If a sonnet is a 14-line poem, then what is a 15-line poem? An imperfect sonnet, right? That’s what I think.
I went camping this weekend and brought John Ashbery’s collected poems and Robert Frost’s collected poems. I assumed the latter (1874-1963) would be a better companion for the creek, the leaves, the insects, the campfire smoke, the dark, and the bright moon, but I was wrong. I can’t say why, but — even though my last MV opinion on Frost was pretty affirming — I got tired quickly of rhyming couplets and poems titled "The Oven Bird" or "The Wood-pile" or "The Pasture," or "The Snow" or "The Tuft of Flowers." Pleasant enough for a weekend, but I wouldn’t wanna live there, knowhatimsayin? Ashbery, on the other hand, gave me a whole universe of the imagination to run around in.
Not all Frost’s poetry is bucolic, but the other ones that tried to "say something" I didn’t find all that compelling. So this may be our last Frost entry — a poet doesn’t have to speak to all readers, or even the same reader, all the time. Nonetheless, a tiny valedictory for the man, and I even found one that doesn’t rhyme. Not the right line-count, no end-rhyme… this is the kind of rule-breaking I like. it was first published in Harper’s Magazine, July 1920. -ed
FOR ONCE, THEN, SOMETHING
Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.