Who’s the greatest American poet? Experts might nominate Longfellow … Dickinson … Whitman … Cummings. I’d no doubt go with T.S. Eliot, and his remarkable mastery of both symbolism and language (Say this aloud: “Combing the white hair of the waves blown back /when the wind blows the water white and black.”) except that he left the good old U.S. of A. and became a citizen of England.
Which doesn’t mean that Frost merits only first runner-up. Although born in San Francisco, he lived most of his life in New England, and his language reflected the simple things he treasured. As one biographer wrote, “With his down-to-earth approach to his subjects, readers found it is easy to follow the poet into deeper truths, without being burdened with pedantry.”
Is there a more resolute sadness than Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening? Or a better treatise on destiny than The Road Not Taken? Robert Frost spoke for himself, but his words expressed the hopes, dreams, and fears of his countrymen. In my opinion, the Greatest American Poet.
(Originally posted April 27, 2009)