Literary Love Letters: Robert Frost

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

One never forgets a first crush: shy smiles and shaky knees and a desperate yearning to be noticed. My first poetry crush would have to be Robert Frost. Now, judging from photos, you wouldn’t think that old Frost would have what it takes to make a girl weak in the knees. However, his naturally cadenced rhymes and visions of the natural world gave him a special place in my young poet’s heart. I received a book of Frost’s most famous poems illustrated with lush New England photographs as a birthday gift early in my high school years, though I probably first read “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” or “The Road Not Taken” earlier than that. My favorite Frost poem, the one that solidified his place in my poetry heart, is “Acquainted With The Night.”

 

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night. 

 

There are many reasons that it is my favorite. One is its form. Although it is terza rima, I didn’t know what terza rima meant when I was in high school. Because of the fourteen lines and the ending couplet, I read it as a busted up sonnet, although it doesn’t announce itself as such due to the stanza breaks at three lines instead of four. It was the first sonnet-like thing that I encountered other than Shakespeare, and the use of natural language within this formal structure was a revelation to me at the time.

It is also one of the first poems I read that gave me an understanding of tone – I think it is one of the loneliest poems I have ever read, especially the interrupted cry that is not for the speaker. I can still picture that solitary figure stopping to turn at a sound that just might be a tender voice calling out in that dark night. When I started writing in my twenties after a long hiatus, I initially turned to form. Frost was there as a mentor.  I also learned much about engaging the natural world in poems that are not just about nature. I am happy to say that I have long been acquainted with his work. So, it’s only right to address a little greatest-hits-laden love poem to Robert Frost during this National Poetry Month.

 

To My First Poetry Crush

You lured me down roads in a yellow wood,

stopped with me beside the same trees when

the evening was still with snow. You took me

apple-picking, bent my long hair forward over

my head to comb like the branches of birches.

Your sweet invitation to come along as you swept

the pasture – you come, too – still echoes

in my ears. We mourned the death of a hired

man, debated the merits of the trees, the rose.

But you also were acquainted with the night,

were not always gentle – your buzz saw leapt

and took the hand of a small boy, and every

spring you mended the fence to separate

your land from your neighbor’s. I should have

known that we were fire and ice – you told me

from the beginning that nothing gold could stay.

Donna Vorreyer is a Chicago-area writer who spends her days teaching middle school, trying to convince teenagers that words matter. Her work has appeared in many journals and her fifth chapbook, We Build Houses of Our Bodies, is forthcoming this year from Dancing Girl Press. Her first full-length poetry collection, A House of Many Windows, is now available from Sundress Publications. She also serves as a poetry editor for Mixed Fruit magazine. Visit her online here.

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