cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Poetry”

A Frosty Choice


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

And I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Ah, Frost’s famous lines that celebrate and embrace individualism. The encouragement to go against the grain, to strive beyond mediocrity, to go where few have bothered to travel. It’s the stuff of graduation speeches, self-help tomes, greeting cards, posters, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and it even helps to sell cars.
According to David Orr in his literary/biography/analysis, The Road Not Taken, we have got it all wrong. The subtitle clues us in: Finding America in the Poem Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong. 

Surprise Reading*

In Orr’s introduction he asserts and emphasizes that the roads are equally traveled, that the two roads are interchangeable. The speaker admits the other road “just as fair” and “the passing there/Had worn them really about the same…” The speaker further notes: “And both that morning equally lay/In leaves no step had trodden black.”

To me it’s all saying: “Hey, which way should I go? I have no idea. They look both the same.”

David Orr would tell us this is perhaps right, then again maybe not. After all, poetry is a matter of perspective. He states that the poem “is a literary oddity and a philosophical puzzle, but more than anything else it’s a way of framing the paradoxical and massively influential culture in which it both begins and ends.”

Maybe Orr is the only one who does get it right because after reading his illuminating, worthwhile, and fascinating treatise on Frost’s poem, I still think it’s all about making choices and living out the decisions we’ve made–no regrets.

Then again, Frost might be having the last laugh. Apparently the poem is his gentle poke at how his good friend, Edward Thomas, a British poet, had considerable difficulties selecting which way to go when he and Frost would ramble around the English countryside together. Thomas would lament how the other direction had just as many lovely sights to see. In other words, they were both good choices, yet Thomas always felt a bit of regret for not having gone the other way. It seems Frost’s poem gently chides his friend to be happy with the choice made, to be satisfied.

Frost’s poem is perhaps not so much a celebration of marching boldly through the tangled bracken of life, tripping over logs of distraction and despair, rather it’s a quiet reflection of accepting the road that is taken, and not lamenting over the one that was not taken.

Overall, for such a slim volume (weighing in less than 200 pages), it is filled with solid bits of reflective insights:

  • Frost originally titled the poem “Two Roads”–that changes things, a bit.
  • He specifically used roads, not paths and emphatically noted the difference upon hearing someone begin a recitation replacing “paths” for “roads.”
  • This is very much an American poem, written by an American poet extolling the ponderation of choice, something Americans have historically and culturally embraced, yet the poem is based upon a time when Frost resided in England.
  • Frost admitted that he did not always consciously make  decisions: “I never know what is going to happen next because I don’t dare to let myself formulate a foolish hope.”
  • I learned about “confabulation”–the concept about artful lying (my interpretation).
  • The big question Orr asks is this: if we don’t know why we made the decision, is the choice made a meaningful one?
  • Frost liked being a bit of a mystery to his public and biographers, which is reflected in his poetry.
  • The poem might also have its foundation upon an actual incident where Frost was walking upon a road and met a man coming in the other diection. Frost felt this man to be his mirror image and should they converge and intersect he would grow stronger in his last part of his journey home.
  • The poem, its twenty or so lines, is considered one of the most popular pieces of literature written by an American–Google search stats tells us so.

It’s said that while William Wordsworth desired his poetry to be of a man speaking to men, wanting to speak lyrically from experience, from the heart, Robert Frost, asserts Orr, wanted to speak with men. Frost included the reader in his metered musings by having a conversation with us. I think Frost wanted to assert a warmth in poems by including us into his writing, which he achieved with his casual conversational tone and second person pronoun usage. His writings remain popular because they are so relatable. He includes us, wanting us to share in his experience.

If allowed, I would like to celebrate and propose this thought: combine two of Fost’s popular poems. Take  the individualism “The Road Not Taken” inspires and the idea of sharing the decision of choice with the reader, and add in the joy of  discovery found in “The Pasture,” so that the universality of realizing we are all on a journey together is made more readily apparent.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

And I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference–you come, too.

 

*BtW: am I the only one who realizes YouTube videos can’t be uploaded unless I upgrade my plan?  Huh? When did that happen?

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POM: April 28


One of the lovelier aspects of spring returning is the flurry, fluttery returning of birds. I especially like the robins cheerup salutes of this season as they parade on the lawn feasting on worms. No robin poems of notice yet, so this dandy tribute to blue birds will suffice:

Advice to a Blue Bird
by Maxwell Bodenheim
Who can make a delicate adventure
Of walking on the ground?
Who can make grass-blades
Arcades for pertly careless straying?
You alone, who skim against these leaves,
Turning all desire into light whips
Moulded by your deep blue wing-tips,
You who shrill your unconcern
Into the sternly antique sky.
You to whom all things
Hold an equal kiss of touch.

Mincing, wanton blue-bird,
Grimace at the hoofs of passing men.
You alone can lose yourself
Within a sky, and rob it of its blue!

POM: April 25


John Donne, Metaphysical poet, definitely challenges our perception of death with his “Death Be Not Proud.”  Death is not seen as a bully, a villain,  nor even anything to actually fear. Donne portrays death as a coward, in that it cannot act upon its own accord, needing an agent to perform. He presents death as merely a comma, a breath into the next life. This Holy Sonnet is a stunning portrait of his faith.

Another portrait, one more contemporary is by Dean Rader. He presents our transition as a reuniting. How welcome is an embrace, the meeting of child and parent after a long journey apart? Beautiful.

Alternate Self-Portrait 

by Dean Rader

One day

I will drift

into darkness

and know it

perhaps

the way a son

recognizes a mother

after he has returned

from many years

of travel

understanding

the new distance

is neither

beginning nor

end

only stillness

 

Copyright © 2015 by Dean Rader. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

POM: April 21


Just what are the uses for poetry? I was hoping a sage, classic poet master like William Carlos Williams has the answer. After reading his poem I have more questions than answers.

 

The Uses of Poetry

William Carlos Williams, 18831963

I’ve fond anticipation of a day
O’erfilled with pure diversion presently,
For I must read a lady poesy
The while we glide by many a leafy bay,

Hid deep in rushes, where at random play
The glossy black winged May-flies, or whence flee
Hush-throated nestlings in alarm,
Whom we have idly frighted with our boat’s long sway.

For, lest o’ersaddened by such woes as spring
To rural peace from our meek onward trend,
What else more fit? We’ll draw the latch-string

And close the door of sense; then satiate wend,
On poesy’s transforming giant wing,
To worlds afar whose fruits all anguish mend.

Definitely a spot for posey Mayflies

image: morguefile/mzacha

POM: April 19


Walt Whitman. I now associate him with Robin Williams’ Dead Poets Society when he is coaxing Ethan Hawks’ character to create a poem about “Uncle Walt.” A “sweaty-toothed madman” is the description that rolled out. Walt Whitman is a bit of a madman. He wrote and rewrote Leaves of Grass throughout his career–sadly his new approach to poetry wasn’t readily embraced which is reflected in this poem.

I can relate to Walt and his statement about being open-minded to new ways of thinking. While his writing was not fully embraced in his time, Whitman is now considered one of America’s greatest poets.

 

morguefile image

Shut Not Your Doors to Me Proud Libraries

by Walt Whitman

 

Shut not your doors to me, proud libraries,
For that which was lacking among you all, yet needed most, I bring;
A book I have made for your dear sake, O soldiers,
And for you, O soul of man, and you, love of comrades;
The words of my book nothing, the life of it everything;
A book separate, not link’d with the rest, nor felt by the intellect;
But you will feel every word, O Libertad! arm’d Libertad!
It shall pass by the intellect to swim the sea, the air,
With joy with you, O soul of man.

POM: April 13


There are natural and learned talents I secretly long to master. Juggling–well, I’m still working on that one. Playing the harmonica–got my harp and my CD ready to go (for the last six years), and hand shadows. Nothing much needed beyond a light and the flexing of one’s hands.

Today’s poem by Mary Cornish harkens to the magic and craft of hand shadows. And it goes well with one of my favorite vids.

POM: April 9


Why does the night so frighten children? I’m still not so keen about night–sometimes it seems so long until the darkness fades into the warmth of day. I found this poem and it absolutely captures the discomfort sometimes felt during those long nights of childhood fears.

 

Kyrie

At times my life suddenly opens its eyes in the dark.
A feeling of masses of people pushing blindly
through the streets, excitedly, toward some miracle,
while I remain here and no one sees me.

It is like the child who falls asleep in terror
listening to the heavy thumps of his heart.
For a long, long time till morning puts his light in the locks
and the doors of darkness open.

—Tomas Tranströmer

 

POM: April 8


dandelions

I wish I could grow like a dandelion,
from gold to thin white hair,
and be carried on a breeze
to the next yard.

—Julie Lechevsky

POM: April 7


Mentors. They are sometimes early in our life. Sometimes they arrive too late. A cautionary tale offered by Timothy Murphy.

 

Mentor

For Robert Francis

Had I known, only known
when I lived so near,
I'd have gone, gladly gone
foregoing my fear
of the wholly grown
and the nearly great.
But I learned alone,
so I learned too late.

—Timothy Murphy

 

POM: April 6


Jellyfish freak me out. This stems from a series of childhood encounters with them. One instance involved being dumped into a flock of the gelatinous goo by my dad. These were the teeny non-stinging transparent types, so no harm to me except I cringe whenever I see them now. The jellyfish scene in Bond required deep breathing. 

It’s said we overcome our fears by facing them. This poem helps. I still don’t like jellyfish. I see them in a bit friendlier way now.

A Jelly-Fish

 by Marianne Moore

Visible, invisible,

A fluctuating charm,

An amber-colored amethyst

Inhabits it; your arm

Approaches, and

It opens and

It closes;

You have meant

To catch it,

And it shrivels;

You abandon

Your intent—

It opens, and it

Closes and you

Reach for it—

The blue

Surrounding it

Grows cloudy, and

It floats away

From you.

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