Or maybe it would be easier to say my favorite poet. Actually, I like a lot of poets. As you might guess from my last name, I am distantly related to Edwin Markham, who my grandmother met in her parents’ home when she was about 15. Supposedly, she’d met him as a younger child too, but she had no memory of it. By the time she was 15, he’d attained some measure of fame and that made meeting him all the more weighty, she said.
So, I grew up with his poetry. I also grew up with the poetry of Robert Service and Omar Khayyam. Robert Service, of course, is the unofficial poet laureate of the frozen northlands, so I actually have several of his poems memorized from my days working in the visitor industry. I worked with the grandson of Langston Hughes and memorized one of his poems to surprise Cory once.
I admire poets quite a lot. What they do is similar to what I do, but it’s a special skill that evokes pictures and emotions in quick snapshots that I find difficult to do well.
But my favorite poet is Robert Frost. Down-home, rural, painting pictures with words, not horribly preachy, but making some salient points. I don’t know of any Frost poems I don’t like, and the one I selected as my favorite has close competition from about four or five others.
This one, however, actually inspired a scene in Book 5 of Transformation Project. When the book comes out, you’ll have to read it to see what I mean by that since Robert Frost’s poems are just not that apocalyptic.
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.
You can just see a man in a sleigh or wagon, standing next to a dark wood with a lake nearby, his horse quietly bobbing his neck, wondering how come they’ve stopped. The snow drifting down in big snow globe flakes, some slight drifting out on the ice. No stars or moon to diminish the snow’s featured role, just the stark trees against the white sky and the slight tinkle of harness bells.
Way back in highschool, a teacher suggested the last stanza is a reference to suicide. Having read a lot of Frost even by then, I doubted it and still do. I think he was tempted to go for a walk in the beautiful deep snow, maybe make a snowman. But he had other commitments and he was a long way from his bed. He had a horse to put up and probably fires to mend. He didn’t have time for more than this snapshot of beauty on a snowy night. It was time to go.