“I had a lover’s quarrel with the world. That’s me.”
Born in San Francisco in 1874, his father’s death from tuberculosis left the family with only eight dollars. Through the course of Frost’s life, he rarely would stay put. His publication list is enormous, having had started in his own High School’s magazine. He was enrolled in a college for two months, joined a fraternity there and then later transferred to Harvard University but never ended up getting a formal degree from anywhere. He worked odd jobs to make ends meet but always felt that poetry was his calling in life. The first poem Frost sold was for $15 when he was twenty years old.
A farm was purchased for Frost and his wife by his grandfather before he passed away. Nine years were spent tending to the farm, where Frost found much of his inspiration and would write in the early mornings.
The Frost family went on a trip to England and stayed in a small town outside of London. His first two books of poetry were published here. During WWI, they returned to the States and bought another farm. He furthered his career of writing, lecturing, teaching, and inspiring. He was known by his students to consider the small sounds and tonal ranges of the English language in their writing, referring to this approach as the “sound of sense.” He continued teaching for forty-two years and played a big part in developing schools and writing programs.
“It’s poetry and power all the way!”
There was a lot of death and loss in Frost’s personal life. There was always instability with his loved one’s health, which was a huge weight on his shoulders. During his childhood, his father struggled with alcoholism. His father died when he was eleven, and his mother died of cancer years later. Frost and his mother both experienced depression: the genetic component of mental illness (depression) is seen within his family tree. With both his parents dead, he was left with the burden of committing his younger sister to a mental hospital, where she also ended up dying in at the age of fifty-three after being institutionalized for nine years. Elinor and Robert Frost had six children together but only two outlived their father. One of his daughters died only three days old. Elliot was only eight when he died of cholera. His son Carol committed suicide when he was thirty-eight. One of his daughters was committed to a mental hospital, while another died giving birth. It must have been extremely painful for Frost and his wife to keep bringing life into the world only to have it snatched away. Many of these tragedies also shaped Frost’s perspectives. His success in literature comes from his success in philosophizing. He looked at things with seriousness and honesty while also staying down to earth. He used poetry as a way to figure out the world, while also questioning it. Understanding the chaotic world around him through composing structured, ordered, controlled verses allowed Frost to face everything head on.
Whenever he was feeling overwhelmed with the world, he would find solace in the woods: scenes which inspired numerous poems. He was considered an outsider in his small town of Ripton, although he was included in poetry readings. No one had ever really heard of this town until Frost’s own celebrity status, and lush descriptions of its beauty put it on the map. People who also hailed from his state of Vermont were proud of the natural magic of their home being shared. His poetry is more expansive than just appreciating nature. He is a lone traveler reflecting on life itself.
“You’ll never know what I’ll do next”
He lived his elderly years in the public eye. Soft features softened even further by wrinkles and laugh lines, mystical white hair, and a shaky yet strong voice: Robert Frost is someone hard to forget. He participated in Kennedy’s presidential inauguration when he was eighty-six. President JFK even honored him in a speech after he won the United States Congressional Gold Medal in 1960. He received over forty honorary degrees from all over, including Harvard, Princeton, Oxford, and Cambridge universities. Two schools and a library were named in Frost’s honor. Even in the spotlight he kept things to himself and remained humble. Frost spoke openly and jokingly of his jealous admiration of many other artists. He strove to inspire. You’ve probably read Frost before somewhere too, perhaps in school. His poems are part of English curriculums all over. They have secured their place in history.
“Most of my ideas occur in verse…”
Author: Shannon King
Shannon King is an English and Art/Art-History major halfway through a bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto (Missisauga). Holding both American and Canadian passports, she considers the general area of North-America as home after moving countless times. A lover of both the abstract and analytical, always searching for answers in both other’s and her own written work. Photography, pastels, graphite, digital media, and the written word are just some forms of media she enjoys (so far). https://shannonkingexists.wixsite.com/shannonking