April is national poetry month. I have always loved poetry and the emotions it evokes. When I was younger, I used to write a lot of poetry during my late teens to mid-adult years. One of my favorite poets is Robert Frost. People loved his descriptions of life in New England, his mastery of American colloquill speech, and how he portrayed everyday people in everyday situations. His poem, The Road Not Taken, inspired me to start my poetry writing career.
The Poet’s Life
Robert Lee Frost was born on March 26, 1874. His father was a journalist and after his death from tuberculosis, Robert’s mom, Isabelle Moodie Frost, moved Robert and his sister to Lawrence, Massachusettes. They were taken in by their granparents and Robert’s mom taught in various schools in New Hampshire and Massachusettes. Robert graduated high school in 1892 at the top of his class. He shared this honor with classmate Elinor White, whom he had already fallen in love. They shared a love of poetry but their college aspirations sent them in different directions.
While in college, Robert continued to work on his poetry career as he had in high school and landed a professional publication in The Independent which printed his poem My Butterfly: An Elegy. He grew impatient with academic routine and left college in less than a year. He and Elinor got married but found life to be difficult because although he supported them with teaching and farming, he wasn’t successful at either. They had six children, two of whom died, leaving them with one son and two daughters. Robert resumed college in 1897 at Harvard but left after two years.
From there he raised poultry on a farm and taught at Pinkerton Academy breifly in Derry. He became a botanist and acquired his poetic persona during these years. He continued to write poems but publishers showed little interest. Eventually Frost became owner of the farm and decided to sell it and use the profits for a fresh start in London. Publishers were more receptive to new talent there. In 1912 they sailed acrosss the Atlantic, Robert carrying the sheaves of poems he had written but not published. Within a year of being in London, his first book A Boy’s Will, was published. Standard anthology pieces from this book include “Storm Fear” and “Mowing”.
He published a second collection, North of Boston in 1914. The most popular poems from this work are “Mending Wall” , “Home Burial”, and “The Death of a Hired Man”. A poet from America named Amy Lowell traveled to England and found Frost’s work. She took the books home and began to look for an American publisher for them. She also wrote her own glowing review of his work. Frost had no idea he was on his way to fame. World War 1 brought him and his family back to the States. By then Amy’s review had appeared in The New Republic and publishers were aware there was a talented poet in their mist.
Henry Holt, an American publishing house, had published its editon of North of Boston and it was a bestseller. By the time Frost and his family arrived in Boston the publishing house was adding their edition of A Boy’s Will also. From then on his career rose on an ascending curve. Frost wound up lecturing and teaching at Amherst College because he couldn’t support his family from farming and his poetry. His third collection of poetry, Mountain Interval, continued the high level establishment of his first books. In 1932 he won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
The Road Not Taken
If you haven’t read the poem, it reads like this:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim.
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere age and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood and I,
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.
Which Road Will You Choose?
Isn’t this how it is for most of us? We are standing at the crossroads in life and aren’t sure which road to take? Do we take the most traveled road and be safe? Or do we take the less traveled one and start an adventure? This is how I felt before I published my first book of poetry. I was working in daycare and being an author had always been one of my dreams. So I decided to go for it. I dug out my notebooks, typed up my poems, had them formatted into a book, bought a cover and published them. I chose the road less traveled. The road that doesn’t have a guarantee of success unless you are willing to do the work. I’m still learning on this road less traveled and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I chose to take the road less traveled and do what I love, writing books. And that has made all the difference.
I would love to know about the struggles and successes on your journey and about the road you have chosen to travel. Please let me know in the comments.