There is never a need for a special reason to pay attention to the poetry of Robert Frost, but the publication last month of "Visiting Frost: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Robert Frost" provides a good one anyway. The book is the third in a series from editors Sheila Coghill and Thom Tammaro -- the first looked to Emily Dickinson, the second to Walt Whitman -- and brings together the work of more than 100 poets, including Wendell Berry, Galway Kinnell, Maxine Kumin, Robert Lowell, Mary Jo Salter and Richard Wilbur. Their poems alternately celebrate, mourn, query, challenge, lampoon and riff on Frost, collectively creating a testament to the breadth and depth of his influence. "A great poet like Frost can be thought of as a kind of power station," writes Jay Parini in the foreword, "one who stands off by himself in the big woods, continuously generating electricity that future poets can tap into for the price of a volume of his poems." And, poet or not, you can tap in for free with these selections from the Salon audio archive. (A few words of advice: Before listening try to clear your head of every commencement address, business seminar and sports broadcast in which Frost's lines have been incorporated. Few writers -- George Orwell and the authors of the four Gospels come to mind -- have ever been as frequently and violently hijacked as Frost.) Click on these links to hear Frost himself read "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"(0:40, MP3), "Acquainted With the Night"(0:43, MP3), "West-Running Brook" (4:14, MP3) and "After Apple-Picking"(1:55, MP3). If you get your hands on a copy of "Visiting Frost," try listening to this last selection while reading "After Snow-Mobiling" by Alec Bond:
"My sleek, streamlined machine's lying in a drift
Pointed at Ely still,
And there's a shrub I didn't kill
Beside it, and there may be someone miffed
Because I chased his cow.
But I am done with snow-mobiling now."
The Salon archive also offers readings from two famous contributors to "Visiting Frost." First there is Robert Lowell -- who was an acquaintance of Frost's and may have been the last truly public American poet -- reading "Dunbarton" (2:52, MP3) about his annual trips with his grandfather to the family graveyard in the New Hampshire town and "Skunk Hour (for Elizabeth Bishop)" (2:20, MP3), which includes the delicious lines "We've lost our summer millionaire/ who seemed to leap from an L.L. Bean catalogue." Then there is this reading (7:53, MP3) from Galway Kinnell, the former state poet of Vermont. Recorded in Salon's New York offices as part of a celebration of national poetry month in April 2001, the session includes "Another Night in the Ruins," "A Milk Bottle" and "The Frog Pond."
-- Ira Boudway