August 20, 2019


The Mysterious Beauty of Robert Frost's New England (Jay Parini, July 2019, Smithsonian)

It was reading Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" when I was 15 that set me on the path that led to my adult life--I eventually became his biographer. I'll never forget being stunned by these lines in that poem, which features a lonely man, a horse-drawn sled, and the dark and deep woods that surround him: "The only other sound's the sweep / Of easy wind and downy flake." I fell in love with that voice, so lyrical and centered, and begged my parents to take a vacation in Frost country, and they generously agreed. We packed up the car in Pennsylvania and drove to New Hampshire and Vermont to have a look around. Needless to say, the landscape spoke to me, and it still does. In fact, it has become a conversation of sorts: I speak back to it as well, writing poems that reflect the world around me. [...]

My life mirrors Frost in so many ways. I live in a farmhouse that dates to 1850, a house where the hired hands from the nearby farm lived in the late 19th century. Along the way this became a family house. What's strange is that so little has changed here. The imagery of my life is the imagery of Frost's poetry, and--like Frost himself, who lived nearby--I like walking in the woods in every season. A clarity is found in the silence and beauty of these woods, when one drinks in the surroundings. "Here are your waters and your watering place," he writes in the last lines of "Directive," saying: "Drink and be whole again beyond confusion."

Posted by at August 20, 2019 12:00 AM