Frost in the Tripod

   Posted by: rring   in Classes

[Posted by Julia Rubano ’14, for Prof. David Rosen’s course, “Modern Poetry”]

photo 1At the beginning of the semester, each member of my Modern Poetry class was asked to select a poet who we would later research in the Watkinson.  There were about a dozen options on the list, including but not limited to Pound, Yeats, Williams and H.D.  Despite the extensive number of options I had to choose from, the only poet I felt comfortable selecting without doing any background research was Robert Frost.  My lack of knowledge of modern poets turned out to be extremely beneficial, though, and in choosing someone so obvious, it also happened that I picked someone whose work the Watkinson seems to have been collecting in droves for decades.  That said, finding something interesting about Frost was the furthest thing from difficult.  In fact, it was actually harder to narrow down what I could look into from the sheer amount of manuscripts, newspapers and the like that the Watkinson has to offer.  After combing through the immense Frost archives, I decided on one of the less conspicuously impressive things they had to offer: Volume LXI No. 6 Trinity College’s The Trinity Tripod from Tuesday, October 9th 1962.  At first glance, the newspaper appeared much like any other one might see today—with a short section on a professor returning to campus, ads for Keds sneakers, and a chance to win something through a student representative’s event.

photo 2However, when I flipped to the second page of the paper, I was shocked at what I saw.  In red ink and covering the majority of the page was a drawn portrait of Robert Frost with the heading, “Tripod Special Edition: Robert Frost.”  To the left of the drawing, a poem entitled, “A Portrait,” by Peter Hollenbeck.  This is what kept me reading the rest of the newspaper, and what eventually lead me to read the entire article of, “Robert Frost: Poetry and Paradox,” which appears as a double page spread in the section that follows.

When I first picked this piece to write about, I thought maybe it wasn’t impressive enough—after all, with everything the Watkinson has to offer on Frost, one’s first inclination is likely to choose something along the lines of a first edition signed manuscript rather than a Trinity newspaper that is still in print at the college today.  This simple fact, though, that I read this newspaper in my spare time at school, made this special “Frost” edition that much more intriguing.  The edition’s main article is a series of quotes by Frost himself (who I found, after speaking with one of the very helpful Watkinson employees, had actually come to Trinity just prior to this being printed.)  In the newspaper, Frost speaks on “Education by Poetry, Living with Poetry, The Figure a Poem Makes.”  This topic in and of itself is something I cannot imagine ever seeing in a Trinity Tripod newspaper today.  More than anything, I think this fact serves as an interesting commentary on how the world of academia and poets within that world, especially, are valued in contemporary society.  It is a statement in and of itself that the newspaper was entirely dedicated to furthering students’ knowledge of Robert Frost—it says something about the vastly different world of 2013 versus 1962, and begs the question, why aren’t we reading about important figures like Frost in our college newspaper today?

photo 3The second section of the article is titled, “Collamore Exhibition May Even Surprise The Poet.”  Written by Jerry Liebowitz, the piece is from the perspective of Mr. H. Bacon Collamore, whose collection of Robert Frost’s works, manuscripts and memorabilia were on exhibit at the Library during this time in October ’62.  Collamore, the Chairman of Trinity’s Library Associates, was a friend of Frost’s and kept in touch with him since their first meeting at a convention at Wesleyan in 1936.  Frost would send Collamore pieces to add to his collection whenever possible—probably one of the reasons Trinity’s Frost collection is so expansive—and at one point, even corrected a poem of his own entitled, “Versions,” and sent it to his friend to paste over the incorrect version which appeared in his book, In The Clearing.  Following this, Collamore talks about how Frost traveled a surprising amount, but still managed to “keep up with the world.”  He goes on:

“[Frost] leads a rather strange, a rather interesting life.  For the past several years he’s owned a farm in Ripton, Vermont, where he lives…. In a small house, away from the main building, with a dog or a cat—right now it’s a cat, but I can remember the dog he had before this cat; he was remarkable; he could shut doors!”

While the previous sections of this newspaper focus on letting the reader peek into Frost’s mind, this section serves to let us into moments of Frost’s personal life—a fascinating addition to any newspaper, but especially impressive for a paper being printed at the college level.

Although it might appear this way, I think it would be unfair to say that society today does not appreciate poets the way they did in the time of this newspaper.  We also have to consider the multitude of ways we have to learn about current events and important people, versus the means that were available in the sixties.  So perhaps the question I posed earlier (why aren’t we reading about important figures like Frost in our college newspaper today?) is too great to answer in the immediate.  Regardless, this newspaper is a true treasure and a wonderful commentary on a person whose legacy remains pertinent in both the world of academia and the world at large.  Getting such a personal look into a canonized poet like Robert Frost was remarkable, and something I can’t really imagine having being given the opportunity to experience anywhere else but the Watkinson.

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