'Frost and the Future': Notes, October 1998

In October 1998 I attended a lecture at the Robert Frost Festival in Lawrence, Mass. The featured speaker, Dr. Bonnie Costello, was invited by the Robert Frost FoundationThe following notes are direct statements by Dr. Costello or my paraphrasing of her remarks.

How does lyric poetry represent time? The moment, suspended out of the flow, is relived in memory. 

The Imagist poets threw out narrative in favor of presenting the ideal image which amounts to an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time. 

Robert Frost was interested in the boundless moment or moments. We are usually aware of time in a Frost poem.

With Frost it is often about going and coming back as opposed to linear time. It's not transcendental. Frost moves beyond by going inward. There are poems about being overtaken by the end. Anxiety. 

Poetry in a recursive shape (repeating) can give us a sense of something not being over or defeated.

Again, the going and coming back. Frost goes to the Dismal Swamp after being spurned by Elinor, then comes back. 

He heard voices that were not his own.

Frost's poems resist the countdown to zero. [What does this mean?]

Frost is a dramatic, a dialectic poet. He likes things in two's, pairs, couples. In "West Running Brook," a man and a woman have crossing views.

Coming 'round to completeness.

The sound of sense, meaning below the semantic level. Rhythms of conversation give their own meaning. Patterns of syntax and image: "chiasmus" [rhetorical figure in which words are repeated in reverse order]

Frost said we are extra-vagrant. Wanting to go beyond the familiar.

He said, "Earth is the right place for love," no need for transcendental experience of going beyond earth to get wholeness.

Desire exceeds the terminus of the will. End of will but not end of desire. Retain onward impulse.

Frost's poems have endings but they do not end.