Letters illuminate the life of an iconic American poet.
As Sheehy (English/Edinboro Univ.), Richardson (English/Doshisha Univ.) and Faggen (Literature/Claremont McKenna Coll.) note, in the 1980s, Robert Frost (1874–1963) received a blow to his reputation from a castigating biography by Lawrance Thompson. The publication of Frost’s letters, which follows collections of his prose (2007) and notebooks (2006), contributes to a reassessment of the poet’s stature and significance. The collection begins with 12-year-old Frost’s endearing note to a “childhood sweetheart” and ends with the poet at 46, his prestige established by acclaim from such critics as Ezra Pound and William Butler Yeats, whom Frost met in England in 1913. He liked Yeats: “[H]is manner is like that of a man in some dream he cant [sic] shake off.” Pound, though, tried to bully him. “The fact that he discovered me gives him the right to see that I live up to his good opinion of me,” Frost remarked. The best among these hundreds of letters reveal candid self-reflections. Feeling like a “fugitive,” he retreated to farming “to save myself and fix myself before I measured my strength against all creation.” He brought to his writing “an almost technical interest” in the cadences and rhythms of people’s speech. If he was not gregarious, still his friendships were deep: When poet Edward Thomas was killed in battle in 1917, Frost was disconsolate. Thomas, he told British writer Edward Garnett, “was the only brother I ever had.” Frost shows himself to be playful, sly, caring and supremely serious about his art in his letters to poets Amy Lowell, Louis Untermeyer, Edward Arlington Robinson and Harriet Monroe; publishers Alfred Knopf and Henry Holt; former students; his daughter; and many friends.
Judiciously annotated with a biographical glossary of correspondents and an indispensable chronology, this volume may well inspire a Frost renaissance.