Too much time has passed and here I’ve neglected to post anything in a couple weeks. 2012 has caught me unprepared. I had some catching up to do regarding the work of Emily Dickinson and now I have to catch up on Frost and Stevens, then on to Faulkner.
So. Frost. Stevens. Go.
Life is transitory. We pass through it. We go and we go and as we go we see things and approach things made by human hands, artifacts of our existence and activity on earth, amid an entire world of longer-lasting things not made by human hands and we pass the artifacts we make and we may regard their presence but we keep going because we have to. What else can we do? Ultimately, monuments crumble. Mountains remain.
I mean all this is the most positive way. It’s not tragic. It is what it is. There’s beauty about it.
At least, that’s how I receive some of the poems of Robert Frost. Its how I receive the two Frost poems we’ve covered in lecture: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “The Wood-Pile.” Especially “The Wood-Pile,” which, coincidentally enough (and I’m often amused by coincidence) Frost wrote in February 1912, exactly one hundred years ago.
Stevens, I think, produces something similar in theme but is different in delivery than Frost. Reading Stevens is like watching scenes from a Terrence Malick film, the segments that are a quiet wandering through the pastoral and are thus loaded with sensory and emotional power not imposed by an immediately intelligible narrative form but inspired by surrendering to something larger than oneself, something that moves by its own rhythms.
Frost, on the other hand uses form and narrative in a more obvious sense, but masterfully, though he, too, is interested in rhythms of nature and time independent of human imposition. Frost’s power over narrative form in his poems plays, I feel, a large part in his ability to pose questions of such philosophical depth by such concise means. Frost’s power over a more recognizable form achieves at least an equal sensory and emotional response in the reader as Stevens’ oblique approach.
If Stevens’ poetry is like Malick’s film, than maybe Frost can be likened to early Spielberg (the good Spielberg) – commanding ostensibly recognizable form and, in doing so, demonstrating the ability therein to arouse the same depths of sensation by different means than his colleague.
One watches, the other tells.