I'm working on several articles for Suite101.com, including one on a book I checked out from the Bentonville library, The Notebooks of Robert Frost. I waited for this book to come in, then was somewhat disappointed in it when I finally got it. I guess I expected to see drafts of all of Frost's famous poems and observe how he went about his compositions. Or maybe I expected copious notes of his poetic philosophy, or preparation for his many lectures.
The book has little of that. I'm going to write a review of it for Suite101.com, so I can't put all of what I want to say here. But I did find an interesting segment with some quotes on poetry. Quotations allegedly from Frost about "Poetry is..." are rampant, such as "Poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom." Maybe he said this, maybe he didn't. I never see those with source citations. But this book documents some things Frost wrote about poetry. In his Notebook 38, he wrote the following under the heading "Poetry":
- Poetry is prowess
- Poetry is the renewal of words
- Poetry is the dawning of an idea
- Poetry is that which tends to evaporate from both prose and verse when translated.
- Poetry is the Liberal Arts. The Liberal Arts are Poetry.
- A poem is a momentary stay against confusion
- Poet is a master of sentiment
Now, I have not yet studied these sayings of Frost. Perhaps he wrote them together in notebook 38 as a list of lectures given or that he thought he might give someday. I see that he repeated a couple of these in notebook 26.
The notebooks are hard reading, and I can see I would need to own a copy to really get much out of them, for in the little time I have the book for (actually, it's already three days overdue), and as difficult as it is to read for long sittings, I'm not getting all that much out of it. But he has some gems in it that are worth thinking and remembering. In the same notebook 38, after his list of what poetry is, he has this statement, evidently intended to be another statement of what poetry is:
- Difference between smoke and smoke rings.