Tag Archives: frost

I read a blog just now, and something the author said struck me:

I have this thing for endings in a series…There is something about them that just give me a feeling like no other book can. In some respects, it’s the idea of catharsis, closure.

Funnily enough, for me it’s always been the opposite. I love beginnings. I love meeting characters for the first time, seeing them meet each other for the first time. Seeing their first impressions, and knowing how far they were from the truth. I love the scene in Lord of the Rings when the hobbits meet Strider for the first time, I love knowing why Strider tries to seem so threatening and how great a man he is, unbeknownst to his pint-sized companions. I love the moment in P & P when Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy for the first time and hates him. I love the feeling of possibility you get at beginnings, and I love knowing which possibility turns out to be the reality.

This is also what makes me, unlike the blogger I mentioned earlier, a compulsive re-reader. When I finish a book I can’t resist going back and reading the beginning again in light of my newfound knowledge. Of course, once I do that, I can’t resist watching the end unfold.

Endings, on the other hand, are infinitely frustrating. Stoppard’s Actor was right when he said that every exit is an entrance somewhere else; the problem is, book endings don’t let you see what lies behind the curtain. They hint at a whole new realm of eventualities, but refuse to tell you what they are.

Then again, when I’m the one writing I hate both beginnings and endings. Middles I can handle, if somewhat grudgingly. Beginnings and endings are only conquered through tons of coffee, the fear of impending deadlines, and sheer exhaustion. If only Frost’s words of wisdom applied to writing: “Ends, and beginnings – there are no such things. There are only middles”

I’m reading Salman Rushdie’s Ground Beneath her Feet right now. I’m not very far in, so don’t ask me. What I do find interesting is that he chose a photographer as his narrator. I’m sure the reason for it will become clear if I get more than, you know, 15 pages in, but it got me thinking. On the one hand, photographers are, by definition, nothing more than observers. Light goes into the camera, and they capture it. That’s all. Passive.

But on the other hand, they create the world they capture on a far more fundamental level than any other medium. Poets create their own world (and the sea, whatever self it had, became the self that was her song, for she was the maker), but we expect that. We don’t expect to see the world in a poem. We excpect to see Wallace Stevens’ world. In a photograph though, we expect to see the world as it is, the thing-in-itself. But that’s not really what it is, is it? A photographer doesn’t just capture light, he chooses which light to capture; he chooses angles and colours and focus and arrangement. So they impose their own minds on their work and their audience in a far more powerful way than any other artist, because their audience is less prepared.

That’s all pretty cliche, but what makes it interesting for me right now (and, keep in mind, it IS 2 in the morning), is what happens when you combine that with Frost’s idea that through the imagination, you can actually reshape the world around you for your own benefit. Frost always leaves the implicit caveat that this reshaping is purely imaginary: you’re not actually making the moon a companion (Old Man’s Winter Night), you’re just calling her one to make yourself feel better. Photography, however, gives us a way to reshape the world, but then capture that reshaping in a concrete way, and even share it with others; even, sometimes, convince others that your reshaping is reality.

Then again, it IS 2 in the morning. I don’t know if that actually made any sense. I may delete this post tomorrow. But g’night for now everyone.

I like bandwagons. They’re flat, roomy, and very comfy for jumping on. A friend of mine recently started a blog on Japanese Literature, and the book nerd in me couldn’t resist joining in.

I was at chapters today, looking for the Collected Prose of Robert Frost. I asked someone to point me to the poetry section, and as he was walking me to the right place, I commented on how the poetry sections always seemed tucked away. He laughed and said “people don’t really like poetry.” That’s just pathetic. And, since it gives me an excuse to gush about how much I love it, poetry is what I’m going to write about.

First off, Ezra Pound. A friend of mine recently told me that if I don’t like Yeats (which I don’t. Yugh. Yeats. See, they even sound alike…), I’ll hate Pound, since he’s even more self-referential. I couldn’t disagree more.  I would group him in with Frost. He’s like Frost in that he describes things in their totality, packaged into a few lines of poetry. But while Frost writes moments, Pound writes images. There’s no movement to his poetry, but he manages to pack intense colour and texture and emotion into a few lines, even a single word. The obvious example is “In a Station of the Metro.” The poem is only two lines long:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd,
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Two lines. That’s all it takes. He does the same thing in “Fan-Piece, For Her Imperial Lord”:

O fan of white silk,
clear as frost on the grass-blade,
You also are laid aside.

I love that without ever mentioning anything other than the fan itself, he manages to communicate the feeling of “boredom [that] is exquisite and excessive” (“The Garden”).

I have to admit, I haven’t read any of his long pieces yet, mostly because I read poetry when I’m obnoxiously exhausted, and couldn’t possibly survive something as long as, say, The Cantos. So, I may have to revisit him. Still, so far I like what I’ve read.

All out of doors looked darkly in at him
Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
What kept him from remembering what it was
That brought him to that creaking room was age.
He stood with barrels round him — at a loss.
And having scared the cellar under him
In clomping there, he scared it once again
In clomping off; — and scared the outer night,
Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar
Of trees and crack of branches, common things,
But nothing so like beating on a box.
A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.
He consigned to the moon, such as she was,
So late-arising, to the broken moon
As better than the sun in any case
For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,
His icicles along the wall to keep;
And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt
Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,
And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
One aged man — one man — can’t keep a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It’s thus he does it of a winter night.

This is another in my long series of gushings-out about how much I love Robert Frost. I absolutely love how, like in all of Frost’s best poems, it manages to just capture that one single moment in time and present it to you in all its fullness. It also has that characteristic Frost-ian use of movement and stillness that creates almost a series of concentric circles of dis/comfort, and it has that sense of ambivalence that Frost puts into so much of his poetry: that presentation of what is, and then at once the discomfort with and acceptance of that reality that only Frost can make coexist. I’m still rather partial to Meeting and Passing and Stopping by the Woods On A Snowy Evening, for the same reasons, but this poem is definitely one of the ones that can send a shiver down my spine.