The Collected Prose of Robert Frost
Robert Frost is foremost a renowned American poet, and The Collected Prose of Robert Frost should whet the interest of those who wish to read what he said about writing poetry. This volume also will be of interest to those who desire to be exposed to everything the poet wrote. The editor, Mark Richardson, must be commended for his diligence in completing this project. Over time, major poets such as Frost are often taken for granted, dismissed after their work has been squeezed dry of all fresh meaning. It can take new collections of the poet’s work or new critical material to jar the public’s perception of what the poet truly accomplished.
Many readers recognize Frost as an award-winning poet who wrote about rural themes while employing common speech patterns. His vast popularity can be linked to his use of traditional poetic forms and his approachable subject matter. While his poetry may seem simple, it is never simplistic. For a more complete understanding of his approach to poetry, it is advisable to read the relevant essays, letters, notes, and lectures Richardson has compiled.
Through hard work and persistence, Richardson has established himself as an expert on everything related to Frost. He coedited with Richard Poirier the 1995 collection Robert Frost: Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays and wrote the 1997 critical study The Ordeal of Robert Frost: The Poet and His Poetics. Many of the prose pieces included in the 1995 collection also are included in The Collected Prose of Robert Frost. While there is some overlap with previous volumes of Frost’s prose, this is the first critical edition of his collected prose. It is organized in chronological order, beginning with Frost’s high school prose of 1891 and 1892 and ending with statements that he made in 1963. Richardson begins the collection with an informative “Introduction.” He is quick to point out that Frost was always reluctant to publish his prose, both editors and publishers finding the poet “peculiarly uncooperative” whenever approached on the subject. Richardson also notes that, even after Frost’s death, very little of his prose was collected, and that was in Selected Prose of Robert Frost (1966), Robert Frost: Poetry and Prose (1972), and Robert Frost on Writing (1973). While Richardson applauds the publishing of these volumes, he is critical of them for not including a large selection of Frost’s prose and for the texts being “marred by occasional inaccuracies.”
Richardson had a chance to correct some of these problems in the 1995 collection he coedited with Poirier. For this volume, he took it upon himself to add supplemental material, producing a more complete picture of how Frost wrote. In addition to reprinting “all of the prose Frost is known to have prepared for print,” Richardson has provided “extensive and detailed notes on Frost’s habits of composition, on important textual issues, and on related matters.” The editor has made this collection invaluable by adding these detailed notes and by making it possible for “the reader to consult in one place all information presented in connection with a given item,” as well as providing “a kind of loosely consequential narrative of Frost’s total career as a writer of prose.” With this much attention to detail, the collection can, therefore, be of use to both the general reader and the scholar. It is obvious that the editor wholeheartedly believes that a poet of Frost’s stature deserves to have his other writings published and analyzed. While the value of the high school editorials and the stories Frost wrote for poultry magazines may be questioned, there are a number of remarkable essays that clearly enunciate Frost’s opinions on the art of poetry. It is obvious after reading some of the essays and looking at Richardson’s corresponding notes that Frost could express himself well about how he wrote his poems. It is not always the case that a first-rank poet can explain his art and...
(The entire section is 1,663 words.)