Today we explored the contrasting worlds of Robert Frost and Robert Lowell, two iconic poets of North America who have done so much to “Sing America” in the Twentieth Century. Robert Frost, inheritor of the transcendentalists and of the energy of Walt Whitman, powerfully expresses his deep love for the American landscape and of its power to open the human spirit. He also subtly depicts the pain and tragedy felt by humans as they attempt to navigate their lives. His poems “The Road Not Taken” and “Directive” are both the words of a man of wisdom who tries to encourage people to free themselves from the tyrannies of their own self-restrictions:
And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up closed to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. from “Directive”
Robert Lowell, on the other hand, is deeply, confessionally enmeshed in the tyrannies that control his whole life. And yet his profound exposition of these tyrannies, in his Confessional Poetry, is his way through to a deeper appreciation and gratitude for his given life:
I have a nine month’s daughter
young enough to be my granddaughter.
Like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infant’s wear. from “Memories of West Street and Lepke”.
If you want to hear the whole of my talk on these two poets then please click here:
Blog Topics for Week 7
1/ Write a paragraph that says succinctly which of the two Roberts you preferred and for what reasons.
2/ Take a line from either Lowell or Frost and build your own poem trying, where possible, to imitate the style of the poet chosen.
3/ Do you share Robert Frost’s belief that “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom…it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life.” “The Figure a Poem Makes” (250-251)? If possible try to explain in your own words what you understand by this statement. Can you give an example of poem you have read that does just this?
4/ Write a letter to either Robert Frost or Robert Lowell and tell them about one of their poems that has had a real impact on you.
5/ As with all weeks create your own topic building it from something you discovered in today’s classes and linking it where possible to your own experience.