03/28/01
Robert Frost
    by Kevin Shortsleeve

One of America's most beloved poets, Robert Frost, is unique in that he is one of the few, quote-unquote, "serious" poets of the twentieth century who was appreciated by both adults and children. In the nineteenth century, poets like Longfellow and Poe - writing in rhyming verse - were readily accessible and admired by the young. At the turn of the century however, with the rising popularity of free verse, rhyming couplets fell out of fashion. By the middle of the 1900s, about the only poets writing in rhyme were those who did so when specifically writing for children, like Dr. Seuss, and, LATER, Shel Silverstien.

But Robert Frost, in his simple New England farmer fashion, did not feel that serious poetry was debased by the occasional lyric rhyme.

The Woods are lovely dark and deep
But I have promises to keep.
Perhaps this is why his poems are so often found in both adult and children's poetry anthologies. The subjects he chose to write about may also have helped attract a young audience.

The Wright Brothers Biplane
This biplane is the shape of human flight.
Its name might better be First Motor Kite.
Its maker' name - Time cannot get wrong,
For it was writ in heaven doubly Wright.
And he was not averse to an old fashioned riddle, as in the poem One Guess.

He has dust in his eyes and a fan for a wing,
A leg akimbo with which he can sing,
And a mouthful of dye stuff instead of a sting.
There were wise Aesopian sayings like.
Men work together - I told him from my heart
Whether they work together - or apart
Or the famous haiku length
Let me be the one
To do what is done
As a poet of nature, Frost had few rivals. He would wander the hills of his New Hampshire farm with a childlike attention to minutiae, and come home inspired by clinking ice-covered Birches, lizard like rivulets of melting snow and flowers that fly on windy Blue Butterfly Day.

There is something hopeful and comforting in Robert Frost, and a strength or resilience that shines through - like a wood fire on a cold winter night as one hopes for spring in frozen New England. It is a youthful voice and perhaps just one more reason children continue to appreciate his poems. In his own youth, the fire and promise were there as well. Frost's first poem, written at age fourteen ends with,

For darkness of that murky night
Hides deeds of brightness fame,
Which in the ages yet to come
Would light the hero's name.

Copyright 2001 by Kevin Shortsleeve

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:23:53 EDT


"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."