Jun 15, 2010

Robert Frost, "Design"

Northern Parula Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler, Magee Marsh in NW Ohio: sitting pretty, scanning for food, mate, territory, and nerds with long lenses.

Here is Robert Frost's sonnet, "Design," which I offer as a comparison to Sunday's Lux poem. It's probably not debatable that the Frost is denser and verbally more complex, including the rhyme, meter, and the tradition of the sonnet. Is it therefore a better poem? Is its philosophical content larger, more substantial, more complex, more legitimate? Is its language more pleasing or more compelling than Lux's? If Lux's monkey poem is better, what makes it so? (And "better" is not the same issue as "I like it more." Your mom might be prettier or wittier than my mom, but is she a better mom?).

Design - Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More


Brenda's Arizona said...

"Dense". Good descriptive word, Banjomyn. This Frost poem is dense. Dense in words, and I feel dense trying to figure it out. It might be more substantial, more legitimate as a poem, but Lux's is more vivid, more picturesque, more real. Lux's is alive! Frost's is contemplative. Lux's is action, Frost's is philosophical.

If I had to teach one poem over the other to a young student, it would be Lux's. I think it would capture the student's attention, imagination, and belief that poetry is more than a string of words that rhyme.

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, I cannot find one word of yours with which to argue. You're just not much fun today.

Well, THAT was fun . . .

I do think that showing students BOTH poems--and maybe some others about predators--might be a strategy. But now I wonder if Frost is simply using more, and thicker, words than he needs to.

Anonymous said...

Oh, like the photos, of course. I'm curious, which poems are most popular with your students, year after year?

Banjo52 said...

AH, that's a surprisingly tough question. I must have NO memory (it's been a few years since I taught poetry, by the way). Also, I'm haunted by wondering if the students would agree with my choices. I'd guess these would be among their selections: Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow," Wright's "Lying in a Hammock . . . " and "A Blessing," Frost's "Acquainted with the Night," Komunyakaa's "The Scapegoat" (which I cannot find online), Roethke's "The Waking" and "My Papa's Waltz," Cummings' "In Just Spring," Brooks' "We Real Cool," and Olds' "On the Subway." Probably also Yeats' "The Second Coming," Shakespeare's "That Time of Year" and D. Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle."

Dickinson, Keats and Hopkins not so much, alas.

No doubt I'll kick myself in a week or two about about titles I've forgotten.

Lovers' Lane