Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Frost and Sandburg

From an interview with essayist and editor Joseph Epstein:

Robert Frost once said of Sandburg, they were apparently to give a poetry reading together and someone said, "Where's Carl?" and Frost said, "He's upstairs messing up his hair."
Full enjoyment of Epstein's anecdote requires the understanding that Frost too was something of an actor, playing the role of the homespun, folksy, New England sage. Robert Lowell highlights the difference between the public performer and the private man in his poem "Robert Frost" (which begins by playing on the title of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Frost at Midnight"):
Robert Frost at midnight, the audience gone
to vapor, the great act laid on the shelf in mothballs,
his voice musical, raw and raw — he writes in the flyleaf:
"Robert Lowell from Robert Frost, his friend in the art."
"Sometimes I feel too full of myself," I say.
And he, misunderstanding, "When I am low,
I stray away. My son wasn't your kind. The night
we told him Merrill Moore would come to treat him,
he said 'I'll kill him first.' One of my daughters thought
      things,
knew every male she met was out to make her;
the way she dresses, she couldn't make a whorehouse."
And I, "Sometimes I'm so happy I can't stand myself."
And he, "When I am too full of joy, I think
how little good my health did anyone near me."
When I was an undergraduate, one of my professors told a story of seeing Frost backstage before a campus reading. Unhappy with the reading arrangements, Frost was kicking a student.

Link » Interview with Joseph Epstein (from identitytheory.com)

comments: 1

everythings jake said...

A teacher of mine once gave Frost a ride from the airport to a reading. Frost sat in the back seat as if he were in a taxi. He resisted every attempt to have a conversation. Finally, my teacher gave up and just drove, but once in a while he would look at Frost in the rearview mirror.

Frost just sat there staring at the seat in front of him. My teacher said Frost seemed alone and angry in a quiet sort of way.

Maybe he needed the mask and the acting he displayed at readings--maybe it was the person he wanted to be.