The common mistake that readers and critics have made with Frost’s work is to read metaphor and symbol out of the poetry and attempt to render it as stark realism. It is Frost’s ulteriority, often revealed through the unconventional use of familiar poetic figurations, that compels us to explore the agons inherent in his work, otherwise we’d have very few reasons to return to the poems as often as we do.
The poem exerts a magnetic attraction, largely due to its lyric intensity and the unpredictable development of its content: from a pastoral setting on Cornell’s campus in Upstate New York (where the “single creek” featured in the poem cuts through the Cascadilla gorge), to the capaciousness of its scientific quantifications of the cosmos and the apparent awe inspired by the poet’s realization of his place in the universal scheme, and finally to the surprising lament at the end of the poem.
Ange Mlinko’s new book of poetry, Marvelous Things Overheard, expresses our contemporary experience by way of micronarratives, using poetry’s familiar lens of myth, fable, and anecdote, and overlaying these with the received “truth” of the arts, science and technology as they are filtered through our national experiences and family histories. The psychological perspective, one that Mlinko surely sees as uniting us with ancients, discloses an unsettling arrhythmia at the heart of our existence in the modern world.
Like Bernard Malamud’s Roy Hobbs (“The Natural”) who can wield the physics of baseball with consummate skill, in fact making it look second nature, Newton, as poet, effortlessly repeats this triumph of language in poem after poem. Yet, Newton’s game is of a more serious kind, leading readers into the labyrinth of human emotions and then letting them see the Minotaur.