Biography of Robert Frost | Life and Career: American poet Robert Frost is popular for his command of American colloquial speech and his realistic depictions of rural life. He wrote about settings involving rural lifestyles in New England during the early 20th century to examine philosophical and social themes. Often honored during his lifetime, he is the only poet to receive four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. On July 22, 1961, he was also named poet laureate of Vermont. He was also nominated for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature 31 times. Let’s read more about Robert Frost.
Early Life and Achievements
Robert Lee Frost was born on March 26, 1874, in San Francisco, California to William Prescott Frost Jr. and Isabelle Moodie. Frost graduated in 1892 from Lawrence High School. Though he is known for his association with rural life, he grew up in the city. His first was published in his high school magazine. He attended Dartmouth College for two months. Then he returned home to teach and to work at different jobs including delivering newspapers, helping his mother teach unruly boys, and more.
Frost’s first poem “My Butterfly: An Elegy” was published in 1894 and was sold for $15. He attended Harvard University from 1897-99 and left voluntarily due to illness. He started teaching as an English teacher a Pinkerton Academy, New Hampshire from 1906 to 1911, and then at Plymouth State University. Frost also taught at the University of Michigan. Amherst College, and more for a long time.
In England, he made some great acquaintances including Edward Thomas and Ezra Pound. He met and befriended some contemporary poets after publishing A Boy’s Will (1913) and North of Boston (1914). During World War I in 1915, he came back to America, bought a farm in Franconia, and launched a career of teaching, writing, and lecturing.
In 1924, Frost won his first Pulitzer Prize for New Hampshire. Later he would win Pulitzers for Collected Poems in 1931, A Further Range in 1937, and A Winter Trees in 1943. Although he never graduated from college, Robert Frost received over 40 honorary degrees including from Princeton, Cambridge, and Oxford universities. In 1960, he was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal.
Robert Frost – Critical Appreciation, Themes, and Influence
According to critic Harold Bloom, Robert Frost was one of the “major American poets”. Poet and critic Randall Jarrell praised his “seriousness and honesty” stating that he was an expert at representing a wide range of human experiences in his works. He lists a selection of poems he considers masterful including “Directive”, “The Most of It”, “Acquainted with the Night”, “Home Burial”, “Desert Places”, and more. Classicist Helen H. Bacon proposed Frost’s profound knowledge of Roman and Greek classics influenced much of his works such as “Wild Grapes” and “Birches”.
The editor of Contemporary Literary Criticism states that “Frost’s best work explores fundamental questions of existence, depicting with chilling starkness the loneliness of the individual in an indifferent universe.” Harriet Monroe, the founding publisher and editor of Poetry state that “perhaps no other poet in history has put the best of the Yankee spirit into a book so completely.” His work portrays human reactions to nature’s processes. Even though his character-based poems are satirical, he always has a “sympathetic humor” towards his subject.
Frost was hugely influenced by Thomas Hardy, John Keats, Ralph Waldo Emerson, W.B. Yeats, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. Some poets who were influenced by Frost’s work are Robert Francis, Richard Wilbur, James Wright, Seamus Heaney, and Edward Thomas.
Robert Frost’s personal life was full of loss and grief. He was eleven when his father died of tuberculosis in 1885, literally leaving the family with eight dollars. His mother died of cancer in 1900. In 1920, he had to admit Jeanie, his younger sister to a mental hospital. Jeanie died nine years later. His wife Elinor also experienced bouts of depression. She developed breast cancer and died in 1938. They got married in 1895 and had six children – Elliot, Lesley, Carol, Irma, Marjorie, and Elinor Bettina. Their first son Elliot died of cholera. In 1947, his daughter Irma was committed to a mental hospital. Marjorie died after childbirth. His daughter Elinor died one day after birth.
Frost died of complications from prostate surgery on January 29, 1963 in Boston. His epitaph quotes “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world”.