cover image The Notebooks of Robert Frost

The Notebooks of Robert Frost

Robert Frost, . . Harvard/Belknap, $39.95 (809pp) ISBN 978-0-674-02311-6

A new book containing unpublished work by America's most famous poet is a literary event. While he was not much of a diarist, Frost avidly kept notebooks throughout his life. He recorded his daily musings in what Frost scholar Faggen calls " 'ordinaries,' unassuming dime-store spiral pads and school theme books." This roughly chronological (the poet abandoned and then resumed writing in some notebooks) and thoroughly annotated edition offers devotees a substantial glimpse of the workings of Frost's complex and often contradictory mind, though it provides little in the way of narrative. In scattered jottings on poetry, teaching, politics and family—to name just a few of the many topics covered—Frost drafts poems ("And oh but it was fetching/ To see the wretches retching"); theorizes about poetics ("The Poem must have as good a point as a [sic] anecdote or joke"); lists topics for later writings ("Subjects used in 1906 Eng classes.... Things My Mother Keeps to Remember My Infancy by"); spins aphorisms, stories and sketches; and even shows the development of famous quotes ("No surprise to author none to reader"). Better suited to flipping around in than reading straight through, this is an essential book for Frost fans and serious poetry lovers, who will find it to be a trove of Frost's famously earthy and yet deceptively simple wisdom, as well as a damn good read. (Jan.)