In July 2001, on a vacation to the White Mountains in New Hampshire with my husband, nearly 1-year-old daughter, and my mother, we saw a sign in Franconia directing tourists to a farmhouse that once belonged to Robert Frost. Of course, we stopped, touring the house and walking the path through the woods that was lined with quotes from Frost’s poems. And of course, I bought some of the books offered for sale.
I can’t believe it took me so long to devour this slim collection. Edited by Donald Sheehan, Mountain Intervals, Poems from the Frost Place 1977-1986 features 27 poems from the 10 poets who each spent a summer living and working at The Frost Place during that time. These poets are featured in the order of their stay: Katha Pollitt (1977), Robert Hass, Gary Miranda, William Matthews, Mary Jo Salter, Cleopatra Mathis, Denis Johnson, Sherod Santos, Kathy Fagan, and Christopher Gilbert (1986).
Each poet has his or her own style, yet some of the poems are similar in theme. Many of the poems touch upon nature, and some share themes of grief or lamentations of time passing. That’s not surprising, given that each of them spent a summer in a quiet town surrounded by nature and nothing to do but contemplate life.
My favorite poems in Mountain Intervals (named after Frost’s poetry collection, Mountain Interval) are those that express sadness and grief so beautifully. In “At Squaw Valley,” Robert Hass wrote
I wanted to tell you
that when the ghost-child died, the three-month dreamer
she and I would never know, I kept feeling that
the heaven it went to was like the inside of a store window
on a rainy day from which you watched blurred forms
passing in the street. (page 14)
Gary Miranda doesn’t waste words in “The Friend”:
I had a friend
who killed himself.
Simple as that.
He slit his wrists
with a razor
blade and lay down on a bench
and died. (page 18)
But my favorite of all the poems is “A Late Elegy” by Sherod Santos. It’s dedicated to his niece who died in October 1967, and its narrator has a dream in which he must carry a dead child home to her parents.
Though I cannot tell, even
This far from the dream,
If it was her new ghost
Being born into the air,
Or my own, unable
After all these years
To bear the grief
Of a lifetime in its arms. (page 37)
I didn’t like every poem or poet in this collection, but that’s to be expected with a book like this. Still, I enjoyed the time I spent with Mountain Intervals. Not one poem was too abstract or difficult for me to extract some meaning, and not one was so cumbersome that I felt the need to skip it. From what I understand, Mountain Intervals was a limited edition sold by The Frost Place, so it might be difficult to find. However, tracking down a copy would be worthwhile; I’m happy I have this on my shelf, for the poetry itself and to remember my short visit to the home of one of America’s most famous poets.
Book 1 for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Challenge
Disclosure: I purchased my copy of Mountain Intervals, Poems from the Frost Place 1977-1986. I am an Amazon associate.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.
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