April 13, 2007

Poetry Friday: Bedgraggled but determined

Since the beginning of the month, we've had days pelted with snow, wind, and a bit of rain. But we've had two sunny, warm(ish) days, the snow is gone from much of the yard and the fields, the meadowlarks are back and singing, and the bluebirds are back and flying around, and in town at least we saw some early bulbs pushing their way through the soil.

Rainy Robin
by Frances Frost (1905-1959)

The April rain that's pelted
The early robin's head
For three gray days has threatened
To wash the brilliant red

Out of his chesty feathers;
Now damp, he swings a branch,
Bedraggled but determined
To laud the avalanche.

The April storm has settled
Within his croupy throat:
His open beak produces
Only the hoarsest note.

Off-key he tries his music:
Even his own wife squirms
At his half-squawking lyric
In praise of April worms.

Oh small wet bird, be patient.
The gray will turn to gold,
And you can sing your heart out when
The sun has cured your cold!

(from my old copy of The Little Naturalist, 1959, by Frances Frost, illustrated by Kurt Werth; click here for the online Kurth Werth Gallery)

I've posted one or two poems by Frances Frost before, and last time linked to the Register of Frances Frost Papers at the Geisel Library, University of California at San Diego. From which:
Frances Mary Frost contributed to contemporary literature both through her own writing and through the advise and encouragement she provided her son, the poet Paul Blackburn. The daughter of Amos and Susan Frost, Frances was born in St. Albans, Vermont, 3 August 1905. Her father was a railroad engineer for most of his adult life, and the Frosts were a religious, working-class couple whose values and perspective on life permeated most of Frances' poetry and prose. Before leaving Vermont in the 1930's, Frost attended Middlebury College and received a Ph.B. from the University of Vermont in 1931.

Frost's first marriage was to William Blackburn, with whom she had two children -- Paul and Jean. Frost and Blackburn separated in 1929, after the birth of their daughter, and the two children were left to be raised by their maternal grandfather, Amos Frost. Following Frances' graduation from the University of Vermont, she moved to New York City and married Samuel G. Stoney, the author of Black Genesis.

Frost's first success at publishing poetry came in the early 1930's, with such works as "Hemlock Wall," "Blue Harvest," and "These Acres." In 1933 she was awarded the Katherine Lee Bates poetry prize by the New England Poetry Club, and in 1934 she won the Shelley Memorial Award. She published the first of her four novels, Innocent Summer, in 1936, and the most popular of her novels, Yoke of Stars, became a best seller. Frost also published a number of children's stories, including Legends of the United Nations, The Windy Foot Series, The Cat That Went to College, and Rocket Away.

Although Frost's children were raised by their grandparents, Frances always stayed in close contact with them. After the breakup of her second marriage, Frances returned to Vermont and took permanent custody of her son Paul, who returned to New York to live with her. Frost's daughter, Jean, remained in Vermont with her grandparents. In 1954 Jean became a nun with the Order of St. Joseph in Vermont. Paul lived with his mother until 1946, when he joined the army and served as a laboratory technician in Colorado. While Paul was in the army and overseas, him and his mother continued to offer each other both professional and personal direction through their frequent correspondence.

Frost published a number of children's books during the 1940's and 1950's, but she continued to write poetry whenever possible. Her poems appeared in such publications as The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, and American Mercury. She continued to live in New York until her death of cancer in 1959.

I'll post round-up information as soon as I get it.

Update: Got it! Liz has the round-up chez Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy.

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