Sunday, February 3, 2013

365 Poems: Of Carter and Frost

Day 34

This is a post that starts out being about Jared Carter and Robert Frost, and ends up being about a poem I didn't couldn't write.


Last week I wrote a little about my favorite Indiana poet, Jared Carter. I mentioned his book, Work, For the Night Is Coming, which I discovered in 1982.
But I neglected to mention a newer book of poetry, Cross this Bridge at a Walk. I had been been so fortunate to correspond with him, and he was so kind to send me an autographed copy. These poems are full of Midwestern -- Indiana! -- stories, told with spot-on voice and lyrical description:

Coxey's Army

There by the rail fence in that lost, broken light, that moment
still wavering like a loose ribbon: whether she remembers most
the sound of their singing, or their march through the wagon ruts,
the angry crowd, the elm trees with their great curved branches—
Cross this Bridge at a Walk is available from Amazon.

For the last couple of weeks the poetic Internets have been full of Robert Frost.

Mr. Frost was, of course, the first poet asked to read at an inauguration. The story is well-known; blinded by sunlight, he could not read the poem he'd written especially for the occasion; so he recited 'The Gift Outright' instead. You can read more about it here in The New Yorker.

January 29, 2013, marked the fiftieth anniversary of Mr. Frost's death. Round-figured death anniversaries seem to be good times for various media, online and off, to take the opportunity to educate us about the dearly departed. When that person is a poet we can only celebrate that we are, if only for a short time, talking about poetry. Once again The New Yorker comes to our rescue with a retrospective.

In exciting (to poetry types) news, a rare collection of Mr. Frost's work has been donated by Jonathan Reichert, professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Buffalo, to the university. Mr. Frost was a family friend of the Reichert's. An exhibit will be open to the public beginning January 31. More info from this story on NPR.

Finally: You've perhaps noticed my use of poetry prompts from a number of web sites.

Last week, the Poets & Writers web site offered this poetic challenge:
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of American poet Robert Frost. To honor this day, read Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" on the Academy of American Poets' website. Analyze the poem's structure, and write a poem with the same rhyme scheme and number of lines.
The impossibility of prompt made me laugh out loud. 'Stopping by Woods' is one of my favorite poems; the poem is so well-known, even to the non-poetic. The nuance of the language, the words, the rhythm, the rhyme, are so familiar, so elemental to my ears --  that anything I would try to write would be no more than a weak clone. Not that I didn't try -- an idea did occur to me. But its execution was excruciating and embarrassing. That's when I laughed -- perfection cannot be imitated.

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