Great comment, Dallas! Frost is a really interesting case in the story of modern American poetry. He’s contemporaneous with most of the Modernists, or just a tiny bit older—born in 1874 (here in S.F.), Wallace Stevens is just five years younger—and published his first book, A Boy’s Will, the year before the First World War, a period when Imagism was at its height and the same year that the radical new art of Picasso, Duchamp, Matisse and many others had its first full-scale American exhibition at the landmark Armory Show of 1913
Pound championed Frost’s early work, admiring the way it eschewed the clichés of poetic diction in favor of a knotty Yankee vernacular. Frost met Pound, H.D., and other key figures in the transatlantic avant-garde in London on the eve of the First World War, and found himself increasingly linked with their circle.
But as his career unwound, Frost came to champion the values of metrical rhymed verse in a period when all poetic standards seemed to have exploded. He’s often used in literary debates today as an exemplar of a kind of counter-Modernism, proof positive that you don’t have to call all the poetic conventions into question to be a relevant modern poet.
I think what Kasey’s in a twist about is younger poets who want the glamour of experiment (Loy, Stein) while really adhering to a fairly traditional conception of the poem (Frost). I completely agree with you that where you draw the line in deciding what counts as modern, and who its true heirs are, is wide open to debate. It’s a debate that’s still very much alive, and I think it helps to explain the special divisions and energies in American poetry today. I hope we’ll join the fray in our discussions …
2 hours ago