ROBERT FROST: The Work of Knowing by Richard Poirier

ROBERT FROST: The Work of Knowing

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The name Robert Frost once called to mind only simple images of woods and home, aging couples and sweet nature, all easily comprehensible. But no more. Critics now find complexity in Frost, and Richard Pokier (English, Rutgers) has written the most substantial critical revision yet. Locating Frost's genius in his mastery of metaphor, sound, and the appearances of simplicity, Poirier analyzes his simple poetry as a performance--""I should like to be so subtle at this game,"" Poirier quotes him, ""as to seem to a casual person altogether obvious."" Properly read, Frost's poetry is thus ""a criticism of the life of writing itself,"" which discloses the possibilities of form and ""the sheer power of linguistic sound."" Pokier elaborates this interpretation through scrutiny Of Frost's poems, letters, essays, and relations to other writers, including philosophers such as Emerson and James. He shows us the self-styled simple poet fighting against literary modernism (with comparisons to modernists like Eliot, Joyce, and Stevens) and political liberalism (which proved sadly that Frost ""was blind to social systems"") while exploring language and the affinities of nature and human feeling, especially sexuality. Frost emerges from this close examination, as Poirier says, like an old friend whose foibles are well-known but whose distinctive powers have never truly been seen. But be warned: this is academic criticism which presupposes familiarity with modern critical theory and recent Frost scholarship, led by Lawrance Thompson's biography; it is not intended for Frost's simple admirers.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1977
ISBN: 0804717419
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press