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25 Essential Poems

From the Illustrated Poets Collection series, volume 2

by Robert Frost ; edited by Ryan G. Van Cleave

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-63819-106-3
Publisher: Bushel & Peck Books

Collage illustrations and sidebars accompany 25 of Frost’s most accessible poems.

Organized in three groups, the selections reflect Frost’s keenly observed walkabouts and rueful interrogations of youth and age. A convivial series introduction invites readers’ enjoyment: “There is NO wrong way to experience a poem.” Each sidebar contains three sections. “Engage” poses questions to help readers ponder poetic form and themes. “Imagine” suggests an activity for creative expression, and “Define” explains potentially unfamiliar words (bolded in each poem). The collaged mashups, composed of stock and public domain images, affix birds, flowers, and figures onto rich-hued but often banal landscapes that alternately evoke 19th-century European paintings and retrograde greeting cards. In all but one image, people appear to be light-skinned. Even where Frost specifically names species or describes scenes, generic, often misleading pastiches predominate—a sorely missed opportunity to extend and add visual nuance to the poems. “Hyla Brook” describes a dry June waterway “gone groping underground” with the Hyla frogs—a “brook to none but who remember long.” An image of a frothing, blue-and-white stream contradicts the poem’s subtle meaning. Notwithstanding the editorial openhandedness, an appended commentary provides didactic synopses and final suggestions for understanding each poem. A popular misconception of “The Road Not Taken” is thankfully corrected here, but for “Birches,” Frost’s meticulous imagery of a boy, a “swinger of birches,” is interpreted as “children on swings” in a complete misreading of the poem.

Could have been wonderful; isn’t.

(biographical facts, bibliography) (Poetry. 8-11)