A Divided Poet

September 2011
174 pages
9x6 in
Studies in American Literature and Culture
ISBN: 9781571134998
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004020, LIT014000

A Divided Poet

Robert Frost, North of Boston, and the Drama of Disappearance

David Sanders

Frost's breakthrough book of poetry seen anew as an artistic whole and in the context of the poet's career and development.
North of Boston, Robert Frost's second book of verse and arguably his greatest, brought him suddenly into national prominence in 1915. Though completed and first published in England in 1914, the book was rooted in the decade, 1900-1910, that Frost spent in Derry, New Hampshire, where he witnessed the decline of its traditional farming culture. In presenting this "drama of disappearance," twelve of the book's fifteen principal poems are literally dramatic, composed mainly of direct dialogue. Among them are three of Frost's most famous lyrics, each featuring a signature task of New England life and underlining the book's tribute to a fading culture. Collectively, the poems bring the diction and tones of a New England vernacular within a traditional metric frame, making "music," as Frost boasted, "from the sound of sense" and poetry of "a language absolutely unliterary." Such adaptations of ordinary language and experience to blank verse drama made Frost a founder of American modernism and North of Boston one of its monuments. Exploring Frost's complex connection to his poetic characters, this study provides new readings of the individual poems and a new look at North of Boston's development. To a degree no other study has done, it addresses the book's design as an artistic whole while placing it in the context of Frost's unfolding career.

David Sanders is Professor Emeritus of English at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Poet, His People, andThe Drama of Disappearance
Frost in Derry
Buttering One's Parsnips
Winners, Losers, and the Poet
Living One's Democracy
The Poet and the Burden of Reproach
North of Boston's Major Lyrics
Welcome and Farewell: Prologue and Epilogue
Works Cited


A Divided Poet is written with a remarkable clarity and elegance. One is genuinely charmed by broad swaths of lucid and eloquent prose, carefully laying out its case. Sanders patiently uncovers, one by one, the sedimentary layers of meaning and sentiment. The argument slowly but irresistibly gathers force and gains in persuasion. POLISH JOURNAL FOR AMERICAN STUDIES

Looking in particular at Frost's North of Boston, [Sanders] argues that the poet was caught between a sentimental attachment to a dying pastoral world and his own exploitation of this world to further his career. . . The argument is lucid and clearly worthwhile. . . Recommended. CHOICE

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