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This review is taken from PN Review 215, Volume 40 Number 3, January - February 2014.

To Surprise and Entice tim kendall, The Art of Robert Frost (Yale University Press) £14.99 (pb) £25.00 (hb)

In this intriguing and hefty take on the selected poems of Robert Frost, Tim Kendall's critical acuity is evident. Yet, like she of Frost's most beguiling sonnet, 'The Silken Tent', Kendall's selection is simultaneously invigorated and dulled by its supporting apparatus.

The volume manifests a double agenda, at once liberating and constraining: to offer the general reader a fresh selection of Frost's poetry, and to provide a definitive scholarly account of the complex mechanisms that underlie Frost's poems, poetic career and view of life. Sixty-five poems -  taken mainly from Frost's first four collections, with ten poems to represent his post-1923 output -  are sufficient to serve both aims. Though Frost continued to work until his death in 1963, Kendall's decision to focus on the first half of his career is not in itself problematic. From the general reader's point of view, an edifying poetry selection need be no more than the sum of the good poems it contains.

The guy-ropes of Kendall's twinned projects soon tauten, however. As he notes in his short, athletic introduction, from the scholar's perspective a selection should demonstrate a poet's variety, and 'to give a sense of Frost's range has occasionally entailed the exclusion of poems on grounds other than my opinion of their merit'. Hence the 'almost entirely neglected' poem 'Blueberries' gets a dusting-off because it is an 'anomaly' in North of Boston, though 'the best that can be said for [it] is that it prepares for a later and greater poem like "Two Tramps in Mud Time"'; and ...


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