Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Poets and Poems: Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

When I was in junior high and high school, there was one poem that had managed to find its way into all of the textbooks for American literature: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. I don’t think I ever heard from a teacher (or read in a textbook) anything about the context of the poem, but context didn’t matter. American poetry meant Robert Frost, and Robert Frost meant “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

If that poem alone wasn’t enough, a second Frost poem sealed the contract: “The Road Not Taken.” For tens of millions of Baby Boomers, Robert Frost, and these two poems in particular, were our first definition of poetry. (One American literature teacher I had in high school had us read Frost first, and then start at the chronological beginning.)

I don’t know if “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is still included in textbooks today; probably not, since it implies the existence of God and schools can be rather ruthless about such subjects. But it was an enormously influential poem, and even Frost considered it that way, having told fellow poet Louis Untermeyer (who was poet laureate consultant to the Library of Congress in 1961) that the poem was “my best bid for remembrance.”

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

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