Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Riffing on Robert Frost

I took the road less traveled
And later, in that New England chill
I met Robert Frost.
We talked, and conversed
About fences, and posts,
And autumn-time poignancy.
I soon recognized that,
Per the sages of the East,
The only good poet is a dead poet.
So, I shot Robert Frost,
And pushed him over the fence again.
Good fences good neighbors make.

It has been suggested that I misunderstand Frost in his original poem "Mending Wall." Rather, per that Wikipedia link, I see myself as picking up on just a couple of the themes of what is indeed a complex poem.

And, per what I said to an online friend on my Google Plus account, I partially agree, partially disagree. And, by "partially agreeing, partially disagreeing," arguably, I do pick up on the idea that Frost identifies explicitly with neither the narrator nor the neighbor.

Per this link, which would be rephrased as what my dad said, "Trust everybody but still cut the cards," Ben Franklin agreed with me.

And, per this roundup of professional literary critics, I may not be interpreting Frost so wrongly anyway. If, per the second critique, an unspoken punnery of playing on the word "Frost," as in the author's name, is not just "Something there is that doesn't love a wall," but that runs from there through the whole piece, then I've interpreted him on that one particular theme at least semi-correctly after all.

So, Frost remains shot, and pushed back over his fence.

Besides that, per a later critique which includes a quote from Frost, he arguably explicitly supported some sort of reader-response criticism.

George Montiero notes:

Asked once about his intended meaning, Frost recast the question: "In my Mending Wall was my intention fulfilled with the characters portrayed and the atmosphere of the place?" Characteristically, he went on to answer obliquely.
I should be sorry if a single one of my poems stopped with either of those things—stopped anywhere in fact. My poems—I should suppose everybody's poems—are all set to trip the reader head foremost into the boundless. Ever since infancy I have had the habit of leaving my blocks carts chairs and such like ordinaries where people would be pretty sure to fall forward over them in the dark. Forward, you understand, and in the dark. I may leave my toys in the wrong place and so in vain. It is my intention we are speaking of—my innate mischievousness.
No other poem in the Frost canon better illustrates his manner—as he described it—and his overall poetic intention.
"Good fences good neighbors make."

There, I've deliberately modified Frost's order. Frankly, I think my meter and cadence are better than his.

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