This week we are exploring 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”.
The poems we will be looking at this week are all in our anthology and are all mentioned in the attached set of slides: