Lessons from Robert Frost

I must admit, I’m not a fan of poetry. I’m really not sure why. I love music and rhythm and cadence and dreaming and writing, but I fall asleep at poetry readings, and half the time I miss the meaning in the words.

There are exceptions though, the poetry of Robert Frost being one of them. I suppose this is because he writes about the simple things found in a humans and in nature. Fascinated, I recently did a little research about the man behind the poems. Just as his most famous pieces show, his measure of success, and the path he took to it, was very different than the formula you’ll find on the self-help shelves of the business section at your local bookstore.

Here’s what I found:

  • Frost was downright lazy. He loved farming but would let his family do the work while he pondered his next poem.
  • He was terrified to speak in public, and in his younger days, did little to overcome the fear. In his 80s, he spoke at John Kennedy’s inauguration, and even there he fumbled. (The audience loved him anyway.)
  • His appearance was rather disheveled, and he slouched a lot.
  • Although he loved learning, he quit college.
  • He did not partake in writers’ groups or take suggestions on how to “improve” his writing.
  • Depression and self-doubt followed him almost his entire life.
  • He essentially lived in poverty. While he suffered extreme guilt at not being better able to support his wife and family, he chose to follow his dream instead of the money trail.

How did he become one of the most famous poets of all time?

  • He listened and conversed with others. He put what he heard in his poems. Rhythms and vocabulary within everyday conversation infiltrated his art.
  • He spent time alone. He spent time with company. He immersed himself in either; he cherished both.
  • He loved: his wife, his children, his farm, the plants, the stories, and the idiosyncrasies of life.
  • He remained true to himself and his convictions that he would someday be published.
  • He maintained a sense of humor right up until the day he died.
  • He chose individuality over conformity every time.

Despite either a fondness or disregard for poetry, may we all learn from Frost and live in our own way. May we all find success in doing so.

Who cares what they say? It’s a nice way to live,
Just taking what Nature is willing to give,
Not forcing her hand with harrow and plow.

— Robert Frost