Robert Frost, The Voice of the Poet (series) by Robert Frost


Real favorites!

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.
p 48



Late Wife by Claudia Emerson


2006 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

While you can certainly dip into this small collection to read and appreciate any poem, it is best read from front to back like a novel. The collection tells the story of the dissolution of the author’s first marriage, through her recovery period from her divorce, and then meeting and marrying her 2nd husband who’s first wife died young from lung cancer. Hence the title “Late Wife” which refers both to the author in her old marriage and the after-image of the previous wife in her new marriage to her second husband: “Then, at last, you come home / to look into the camera she holds, / and past her into me — invisible, unimagined / other who joins her in seeing through our / transience the lasting of desire.”
The poems are haunting and heartbreaking and rely heavily on environment as metaphor and even as characters in her storytelling – especially the cold.

It was shockingly poignant to learn that Claudia herself died of colon cancer in 2014 at the age of 57.



Man Alive, A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man by Thomas Page McBee


Through snapshots in time, this fascinating and affecting story tells how a potentially lethal encounter with a mugger helped the author deal with deadening effects of childhood abuse that occurred before his transition to an androgynous person, then a man.
He discusses quite openly fears he had that transitioning might destroy his relationship with the girl he loved and his family, and we know that ultimately, he has become the man he was meant to be.


Literary Fiction

Beast by Paul Kingsnorth

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After I finished “Beast” I read some reviews to try to understand what it was about. They were not helpful. The book is hallucinatory, portentous, poetic, and engrossing. It is reminiscent of Conrad Aiken’s “Silent Snow, Secret Snow”; Tim O’Brien’s “In the Lake of the Woods”; Christopher Nolan’s (best) film “Memento”; and a discourse on Zen experience and Christian mysticism. It is unique, however. I can’t recommend it exactly, but if you can make it up to page 19, I think you will want to continue with it to the end.



What Narcissism Means to Me by Tony Hoagland

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I am not sure how I first discovered this award-winning poet and his sharp, dark poems but I enjoyed revisiting this collection. His poems are deceptive in that they often have a wry, ironically humorous tone but they quickly lead you into the darkest parts of our shared subconscious or the sorriest aspects of our shared American culture. While some poems feel very referential to the late 1990s, his themes and observations remain timeless and achingly human. His poem “Two Trains” is still utterly searing to me, laid out in completely accessible language that will stab you right in the heart: “What grief it is to love some people like your own / blood, and then to see them simply disappear; / to feel time bearing us away / one boxcar at a time.” Highly recommended.