CLOSE
Library of Congress via Wikimedia // Public Domain
Library of Congress via Wikimedia // Public Domain

11 Facts About Robert Frost

Library of Congress via Wikimedia // Public Domain
Library of Congress via Wikimedia // Public Domain

Though Robert Frost has been gone for more than half a century—he died on January 29, 1963—his poems remain timeless, inspiring everyone from John F. Kennedy to George R.R. Martin. Though most people know him for "The Road Not Taken," there's more to Frost than that—and according to him, we've all been interpreting that poem wrong anyway.

1. HE WAS NAMED AFTER CONFEDERATE GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE.

Frost's father, Will, ran away from home at a young age in an attempt to join the Confederate Army. Though he was caught and returned to his parents, the elder Frost never forgot his war heroes, and eventually named his son after one of them.

2. HE WAS A COLLEGE DROPOUT—TWICE OVER.

First, Frost attended Dartmouth for just two months, later explaining, "I wasn't suited for that place." He got his second chance in 1897 at Harvard, but only made it two years before dropping out to support his wife and child. “They could not make a student of me here, but they gave it their best,” Frost later said. Still, he managed to get a degree anyway—Harvard bestowed honorary honors upon him in 1937.

3. HE MADE $15 FROM THE SALE OF HIS FIRST POEM.

Published by the New York Independent in 1894, when Frost was 20, Frost’s first paid piece was called “My Butterfly: An Elegy.” The payday for the poem was the equivalent of $422 today; the sum was worth more than two weeks’ salary at his teaching job.

4. EZRA POUND HELPED FROST GAIN A FOLLOWING.

As an established poet with a following, Ezra Pound exposed Frost to a much larger audience by writing a rave review of his first poetry collection, A Boy's Will. Frost considered it his most important early review. Pound might have reviewed the book sooner had it not been for a bit of a misunderstanding—he once gave Frost a calling card with his hours listed as "At home, sometimes." Frost "didn't feel that that was a very warm invitation," and avoided visiting. When he finally stopped in, Pound was put out that he hadn't come sooner. He wrote his review of Frost's poetry the same day.

5. HE BELIEVED “THE ROAD NOT TAKEN” WAS VERY MISUNDERSTOOD.

"The Road Not Taken" is often read at high school and college graduations as a reminder to forge new paths, but Frost never intended it to be taken so seriously—he wrote the poem as a private joke for his friend Edward Thomas. He and Thomas enjoyed taking walks together, and Thomas was constantly indecisive about which direction he wanted to go. When he finally did choose, he often regretted not choosing the other way.

Frost was surprised when his readers began taking the poem to heart as a metaphor for self-determination. After reading "The Road Not Taken" to some college students, he lamented to Thomas that the poem was “taken pretty seriously … despite doing my best to make it obvious by my manner that I was fooling. … Mea culpa.”

6. HE WAS THE FIRST POET TO READ AT A PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION.

John F. Kennedy invited Frost to do a reading at his 1961 inauguration; though Frost prepared a poem called "Dedication" for the ceremony, he had a hard time reading the lightly typed words in the sun's glare. In the end, that didn't matter—the poet ended up reciting a different piece, "The Gift Outright," by heart.

Frost's performance paved the way for later appearances by Maya Angelou, Miller Williams, Elizabeth Alexander, and Richard Blanco.

7. HE OUTLIVED FOUR OF HIS SIX CHILDREN.

Frost knew tragedy. Of his six kids—daughters Elinor, Irma, Marjorie, and Lesley, and sons Carol, and Elliot—only two outlasted him. Elinor died shortly after birth, Marjorie died giving birth, Elliot succumbed to cholera, and Carol committed suicide.

8. HE WASN’T MUCH OF A FARMER, ACCORDING TO HIS NEIGHBORS.

Though Frost adored living the bucolic life on his 30-acre farm in Derry, New Hampshire, his neighbors weren't exactly impressed with his skills. Because Frost mostly paid the bills with poetry, he didn't have to be as regimented about farm life as his full-time farming neighbors did, so they thought he was a bit lazy.

Even if his farming skills weren't up to par with the pros, the estate itself did wonders for his writing. According to Frost, "I might say the core of all my writing was probably the five free years I had there on the farm down the road a mile or two from Derry Village toward Lawrence. The only thing we had was time and seclusion. I couldn't have figured on it in advance. I hadn't that kind of foresight. But it turned out right as a doctor's prescription."

9. HE INSPIRED GEORGE R.R. MARTIN.

If Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire sounds a bit like Frost's poem "Fire and Ice," well, it is: “People say I was influenced by Robert Frost’s poem, and of course I was," Martin has said. "Fire is love, fire is passion, fire is sexual ardor and all of these things. Ice is betrayal, ice is revenge, ice is … you know, that kind of cold inhumanity and all that stuff is being played out in the books.”

10. NO ONE HAS MATCHED HIS PULITZER PRIZE RECORD.

Frost took home the award in poetry a whopping four times. His honors were for New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes (1924), Collected Poems (1931), A Further Range (1937), and A Witness Tree (1943). No other poet has yet managed to win on four occasions.

11. HIS EPITAPH IS TAKEN FROM ONE OF HIS POEMS.

Rolf Müller, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

The inscription on Frost's tombstone is his own words: “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” It's the last line from his poem “The Lesson for Today.” Here's the whole thing:

"And were an epitaph to be my story

I'd have a short one ready for my own.

I would have written of me on my stone:

I had a lover's quarrel with the world."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
literature
The Best Children's Books of the Year, According to Bank Street College of Education
iStock
iStock

The Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education in New York City recently released its 2018 list of the best children's books on the market. Separated into five age-appropriate categories, the list includes more than 600 titles published in the U.S. and Canada in 2017.

In making their selection, judges considered books' literary merit, presentation, and potential emotional impact on young readers, as well as originality of the story, credibility of the characters, and absence of stereotypes. They also looked for positive representations of religious and ethnic differences.

Nonfiction books were checked for accuracy, balance, and documentation, while poetry books were assessed for their language, sound, rhythm, substance, and emotional intensity. Each book on the list was read and reviewed by at least two members of the committee, and then considered by the committee as a whole.

Of the books on the list, three are selected for special awards each year. For 2018, the Josette Frank Award—given to an outstanding novel in which a child character handles difficulty in a positive and realistic way—was awarded to Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson. The Claudia Lewis Award for poetry went to One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes, and the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for inspiring nonfiction went to Hawk Mother: The Story of a Red-Tailed Hawk Who Hatched Chickens by Kara Hagedorn.

Below is a selection of some of the books on the list. All of the titles below were awarded "outstanding merit" by the committee. For the full selection, click on the PDF link next to each individual category.

Under five category [PDF]
Anywhere Farm by Phyllis Root and G. Brian Karas
Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper
Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown
Mine! by Jeff Mack
Noisy Night by Mac Barnett and Brian Biggs
Sam & Eva by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Snow Scene by Richard Jackson and Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer and Richard Jones

Five to nine category [PDF]
After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat
Alfie: The Turtle That Disappeared by Thyra Heder
Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas by Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban
Good Night, Planet by Liniers
Pandora by Victoria Turnbull
Robinson by Peter Sís
Sleep Tight, Charlie by Michael Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo
Spiders!: Strange and Wonderful by Laurence Pringle and Meryl Henderson

Nine to twelve category [PDF]
All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson
A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander and Kelly Murphy
If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams
Little Bits of Sky by S. E. Durrant and Katie Harnett
Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King
Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce
The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain, Philip C. Stead, and Erin E. Stead
The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Twelve to fourteen category [PDF]
Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali
Satellite by Nick Lake
The Book of Chocolate: The Amazing Story of the World's Favorite Candy by H. P. Newquist
The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner
Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner and Maxime Plasse
Yvain: The Knight of the Lion by M. T. Anderson and Andrea Offermann

Fourteen and up category [PDF]
Between Two Skies by Joanne O'Sullivan
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A print copy of The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2018 Edition ($10, plus $3 shipping) can be purchased by emailing bookcom@bankstreet.edu.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
travel
You Can Now Rent the Montgomery, Alabama Home of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald Through Airbnb
Chris Pruitt, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The former apartment of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, perhaps the most famous couple of the Jazz Age, is now available to rent on a nightly basis through Airbnb, The Chicago Tribune reports. While visitors are discouraged from throwing parties in the spirit of Jay Gatsby, they are invited to write, drink, and live there as the authors did.

The early 20th-century house in Montgomery, Alabama was home to the pair from 1931 to 1932. It's where Zelda worked on her only novel Save Me the Waltz and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote part of Tender Is the Night. The building was also the last home they shared with their daughter Scottie before she moved to boarding school.

In the 1980s, the house was rescued from a planned demolition and turned into a nonprofit. Today, the site is a museum and a spot on the Southern Literary Trail. While the first floor of the Fitzgerald museum, which features first-edition books, letters, original paintings, and other artifacts related to the couple, isn't available to rent, the two-bedroom apartment above it goes for $150 a night. Guests staying there will find a record player and a collection of jazz albums, pillows embroidered with Zelda Fitzgerald quotes, and a balcony with views of the property's magnolia tree. Of the four surviving homes Zelda and F. Scott lived in while traveling the world, this is the only one that's accessible to the public.

Though the Fitzgerald home is the only site on the Southern Literary Trail available to rent through Airbnb, it's just one of the trail's many historic homes. The former residences of Flannery O'Connor, Caroline Miller, and Lillian Smith are all open to the public as museums.

[h/t The Chicago Tribune]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios