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Robert Frost  

Robert Frost was an American poet who won the Pulitzer Prize four times. His poems deal with rural life and often involve complex themes such as the nature of existence.
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Robert Frost (1874-1963)

 

Robert Frost in his Younger Years

 

Brief Biography

Robert Frost. one of America's best known poets, is identified with New England and the trees, stone walls, mountains and snow of Vermont and New Hampshire.  However, he was born 3,000 miles away from New England in San Francisco in 1874.  When his father died ten years later, the small family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts.  Frost felt at home in New England, for his ancestors were originally from there .  The family roots ran deep.  Frost decided to become a poet when he was in high school. Two years after  he graduated at the top of his class in 1892 ( he shared first class honors with his wife to be, Elinor White) he published his poem "My Butterfly. "  He was paid $15.00  During the next eight years, he wrote more poems and attended Dartmouth and Harvard.  He never earned a degree from either institution.  In time Frost became discouraged over the lack of interest in his work, so he took a great risk and moved with his family to England.  It proved to be a good decision because in a short time he became friends with other poets and published two books of poetry, "A Boy's Will" and "North of Boston."  They were well received and helped establish his reputation as a talented poet.   When he returned to the United States in 1915, publishers who rejected his work now eagerly wanted it. He found himself in demand and his poetry lauded.   By 1915 his position as a man of letters was secure.  Poets with the  stature such as Amy Lowell and Ezra Pound praised his work,  By the 1920's he was highly regarded by critics and the general public.  Frost received his first of four Pulizer Prizes in 1924 for the publication of "New Hampshire."  Three more prizes were to follow in the 1930's and 40's.

In the 1920's and up to his death in 1963, there were two Robert Frosts.  One was the public Frost, the beloved poet, whose verses one could read with pleasure.  The other Frost was the private man who, at least one biographer believed, was egotistical and at times downright cruel.  He was jealous of other poets and one biographer contends believed he should have won the Nobel Prize.  His family life was often contentious.  He carefully cultivated the public man and concealed the private one.  Other biographers have disputed this characterization of Frost, but it is generally understood that he was not the simple, humble poet people believed he was.   He knew how to bargain for the most lucrative teaching contracts,  wanted recognition and amassed a considerable sum in money and property.

Frost's ambition and sharp financial dealing should in no way diminish his talent as a poet.   Some critics contend that he bridged the gap between the 19th and 20th centuries.  He was not experimental.  He was interested in the sound of sentences and did not completely avoid rhyme.  He was commited to "metre and the length of line" as the Poetry Foundation website indicates.  His poems may seem simple and homespun, but they are actually complex.  There are dark undercurrents in his poems: the ever present realization of death, the indifference, even the cruelty of nature and the universe, the unpredictability of the choices we make, the role blind Fate plays in our lives.   Frost stressed the importance of metaphor and the sound of words.  The beauty of his poetry is evident when it is spoken.  His poems are deceptive.  For example a poem such as "The Road Not Taken" may seem to suggest one thing, but upon careful reading, really means something else.  Frost used the New England landscape many times in his poems as a way to express complex ideas.  A good example of this is his poem  "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."  Discerning readers grasped the complexity of his poems, hence the four Pulizer Prizes.

Frost lived a full, long life, honored for many years and given many awards.   He served as the United States Poet Laureate from 1958-59 and recited a poem at John F. Kennedy's 1962 inauguration.  He died on January 29, 1963 and is buried, along with his family in his beloved Vermont.

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