Quotes on Writing: Robert Frost on Emotions and Poetry

quotes on writing - robert frost

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” ― Robert Frost

Emotions are fickle. Sometimes they’re clear and brilliant: we’re happy, sad, frustrated, or angry. But emotions can also be complicated, layered, and conflicting. Sure, we’re happy, but we’re also kind of annoyed about something. We’re sad, but we also have something to be glad about. When emotions are textured and gritty, they are difficult to describe.

I believe music is the single best expression of human emotion, but poetry is a close second. Capturing complex feelings in words without the support of music is a marvelous feat. Only the deftest poets do it well.

Four-time Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Frost is one of the most well known and beloved poets in the American literary canon. He knew how to convey emotions through language.

I was first introduced Frost’s work with the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” which was featured in Outsiders. One of his most famous poems is “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

I’d like to share an excerpt from my favorite Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

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

By definition, poets take the road that is less traveled by. Some poets gently steer away from the mainstream; others rail in the face of convention.

According to Wikipedia, “In 1894 [Frost] sold his first poem, ‘My Butterfly. An Elegy’ …for $15 (today that would be about $398).” These days, getting $15 for a poem would be an incredible feat. Getting $398 would be almost impossible. But there was a time when there was a market for poetry, when ordinary people (who were not writers, artists, or poets) bought and read poetry. Maybe back then people understood that poetry had the unique ability to interpret and explain emotions. Where do we turn for those interpretations and explanations today?

Quotes on Writing: source

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


4 Responses to “Quotes on Writing: Robert Frost on Emotions and Poetry”

  1. R. E. Hunter says:

    Sorry, I can’t resist: http://www.despair.com/road-not-taken.html

  2. Jesse B. says:

    My favorite part of this post was the last paragraph. As a budding poet, I long for a time when the general public appreciated (or perhaps, will appreciate) poetry instead of it being simply another dreary piece of the different English curriculae being taught. There isn’t much I wouldn’t do to see it changed. But how? How do we reverse the trend? Any ideas?

    • I do have some ideas, actually. If we’re going to give the public poetry, we have to give them work that will compel them, write poems that address subjects they care about, and use language they understand. I actually think the slam/performance poetry world has a shot at going mainstream, but they themselves aren’t pushing for that. Instead, they seem to exist in their own bubble, but I think they could break out if they set their minds on it, because a lot of their work is edgy and contemporary. I think young people (teens, college kids) would especially love a lot of the slam stuff, especially since it lends itself to video (via performance).

      The thing is, people really do love poetry. Dr. Suess is just as popular now as he ever was, and many (not all) songs are just poems set to music. Some rap is poetry. The problem is when a person goes to find poetry in book form, it’s nearly impossible to find poetry that is modern, relevant, and compelling. I myself had this problem as a teenager. I wrote poetry, but I didn’t read it for two reasons. First, because I didn’t yet know how to appreciate poetry, and second, because the poetry I found didn’t speak to me at all. The public is never going to embrace art/entertainment that they have to be trained to appreciate.

      So, I think it’s really a marketing issue. If poets write stuff that matters to the public — stuff that speaks to their interests — and then market it accordingly, it could go mainstream. I love talking about this, by the way!