Key West

“It (Key West) is an island about ten times as big as your farm, and fairly dense with population, equal parts Negro, Cuban, and American…”  ~Robert Frost, in The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer, ©1963

This is from a letter written in 1935, a time when those words would not have been at all jarring.   It would be unfair to judge him by today’s standards.

But I do I think it’s important to remember that it wasn’t that long ago that the word “American” had a silent implication that the word referred only to white people, not people of color.


Free Verse

“The writing of free verse is equivalent to playing tennis with the net down.”  ~Robert Frost, in The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer, ©1963

I disagree with him on this one- but I’m not surprised that that’s what he thought.

Robert Frost and The Beats

This is an excerpt from a letter Robert Frost wrote in 1917.  Doesn’t he sound like one of The Beats?

“But that’s all behind me since I discovered that do or say my damnedest I can’t be other than orthodox in politics love and religion:  I can’t escape salvation:  I can’t burn if I was born into this world to shine without heat.  And I try not to think of it as often as I can lest in the general deliquescence I should find myself a party to the literature of irresponsible, boy-again, freedom.  No, I can promise you that whatever else I write or may have been writing for the last twenty-five years to disprove Amy’s theory that I never got anything except out of the soil of New England, there’s one thing I shan’t write in the past, present, or future, and that is glad mad stuff or mad glad stuff.  The conviction closes in on me that  I was cast for gloom as the sparks fly upward, I was about to say:  I am of deep shadow all compact like onion within onion and the savor of me is oil of tears.  I have heard laughter by daylight when I thought it was my own because at that moment when it broke I had parted my lips to take food.  Just so I have been afraid of myself and caught at my throat when I thought I was making some terrible din of a mill whistle that happened to come on at the same instant with the opening of my mouth to yawn.  But I have not laughed.  No man can tell you the sound or the way of my laughter.  I have neighed at the night in the woods behind the house like vampires.  But there are no vampires, there are no ghouls, there are no demons, there is nothing but me.”  ~Robert Frost, in The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer, ©1963

“I thought you and me was going to be rebels together.  And being rebels doesn’t mean being radical; it means being reckless…  It means busting something just when everybody begins to think it’s so sacred it’s safe.”  ~Robert Frost, in The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer, ©1963

“Remember this if you are still in the water:  There is no help in a wave when you are coming back to shore tired out.  It will be going your way.  For a moment you will be lifted up with hope on the crest of it.  But it carries nothing with it.  It will go forward itself, but leave you to the mercy of the current.  It is a hateful delusion when you are desperate for solid ground beneath your feet.”  ~Robert Frost, in The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer, ©1963

“The realist always falls in love with a girl he has grown up and gone to school with, the romanticist with a new girl from ‘off somewhere.’  That’s not to say that they don’t both fall in love with the respective girls for what they don’t know about them.  Mystery draws both on; only in the case of the romantic it is a more obvious mystery- a less mysterious mystery.”  ~Robert Frost, in The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer, ©1963

“Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those who think they talk sense.”  ~Robert Frost

I’m reading a fantastic little book with the rather dry title The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer.  I picked it up for a few dollars at an estate sale.  I have to hold myself back- nearly every page has a line that I want to share.

It’s long out of print, but there are a lot of cheap used copies still floating around.  Amazon has a few for under $3.