Summary

Robert Frost’s essay “The Figure a Poem Makes” talks about his own perception of how poem should be and how people should view poem. He mentions that all poems should be distinct from one another and should have wisdom that the readers can benefit from, not only to entertain them. The poem should also evoke its readers to discover something they previously do not know, but they actually know from the start. Frost also noted the relationship of the writer’s emotions while writing the poem and the reader’s emotion while reading the poem. At the end of his essay, Frost asserted that poems are eternal—that they will forever bear their wisdom and truth.

Analysis

The author’s main argument in this essay is that each poem should be unique enough to be distinguished from one another, and that they should not only be made in order to entertain the readers but to give them wisdom—that poems should “begin in delight and end in wisdom” (Frost, par. 4). The author also argued that sounds are not just the only basis that makes a poem “sound”—that  is, according to the rules of logic. However, Frost also made clear the distinction of the logic of scholars and artists—with the artist’s (such as poets) logic is backward (par. 6), thus utterly suggesting that scholars and other masters of philosophy have totally different views of life, much less than art and poetry as he noted that “Scholars and artists thrown together are often annoyed at the puzzle of where they differ” (par. 7). He also added that “scholars get theirs with conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic; poets theirs [knowledge] cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books,” which suggests that poetry cannot be measured by logic or evaluated through the means of scholars (ibid.). Perhaps, the author is suggesting that poems are best evaluated through emotion. This assertion can be seen with the author’s words when he stated “no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader” (par. 5). This line also suggests the link between the poet’s feelings when he writes the poem and the feelings that the readers get when they read the poem—this is one of the greatest achievement that a poet can have, to be able to convey his feelings through his writings.

Many people, though, might question Frost’s authority for his assertion. Note that this essay was written in 1939. By that time, Robert Frost has achieved the status as a known and much-acclaimed poet of his era. His being this well-known and well-respected poet of this time gave him the needed authority to talk about the figures that poems make or how poems should be treated and taken by people. Most of the things that he argued in his essays are the things that he had already achieved by then especially the being the poem’s originality and flow “from delight to wisdom” as observed from his poems such as “The Road Not Taken,” “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “Mending Wall,” and “Fire and Ice” among others.

Works Cited

Frost, Robert. “The Figure a Poem Makes” from Collected Poems of Robert Frost. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1939. in David Havird’s Webpage at Cetenary College Louisiana. (1939). Web. 24 Apr. 2012.

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To read the actual essay by the author, click on the title of the work on the “Work Cited” section above.

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Comments
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    Reminds me to dig my kaban for Frost’s poetry book (can’t remember the title) and read some to my kids.

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