Early in his literary career, well before he gained prominence as a poet, Edwin Arlington Robinson wrote a number of short stories that he planned to incorporate in a volume titled Scattered Lives. The stories do not survive, nor does the novel he tried his hand at writing some years later, but the twenty-six pieces of extant prose were collected by Richard Cary in Uncollected Poems and Prose of Edwin Arlington Robinson (1975). Of interest primarily for what they reveal of the life of this most private man, these undistinguished prose pieces include essays, autobiographical sketches, introductions to books, and like matter.
It was in drama, particularly in the years 1906 to 1913, that Robinson hoped to make an impression as some of his New York friends had in their attempts to revitalize the theater. Robinson did not relinquish the hope that he could achieve moderate success with his plays until 1917, when he finally recognized that his very considerable skills as a poet were not compatible with those required for the theater. His two published plays—Van Zorn (pb. 1914) and The Porcupine (pb. 1915)—were ineffective. The former was produced, however, in February, 1917, by an amateur group that used the facilities of a Brooklyn YMCA. It had a run of seven days.
Robinson was a prolific letter writer. Some of his letters have been collected in three major editions: Selected Letters of Edwin Arlington Robinson (1940), compiled by Ridgely Torrence with the assistance of several of the poet’s friends; Untriangulated Stars: Letters of Edwin Arlington Robinson to Harry de Forest Smith, 1890-1905 (1947), edited by Denham Sutcliffe; and Edwin Arlington Robinson’s Letters to Edith Brower (1968), edited by Richard Cary. The letters that interest the student of Robinson the most are those to Harry de Forest Smith, a close friend from Gardiner, Maine, to whom the poet, during a very difficult time in his life, expressed in an uncharacteristically open fashion his thoughts and feelings on a number of subjects, including his literary likes and dislikes, his own struggles as a writer, his years at Harvard, and his cultural growth.