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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Robert Frost/Poet

Today, May 26, 2018, is the natal day of American poet Robert Frost (1874) . People assume Frost was a native New Englander, since many of his poems are set there and evoke wintry landscapes and long, leafy walks, but he was born in San Francisco, where his father was a journalist for the San Francisco Bulletin. When he was 11, his father died and his mother packed up Frost and moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts.

 

His first poem, “My Butterfly: An Elegy,” was published in the New York Independent in 1894. Frost was paid $15.00 for his poem, about $415.00 today, but mostly he received rejections, like one from the Atlantic Monthly, which simply said, “We regret The Atlantic has no place for your vigorous verse.”

He was so excited by his first publication that he proposed to his high school sweetheart. She said yes.

 

Dejected at having no further luck in America with his poetry, Frost and his wife pulled up stakes and moved to England in 1912. There, he found a champion in poet Ezra Pound, who helped get Frost’s first two books, A Boy’s Will (1913) and North of Boston (1914), published. Pound liked to tease Frost. He once showed him jujitsu in a restaurant and threw him over his head. About England, Robert Frost once said, “I went over there to be poor for a while, nothing else.” When he returned to the U.S., it was as a successful poet, a position he held until his death.

 

Robert Frost bought a farm in in Franconia, New Hampshire, for $1,000.00 and set about writing about farmers and day laborers, though he himself wasn’t much of farmer. He mostly got up at noon and sat on the fence outside. He liked to use a writing board to compose his poems, not a table, and once claimed to have written poems on the soles of his shoes. He traveled the country giving lectures and visiting schools.

 

Once, during a train trip with poet Wallace Stevens, Stevens turned to Frost and said, “The trouble with your poetry, Frost, is that it has subjects,” to which Frost retorted, “You write about bric-a-brac.”

Robert Frost’s collections of poetry include A Further Range (1937), A Witness Tree (1942), Come In, and Other Poems (1943), You Come Too (1964).

Garrison Keillor’s/Writers Almanac, May, 2017

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