I guess it was sixth grade when Mrs. Trawick ruined poetry for me. We all (my class, and you, I bet) had to memorize an old classic. It usually rhymed which I do not think is inherently bad but it makes it so easy for kids to mock. Robert Frost deserves better than to be chanted singsong by some bored middle-schooler.

There was more to hating it than just memorization. We talked about it so fucking much, weeks and weeks on the same poem. It was an ugly shock to be told it wasn't about what I thought it was about, that it was a deception. I felt stupid not to have known right away that the woods are really his actions and the horse is his life. Sleep is not sleep, sleep in this case means death. Hell. I thought it was just a guy stopping his horse to look at how pretty everything was in the middle of winter night. I liked thinking of him, tired and nodding on his horse, snow all around and on the shoulders of his woolen coat. I grant you that there may be more to it than that. Still, it was a long time before I could look at it the way I wanted to, which was : not having quite made up my mind yet, but liking the sound of the words.

Perhaps this is the most wonderful thing about Frost, and what makes him so accessible. His natural imagery combines with a great command of the music of the English language to make poems that are enjoyable -- even beautiful -- if you miss out on every bit of symbolism in them. Is it wrong to read Nothing Gold Can Stay and think about nothing more than how lovely spring is? Or to see Stopping by Woods as a wistful winter vignette? I say no. It might not be the deepest understanding you can get, but it's an understanding worth having anyway.

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