Monday, March 09, 2009

Robert Frost: Questions for Discussion

As I prepare for next week when we meet in Saginaw to celebrate Robert Frost's birth and poetry, I look online to see if I can find any study guides or questions for discussion posted somewhere. As it turns out, I did find some questions. Mr. John McIlvain has posted several questions for his students, some of which are sufficiently open-ended for our purposes. Specifically, these questions and the poems they refer to are posted at I am selecting only a few of these questions for our group that will meet next week. We need only to get the discussion started, then we can warm our hands and roast the marshmallows and so forth. I will send the questions out in an e-mail to the people who might show up, and we'll see what we get. So far I've found questions that relate to the following poems: "Spring Pools", "The Oven Bird", "Hyla Brook", and "Stopping by Woods in a Snowy Evening".

Spring Pools

These pools that, though,in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods -
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.

Questions for discussion:
  • How would you describe the relationship between the trees and the pool?
  • What do you think is the poet’s attitude towards nature in this poem?

The Oven Bird
There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal fall is past
Where pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
Question for discussion:
  • Try to explain the following paradox: “The bird would cease and be as other birds/ But that he knows in singing not to sing.” The "but" here means "except".

Hyla Brook

By June our brook’s run out of song and speed.
Sought for much after that, it will be found
Either to have gone groping underground
(And taken with it all the Hyla breed
That shouted in the mist a month ago,
Like ghost of sleigh-bells in a ghost of snow)-
Or flourished and come up in jewel-weed,
Weak foliage that is blown upon and bent
Even against the way its waters went.
Its bed is left a faded paper sheet
Of dead leaves stuck together by the heat-
A brook to none but who remember long.
This as it will be seen is other far
Than with brooks taken otherwhere in song.
We love the things we love for what they are.

Question for discussion:
What's the difference between "Hyla Brook" and "brooks taken otherwhere in song"?

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.

Question for discussion:
This is Frost's most remembered poem. Why do you think it's been so widely anthologized and memorized?
Poems and questions excerpted and/or adapted from accessed 9 March 2009.

No comments: