrence until Robert's sister Jeannie was born, then they returned to San Francisco by train.  Several years later, his father died.  They took the body to Lawrence to be buried in the family cemetery.  By this time, Robert was 11 years old and had crossed the United States 3 times.  He became interested in writing poetry during high school.  He went to Lawrence High School and he was Valedictorian and Class Poet of his graduating class.  He met his future wife, Elinor, in high school.  She was his fellow Valedictorian.  After high school, he attended Dartmouth College in 1892.  He married Elinor Miriam white in 1895.  He spent 2 years at Harvard, but he never earned a formal degree.  By this time Robert had one son and one daughter.  Robert helped his mother run a small private school in Lawrence.  Later, he decided to start a chicken farm in Methuen, Massachusetts.  He was very nervous about starting something new like that, and that was thought to be a forewarning of tuberculosis.  Soon after that, he moved his farm to Derry, New Hampshire.  His first son died there, due to serious illness.  In 1906, Robert was diagnosed with pneumonia and he almost died.  His daughter also caught pneumonia and died one and a half years later.  These tragedies and suffering lead him more and more to poetry.  They moved to England in 1912 after their New Hampshire farm had failed.  In England, he met and was influenced by many British poets such as Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, Robert Graves, and Ezra Pound.  He became close friends with Ezra, who helped promote and publish his work.  Robert's family returned to the United States in 1915.  Robert was embarrassed of his sudden fame.  He soon overcame his shyness and became one of the most popular performers in America.  During the 1920's he was the most celebrated poet in America.  In 1936 he was ordered to move South because of his weak lungs.  His wife Elinor was a major inspiration of his poetry until her death in 1938, which was caused by a heart attack.  A lot of his work is associated with the life and landscape of the many locations he was been in.  He worked as a teacher, cobbler and editor of the Lawrence "Sentinel".  He lived and taught for many years in Massachusetts and Vermont.  In 1940, his only surviving son committed suicide.  

    Robert Frost has published many poems and books.  His first published poem was "My Butterfly".  It was published in the New York paper "The Independent" on November 8th, 1894.  He was overjoyed when his poem was published and he was two copies of a booklet of poetry privately printed, one for him, and one for Elinor who was his fiancée at the time.  He didn't think that her reaction to this was very good and he thought that he had lost her.  He tore up his copy and wandered south, contemplating suicide.  He read "The Gift Outright" at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy.  He won 4 Pulitzer awards and has published many books such as "New Hampshire" 1923, "A Further Range" 1936, "Steeple Bush" 1947, and "In The Clearing" 1962.  "In The Clearing" was his last published book before he had a heart attack and died in Boston, 1963. 

    Almost all of Robert Frost's poetry involves nature and the outdoors.  He uses a lot of imagery and symbolism in his writing.  He often uses metaphors to make connections between everyday things.  (For example, in the poem "The Road Not Taken", he compares making choices to two paths in the woods.)  The messages of his poems are interesting because he doesn't usually say anything directly but through using figurative language he gets his ideas across.  Most of the messages deal with everyday things, like in "The Road Not Taken" he discusses how one choice can have a big effect on the rest of your life.  Some of his poetry is a bit difficult to understand because of the style of language that he uses but that's because of the time that it was written. 

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black,
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back,

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.

From "You Come Too" 1916

    I like this poem because it talks about how one choice can affect your entire life and often people are left wondering what things would have been like if they had done something differently.  It's about how people take chances, not knowing what other things that their choices will lead to.  He uses imagery and symbolism in this poem.  The two roads symbolize different options that he has to choose from.  He also uses a lot of imagery when he's describing things, such as the grassy paths and the yellow wood.  I think that the topic is interesting because everyone has to deal with this sometime during their life.  

Where I found the information for this site:

Poetry Exhibits: Robert Frost. 4 Apr. 2002. The Academy of American Poets. 15 Oct. 2002 <http://www.poets.org/poets/poets.cfm?prmID=196>.

Frost, Robert (Lee). 2001. Gale Group. 16 Oct. 2002 
<http://search.biography.com/print_record.pl?id=14963>.

Robert Frost, "'The Presidential Poet". Nov. 1998. Mrs. Sunda's Gifted Resource Class. 16 Oct. 2002 <http://www.kyrene.k12.az.us/schools/brisas/sunda/poets/frost.htm>.


Where you can find more information about Robert Frost:

http://www.robertfrost.org/indexgood.html

http://www.ketzle.com/frost/

http://www.everypoet.com/archive/poetry/Robert_Frost/robert_frost_contents.htm