Wednesday, December 3, 2008

...A momentary stay against confusion: a few thoughts by and about Robert Frost

I have been reading and re-reading Robert Frost recently, from Jay Parini's excellent biography to the chestnut lyrics upon which his reputation rests to the dramatic poems that reveal penetrating insight into human nature, relationships, and existence. I have also been enjoying his idiosyncratic prose--letters and essays and lectures--all of which display the independence of thought and the fierce intelligence, the droll wit, and an uncanny gift for diction & metaphor. Below are a few examples from that prose, as found in the highly recommended Library of America edition of the Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays.

(On the poetry of Amy Lowell):

...permanence in poetry as in love is perceived instantly...
the proof of a poem is not that we have never forgotten it,
but that we know at sight that we could never forget it.

(Advice to writers & readers,
also worthy of the attention of actors, singers, performers, et al):

It is all right to repeat, if there is something for the voice to do.
The vital the ACTION of the voice...
Get the stuff of life into the technique of your writing [singing/playing/acting]

(More advice, to the same audience(s)...):

A poem begins with a a lump in the throat...
It is a reaching-out toward expression;
an effort to find fulfillment...A complete poem is one where
an emotion has found its thought
and the thought has found the words.

(Ostensibly on belief in/about the creative process,
but also an illustration of the distinction
between "true" art and "mere" entertainment...)

Every time a poem is written...
it is written not by cunning, but by belief...
The beauty, the more felt than known...
No one who has ever come close to the arts
has failed to see the difference between things written
that way with cunning and device,
and the kind that are believed into existence.

No comments: