… died 44-years ago today, at age 88. The occasion of Frost’s death was headline news worldwide, and even noted by then-President Kennedy, at whose inauguration Frost recited his poem The Gift Outright.
Times have changed, no? Is there today a living poet whose name is known to every American? And whose verse is comprehensible?
No, there is not. Indeed, one wonders whether Frost could even find a publisher today.
It is probably no accident that Frost was so well-known; he had a deep, emphatic dislike for the artsy-craftsy crowd and wanted to reach a popular audience. From a November 5, 1913 letter to a friend:
There is one qualifying fact always to bear in mind: there is a kind of success called “of esteem” and it butters no parsnips. It means a success with the critical few who are supposed to know. But really to arrive where I can stand on my legs as a poet and nothing else I must get outside that circle to the general reader who buys books in their thousands. I may not be able to do that. I believe in doing it — don’t you doubt me there. I want to be a poet for all sorts and kinds. I could never make a merit of being caviare to the crowd the way my quasi-friend Pound does. I want to reach out, and would if it were a thing I could do by taking thought.
Notice that last sentence: I want to reach out, and would if it were a thing I could do by taking thought. Frost, in the pre-mass media, pre-mass manipulation days, managed to find his audience anyway. But, then, unlike those who require PR Experts to get noticed, he had real talent and something to say.