Tag Archives: Robert Frost

Politics and Poetry: Ezra Pound

In the last year, I’ve been giving a series of lectures titled Politics and Poetry for The Socialist Party USA. This is an excerpt from the Slam Poetry section of that lecture.


So we’re going to do things a little backwards for this one and look at the poet’s works first before jumping into his biography. This poem penned in 1926 is one Ezra Pound’s most famous poems, in part because of how short it is:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Pound was an American poet, born in 1885 and lived through both world wars and well into the cold war and the conflicts that prevailed during the time (and subsequently died in 1972). This next poem of his is titled “The Coming of War: Actaeon” written in 1917.

An image of Lethe,
and the fields
Full of faint light
but golden,
Gray cliffs,
and beneath them
A sea
Harsher than granite,
unstill, never ceasing;

High forms
with the movement of gods,
Perilous aspect;
And one said:
“This is Actæon.”
Actaeon of golden greaves!

Over fair meadows,
Over the cool face of that field,
Unstill, ever moving,
Host of an ancient people,
The silent cortège.

Ezra Pound is credited as being one of the creators of the Modernist poetry movement with his focus on imagery. He translated Chinese and Japanese poetry and in both his translated works and original works he pushed for clarity, precision, and economy of language. He founded not only several American literary magazines, but he is credited for discovering and shaping poets such as T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost, and Ernest Hemingway.

Image of young Ezra Pound
Via Wikimedia.org

Then came Word War I.

Story Shots: Choice

SS_Circle

Choosing is never an easy task. For this month’s Story Shots, our short nonfiction series, we asked our writers to think about choice.

Here’s the thing about choices: they’re never easy. If a choice was easy, it wouldn’t really be a choice, would it? Robert Frost plays with the idea of choice in his poem, The Road Not Taken.

Choice isn’t picking the better option, for all options in a choice have equal value to the chooser at the time the decision is being made. Choice is a struggle. Choice is regret. Choice is convincing yourself that you didn’t make a mistake or accepting that you have. Choice is about telling yourself, after you have chosen, that there really wasn’t an option to begin with. Choice is a fork in the road where both roads ahead have equal wear, but as time passes we convince ourselves and others that one road was more unique or special or different than it really was.

Here are the stories our writers told about their choices.


A spectacular demonstration of comedy and codependency:
“Are you sure?” Him.
“Yes.” Me.
“But you hate Taco Del Sol.” Him.
“No, I don’t.” Me.
Him.
Me.
Him.
Me.

A close call with war buddies and lovers:
My personal crisis.
His personal crisis.
A breakup.
A reunion.
A lost election.
A death.
A won election.
Two years of long distance.
An experiment.
The same choice every day.

A looming, breathing thing:
Friends, parading through weddings and babies and china cabinets and Easter egg hunts.
Him, brilliant and sweet and coveting the American dream.
Me, happy and alone in my tiny apartment.
Us.
Us.

– Missy Lacock


Next episode playing in 15 seconds

I should stop. Netflix, you fiend, you temptress. I have three papers due this week. Three!

But I’m a good student. I deserve a break, don’t I? I work and go to school for over nine hours a day. I have graduate applications I work on when I get home. For the month of October, two of my Saturdays were dedicated to graduate testing. The rest of my Saturdays were spent studying, along with my Sundays.

On the other hand, I have to keep working. I can’t let my grades slack or I might not get into a good graduate program. I have to work hard. I don’t have a choice.

Next episode playing in 10 seconds.

Let It Frost

I live in Southern California, so I don’t really get to see snow very often. But I can read a lot of Frost, as in Robert Frost, and so can you. Here are a few of my favorite Frost poems to read by the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate. Also, here’s a gif of a fireplace. You’re welcome.

Don’t forget some marshmallows!

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.


A Winter Eden

A winter Eden in an alder swamp
Where conies now come out to sun and romp,
As near a paradise as it can be
And not melt snow or start a dormant tree.

It lifts existence on a plane of snow
One level higher than the earth below,
One level nearer heaven overhead
And last year’s berries shining scarlet red.

It lifts a gaunt luxuriating beast
Where he can stretch and hold his highest feast
On some wild apple tree’s young tender bark,
What well may prove the years’ high girdle mark.

Pairing in all known paradises ends:
Here loveless birds now flock as winter friends,
Content with bud inspecting. They presume
To say which buds are leaf and which are bloom.

A feather hammer gives a double knock.
This Eden day is done at two o’clock.
An hour of winter day might seem too short
To make it worth life’s while to wake and sport.


Carpe Diem

Melanie and I are swamped. We’re both ambitious people with gargantuan future goals. Right now we’re busy living each day to its fullest, and by that, I mean using every spare moment of our time to work on grad school stuff. While Melanie is in her home stretch and finishing her publishing coursework, I’m finishing up my undergraduate degree and applying to literature doctoral programs.

In the spirit of seizing the day and making the most of one’s time, I wish to share with you some of my favorite carpe diem poems, or poems about making the most of time.

Here’s a quote from every poet’s favorite movie to set the tone for these carpe diem poems.

First Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

Be Drunk by Charles Baudelaire

You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

Dreams by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene III by William Shakespeare

The Clown, singing:
O Mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear! your true-love’s coming
That can sing both high and low;
Trip no further, pretty sweeting,
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting—
Every wise man’s son doth know.

What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty,—
Then come kiss me, Sweet-and-twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

Sonnet Sunday: A Dream Pang

I think most people are familiar with a few sonnets, at least, people have heard that Shakespeare wrote sonnets. But a lot of other famous writers wrote sonnets too. Robert Frost, beloved American poet, also wrote sonnets. Today I want to do a close-reading of his sonnet A Dream Pang.

Robert Frost
(Image Source: Wikipedia.Org)

A Dream Pang
By Robert Frost

I had withdrawn in forest, and my song
Was swallowed up in leaves that blew alway,
And to the forest edge you came one day
(This was my dream) and looked and pondered long,
But did not enter, though the wish was strong:
You shook your pensive head as who should say,
‘I dare not–too far in his footsteps stray–
He must seek me would he undo the wrong.’
Not far, but near, I stood and saw it all
Behind low boughs the trees let down outside;
And the sweet pang it cost me not to call
And tell you that I saw does still abide,
But ’tis not true that thus I dwelt aloof,
For the wood wakes, and you are here for proof.

First I think I should explain some sonnet conventions, and then go into depth about what conventions this sonnet fits within and what conventions it breaks.

Sonnets generally come in two varieties (before Spenserian Sonnet) – the Italian, or Petrarchan Sonnet and the Elizabethan, or Shakespearean Sonnet. Both sonnet forms share common features, such as having 14 lines, using iambic pentameter, having a turn or confirmation in sentiment (known as a volta), and generally being about romantic feelings for the subject of the poem (often unrequited). The main difference between these two forms are the rhyme scheme as well as the placement of the volta. For a Petrarchan Sonnet, the volta comes after the first eight lines known as the octave and is known as the sestet, or last six lines, and for a Shakespearean Sonnet, the volta comes in the last two lines.

In Defense of Love Poems

People who know me might be confused by this post. I don’t come off as one overly sentimental, especially when it comes to love or love poems. But I think love is part of the human experience, and thus, like anything that makes us human, is ripe to be explored in poetry and art.

While I agree with Melanie that it is annoying for all people to assume when one says “I write poetry,” that it is mushy-love based flowery poetry, I still think love poetry is a valid and wonderful form of poetry. There are many kinds of love, and many ways of expressing that love through poetry.

Familial love is often celebrated in poems, such as W.B. Yeats’s poem A Prayer for my Daughter written about the birth of his daughter and his hopes for her in the future, or Dylan Thomas’s poem Do not go gentle into that good night written to his father to encourage his dad to fight against his death. Langston Hughes also wrote a poem titled Mother to Son, about a mother summing up her fight for equality and passing the fight and her fire onto her boy.

Brotherly love, or bromance (which is actually a word now, so I don’t feel bad using it), is another theme often explored in poetry. Shakespeare did it in the first 126 sonnets of his 154 sonnet sequence (although, these poems can also be read as being about more than platonic love but there are many subtle things, such as Shakespeare encouraging the youth he admires to procreate and marry so that Shakespeare and the world can admire his offspring, that point to a more platonic reading for me). The best example of brotherly love from Shakespeare’s sequence comes in the form of Sonnet 30, a sonnet that explores how Shakespeare would mourn for his friend in his friend’s death. Robert Frost wrote A Time to Talk about the values of slowing life down to appreciate a chat with friends. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also wrote a poem The Arrow and the Song about how our actions, both physical in the way of an arrow and spiritual in the way of a song, take root in the world around us and are often carried by those we are close to when we feel that these things are lost.

Literary Paraphernalia: 10 Poetry-Inspired Pieces of Etsy Gear

Happy National Poetry Month! To get you in the mood to celebrate this wonderful time of the year, we thought we’d share some Etsy gear inspired by some of our favorite poets.

Emily Dickinson tank top – $20.
(Credit: Etsy.com)

Don’t be a nobody—or do. I think she preferred it if you are a nobody, actually. But be a nobody in an awesome Emily Dickinson tank top.

T.S. Eliot inspired necklace – $45.
(Credit: Etsy.com)

Let us go then, you and I, and buy this kind of super awesome necklace inspired by The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.

Sylvia Plath flats – $85.
(Credit: Etsy.com)

Be all a-flicker with these Poppies in July inspired shoes. Just be sure to do no harm while wearing them.

Books for the Big Freeze

I heard a rumor that there is (was?) a big freeze going on across the country. Living in Long Beach, California, just three blocks from the beach, I headed out to check it out for myself…seventy degrees and beautiful!

I’m a jerk. Anyway, my family is from upstate New York, and I was there for ten days during the holidays. I managed to come home about four days before this “big freeze” began. My parents and brother were still there, so they were able to experience the negative twenties and many inches of snow. I’ve also received many a Snapchat from friends across the country showing me the view of the winter wonderland wherever they may be. As a book lover, I know how nice it is to snuggle up in bed with a good book and a cup of something hot and delicious to drink. I look forward to rainy California days for this very reason. Sometimes it’s hard to know which book to read, so here is a list of books to get you through this big freeze:

1. The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates

 

(Credit: IndieBound)
(Credit: IndieBound)

 

This is another eerie story from Oates. It includes the Devil, Woodrow Wilson, and Mark Twain. A bride goes missing at the altar, and in a world with shape-shifters, vampires, and ghosts, the groom sets out to find her. It has 688 pages, so it will keep you in bed for a few days!

3 Reasons Why Literary People will Enjoy Netflix’s Orange is the New Black

orange_custom-s3-c85If you haven’t yet gotten around to watching the new Netflix Original Series by Jenji Kohan, Orange is the New Black, you should. Personally, I consumed all thirteen episodes in a matter of days, but resist if you can. You’ll want the show to last as long as possible.

1. What some may not know about the series is that it’s based on the real book Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. Although the book has been knocked for failing to develop the other female characters as well as the main character, Piper, I still plan on giving it a read–only if to compare it to the TV series. What I enjoyed the most about this series is the writing. Unlike its book counterpart, Kohan’s show actually does a good job at developing the characters of many of the other female inmates in prison with Piper. I say actually, because Weeds (also created by Jenji Kohan) was also decent before Season 4, when it got a little bit too far-fetched.

2. The show has several awesome literary references (which can be seen below).

Like when Piper threatens to make a teenage girl in a wheelchair her bitch using Pablo Neruda’s poem “Everyday you play.” Oh, but don’t worry, it was for charity:

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Or, when Taystee quotes from The Help:

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Questioning a Quote: Do We Adhere to Quotes too Easily?

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.

– Robert Frost

While searching for inspiration to write a short story about a year ago, I stumbled upon this Robert Frost quote. Frost (1874-1963) is most well known for writing the poem “The Road Not Taken,” which is one of the most well known, most commonly taught in schools, most often quoted, and most wonderfully and widely interpreted poems ever written.  (It is also quite popular as a tattoo!)

Robert Frost
Robert Frost

Because Frost wrote a poem so well known, there is the almost inevitable mistake of trusting that what Frost is quoted as saying is an absolute statement of genius, and, from time to time, I am one of those people that succumbs. Because I admire Frost, I did not question the logic of his quote, and sloppily wrote the quote on a post-it note to go with the other motivational quotes on post-it notes above my writing desk.

Looking back on my years of writing, I have written countless short stories that have produced no emotion from within me, and the lack of emotion was visible when friends read those stories, too. For years I was struggling to reproduce the emotional response I gained from a short story I wrote when I was nineteen in a creative writing class. The story was written six months after I had major surgery, and it was about the days I spent in the hospital under drugs, in horrendous pain, and in a physical state that most people will be lucky enough to never experience in their lives. Because it was so fresh in my mind, the emotions came pouring out of me; I cried as I wrote the story. When I finished it, I panicked that it was too personal, so I rewrote and presented it as a fictional piece. I’d gotten sick and lost my voice on the day I was supposed to present it, so I asked a friend to read it to the class. I nearly cried (I blamed my cold for my sniffling). In the workshop, people commented on the emotions they felt from hearing the story in its earliest draft. It has been four years, but I can still remember the emotions contained within the four walls of the classroom on that February day. Knowing that my own words written on a page can produce such strong emotions makes me want to write all the more.