Tuesday, March 07, 2006


From Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1923, Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," was published in the New Republic magazine. It was Frost's favorite of his own poems, and he called it, "My best bid for remembrance."

Though it's a poem about winter, Frost wrote the first draft on a warm morning in the middle of June. The night before he had stayed up working at his kitchen table on a long, difficult poem called "New Hampshire" (1923). He finally finished it, and then looked up and saw that it was morning. He'd never worked all night on a poem before. Feeling relieved at the work he'd finished, he went outside and watched the sunrise.

But while he was outside, he suddenly got an idea for a new poem. So he rushed back inside his house and wrote "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" in just a few minutes. He said he wrote most of the poem almost without lifting his pen off the page.

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

* * *

I find this amazing. The most remembered poem by Frost just popped out. While many people probably have never read the poem he toiled over all night. Also, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is always cited in poetry how-to books as an example of technical achievement, suggesting that Frost purposefully assembled the poem with specific meter and sounds.

Now that I think about it, the poems I write that people seem to connect with usually slip out and need little revision. While the ones I labor over can make the reader go - huh? So the lesson from Frost may be to just go with the flow, and make sure you have paper and pencil around because you never know when and where that inspiration will hit.


Blogger Pat Paulk said...

Isn't that the truth. Haven't read that poem in awhile. Thanks for posting it!

6:59 PM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Michael Parker said...

My dad and I like to recite the last stanza as we start a long training run or a marathon-- before the crack of day, and before anyone else is awake.
Frost is pretty amazing.

8:30 PM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Michelle e o said...

It's like basketball, the harder you try to get the ball in the worse you do. Soft hand, the ball goes in.

11:11 PM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Thanks Pat, Michael, and Michelle,

Now I have the image of you and your dad, Michael, with miles to go before you sleep. Nice.

Great basketball simile Michelle - that works! Soft hand . . .

6:40 AM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger Chaotic Mom said...

Okay, that's it. I'm printing out so much of your stuff, I think you'll have a "published book" by the end of the day. Do you already have one? Where do I send the royalties? ;)

8:26 AM, March 18, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Irene has a poetry book to come out soon - follow the link on her profile to her web site. But feel free to send me cash money!


5:07 PM, March 18, 2006  

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