I'm serving up my weekly slice of vanilla cake with loads of Robert Frost-ing. That was clever wasn't it? I thought so. Robert Frost, a world-renowned poet to this day, stood at the crossroads of nineteenth-century American poetry and Modernism. To put it in cake terms, his poetry was marble, not all chocolate and not all vanilla. His poetry had the best of both…flavors. Similar to the nineteenth-century Romantics of poetry, Frost states that a poem is “never a put-up job… it begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a loneliness. It is never a thought to begin with. It is at its best when it is a tantalizing vagueness.” A little melancholy of Frost, wouldn’t you say? His romantic heart needs some comfort food; cake perhaps? In the more modern sense, Frost “upheld T.S. Eliot’s idea that the man who suffers and the artist who creates are totally separate.”
Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets! He is a true New Englander at heart, and really includes regionalism and “sound of sense” into his many, many poems. One characteristic that I particularly like about Frost is that he steers clear of politics, religion, or mysticism in his poetry. Rather, he reflects on the realism, the beauty of nature and simplicity in the world. His poetry cake is not cluttered and masked by mounds of sprinkles and icing designs; it is delicious within itself. However, Frost’s poetry cakes are certainly layered. Some can even stretch to five or more tiers. To the reader (or taster) it’s like looking at the cake from the top. The idea is simple and there is one layer of cake to eat. But as the taster discovers and examines the different layers, it becomes a much more complicated and significant cake. I hope I’m not being too complicated in my cake metaphors. To put it simply, Frost bakes in hidden meanings within his poems. You may need to read a poem several times, but after a while, the tiers start to fall away and new meanings emerge. Stated in his own words, “Poetry provides the one permissible way of saying one thing and meaning another.” Genius!
One popular example of this method is Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” This poem can be interpreted in seemingly infinite ways. The literal interpretation of this poem is that one man actually stood in the middle of the woods at a fork in the road with two pathways. He pondered the idea of each path before choosing one. The poem can also be interpreted as a metaphor for life. Some man (or woman) found themselves at a crossroads/ an important decision in their life that would change the course of their life forever. Once they have made the decision, they would never be in that same exact place again. In cake terms, if someone decides to eat an entire cake on such and such date at such and such time, they will never make that decision again at that exact time. We are always moving forward, and we can never go back.
Frost made many of these important crossroad decisions and had many great accomplishments through his life. He published several compilations of poetry, won two Pulitzer Prizes, read one of his poems at the 1961 presidential inauguration of John F. Kennedy, had a mountain named after him in Ripton, Vermont and a library named after him in Amherst, Massachusetts. Frost once stated, “if poetry isn’t understanding all, the whole world, then it isn’t worth anything.”
A truly celebrated individual, Robert Frost is like the Cake Boss of poetry.