Tonight started with a review of some of the things we’d talked of last week and the reading and discussion about four letters from Emily Dickinson to T.W. Higginson. She approached him to look at her poems and he responded, presumably with his thoughts, some advice, some suggested edits.
I was struck by her responses: she kept her distance, disallowed his suggestions and continued on asking questions and wanting a relationship with him.
In this way, artists must live with those who view and read their works. I myself really love to show my quilts. I love to show them to the viewers; I love to hear their responses. I’ve been known to casually stand nearby and eavesdrop. I know, but it’s fascinating to hear how people react, the questions they ask. I once had a person drag me over to a quilt on display and complain about a too dark, too grey square or two. I tried to back her up away from where she stood complaining about it, so she could see the offensive squares recede into the whole.
I think it’s interesting that you might want someone to read or look at your work knowing full well that you’re unlikely to change what you’re doing based on anything they say in reaction or in helpfulness.
OK. Then it was on to Robert Frost.
In full disclosure I will say that I love Robert Frost. You see him quoted here from time to time.
Tonight’s readings, by title, in no particular order:
The Tuft of Flowers
Dust of Snow
The Road Not Taken
The Silken Tent
Never Again Would Birds’ Song Be The Same
Two Tramps in Mud Time (excerpt)
The Hill Wife
The Oven Bird
Fire and Ice
Left on the page, yet unread, were a couple of my favorites: Acquainted With The Night and Birches and Come In.
What did we talk about? Our teacher drew our attention to the finely crafted lines and rhymes. The sonnet forms. The careful breaks from scenes of nature to internal ponderings. The references to Petrarch, Dante and others, similar to Emily taking on Shakespeare in her poems.
To our teacher’s mind, references to birds usually point to the bard-poet. Although both poets were keen observers of nature, both used images of nature to introduce topics far different from nature.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
– After Apple-Picking
and breaks like this:
And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.
I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;
But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,
A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.
The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,
Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him,
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.
The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,
– from The Tuft of Flowers
All this makes me want to go back and do a more chronological read of Frost, to see where his poems changed from more formal style to more conversational.
Those turns to address some bigger idea are often what I like most about his poems. I think of The Onset. Such a classic New England moment – the sound of first snow on the bare ground, with a huge dollop of New England reaction – Bring it on – Winter won’t win – I have faith in that.
I hope we talk a bit about Birches next week. What starts as a playful thought, brought down by familiar reality, returns as a clear explanation of the playful thought and then BLAM!
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree…
We ended with some discussion about the careful meters of both poets and with that we were out into the night. My brain, again, full of words and images.