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Robert Frost: A Life

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Jay Parini

Robert Frost, the farmer-poet of New England, actually spent his formative early years in San Francisco. His mother moved the family east after the death of her husband--a hard-living journalist from whom Robert took his willful perversity. He attended … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Jay Parini
Publisher: Picador
1 review about Robert Frost: A Life

Robert Frost: A Man and his Poems

  • Sep 29, 2010
One of my first memories of Robert Frost is watching him attempting to read a poem he had written for John F. Kennedy's Presidential Inauguration. Struggling with the bright sunlight reflecting off the fresh snow on that crisp winter's day, he abandoned his effort to recite an older poem from memory.

I remember thinking the image of this short, stocky white-haired old man was as close to a wood nymph as I would ever come. Later, I was to learn that Frost lead anything but a simple life. Biographer drawing on this image, often sensationalized the details of his life at the expense of the precious poetry he created.

Jay Parini, the Axinn Professor of English at Middlebury College, does not travel that path. Rather, he provides his readers with insight into how Frost lived day-to-day, poem to poem. He animates Frost's daily struggles with depression, anxiety, self-doubt and confusion. The poet's family life was not happy; he experienced bad luck with his children. Yet, he exhibited tremendous force of will, love for his children and dedication to creating a lasting body of creative work.

Unlike Frost previous biographers, Parini skillfully weaves the details of the poet's life with poetry he created. Frost's desire to "lodge a few poems where they can't be gotten rid of easily" is woven into a picture of an artist attempting to rescue his sanity by creating what he called a "momentary stay against confusion."

For me, reading Frost's poetry is a labor of love; reading Parini's biography is like reliving a best friend's life. This biographical study offers an unusual glimpse into the life, poetry and times of Robert Frost, a man who ranks as one of the world's greatest poets.

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