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This report is taken from PN Review 267, Volume 49 Number 1, September - October 2022.

Something there Is J. Kates
I live in rural, southwestern New Hampshire, and sometimes I write poems. This inevitably leads to comparisons, and a constant fear that my own writing will be taken, the way a dean at my university once characterized another poet, as ‘when the Frost is on the bumpkin’. Indeed, Robert Frost’s work was one welcoming gateway for me into modern poetry, and I have always appreciated the multiplicity within his work, reading him not as the ‘Saturday Evening Post philosopher’ Gregory Corso once took him for, ‘but such as plagiarizes God’. And it was Richard Wilbur who first introduced me – with a brilliant essay in which he read ‘Birches’ ‘as a rejection of the sort of soaring idealism we find in Shelley’ – to how much of Frost’s poetry is underpinned by a conscious conversation with other writers. If you don’t believe Wilbur or me, look at ‘The Most of It’ side by side with Wordsworth’s ‘There was a Boy…’ Or, from the other side, read Wendell Berry’s ‘Stay Home’ after Frost’s ‘The Pasture’.

This spring, I have been clearing and rebuilding a stone wall around my house. It marks no boundary, simply the abandoned ruin of some early breeder of Merino sheep. (These walls were constructed for the most part during the early nineteenth century, and they thread now along roads and through abandoned fields into fully grown woodlands. Some of them marked boundaries, as Frost contemplated.) Mine surrounds a couple of acres within the property, and, every fall, the leaves drift up against its eastern side, composting into soil, rooting blueberries, turning ...


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