‘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.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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