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« On Reverence [by Lauren Hilger] | Main | On Games [by Lauren Hilger] »

May 11, 2022


What evidence is there that Frost admitted of, much less managed, your supposed antitheticals of popularity and excellence?

What follows is all the evidence anybody needs that the last place poetry belongs is in anybody's classroom - especially the classroom of one who pretends to poethood, but has only the tools of scholarship:

"The road not taken is the road we will never know except perhaps in alternative versions of history, novels that center, for example, on the assassination of President Kennedy, at whose inauguration in 1961 Frost recited another of his great poems “The Gift Outright.” "

To profess mystical expertise in the leviathan of poetry is to be a barnacle with under a mortarboard. Please, at least, instruct your legions of supplicants that the great man recited the above-named poem only because the glare of the sun at high noon prevented him from reading the "occasional" poem he had composed for the event. Thank you.

What a shame Mr. Dave Read appears not to have read Dr. Lehman's other outstanding essays about "famous poems" on this website (most of which I have printed, saved in a notebook, and frequently return to for spiritual guidance), or Dr. Lehman's own visionary poems forged in the fires of his personal experiences of intense pain and suffering.
For readers and writers of poetry like me, Dr. Lehman is a compassionate, shockingly humble and infinitely generous guide through the world of poetry, and a literary critic with an unsurpassed depth of knowledge of literature in the English language.
His essays on early English masterpieces have brought me light during hours otherwise filled with despair.
Because Dr. Lehman has suffered so greatly in his personal life, he understands what the rest of us go through on a daily basis: he does not preach to his readers of this website; he offers us empathy and illumination, and a slice of sweetness during our otherwise very difficult days.
Countless times I have told myself: If David Lehman could continue writing through the most excruciating pain imaginable, surely you can keep writing.
And for me, this essay, about one of my favorite Robert Frost poems, is a bright jewel.
A shame you cannot see this, Mr. Dave Read.
The loss is wholly yours.

Dear Slow Reader, Poems speak for themselves, or they don't speak at all. If your mind is not receptive to Frost's verse, then nothing from professor Lehman's mind will do anything but lower Frost's voice as it raises Lehman's.

That careers are made on the work of poets, painters, musicians, etc. does not validate an essentially parasitic practice. It's one thing to give a man a book, another thing altogether to tell him what it means, and why.

Read on - and read slowly - savor every phrase and line, my friend.

p.s. I was unaware that your shockingly humble hero is consigned to labor in a state of intense pain and suffering - anything you can do to help?

p.p.s. You id yourself as a Trumpster, by the ad hominem nature of your response to my literary criticism. In the land of feelings, are critics the enemy of the people?

Dave Read, you have a great name, but it is you who stoop to ad hominem territory by labeling the other chap a "Trumpster." That's a foul, a flagrant foul.

When you refer to "the supposed antitheticals of popularity and excellence," I believe the author's point, or one of the points, is that Frost could do both -- gain a large audience and write superb poems that merit rereading and meditation.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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