Wednesday, October 12, 2011

from "The Figure a Poem Makes"

by Robert Frost

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It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. No one can really hold that the ecstasy should be static and stand still in one place. It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life -- not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion. It has denouement.
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No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn't know I knew.
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It must be a revelation, or a series of revelations, as much for the poet as for the reader.
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Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it. Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a metal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.

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