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Cleaning House; Finding Frost

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Author: Lara Petersen

Cleaning my apartment thoroughly seems to always require the arrival of a visitor (usually my mother).

And then, rather than starting with the tedious vacuuming, mopping, or even picking up – I often begin by opening a closet or drawer and exploding the contents onto the scene. Basically, I tear the place apart.

I’m currently sitting in the middle of my living room as I type this – or what used to be my living room anyway. I just finished repotting a plant (IN the house). The armoire and ugly salmon-colored loveseat have been dragged into the middle of the room with me (dust bunny eradication). My yoga ball, goodwill box of unwanted clothes, and a 10 year old computer have also joined us.

Does it make sense to reorganize your closet in preparation for expected company? Maybe not. But then I wouldn’t have stumbled upon my 10th grade research paper entitled “Robert Frost; Nature as a Teacher” (yes, that’s a semicolon, and yes, my English teacher circled it in red pen). The front page has rust from the staple.

At first, the articulate sentences written by my tenth grade brain astounded me. Then I saw the lengthy bibliography.

“It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life.” (Brower, 28)

This apparently is a direct quote from Robert Frost about his own poetry (I’m assuming that’s true, because there are no red marks from the teacher saying otherwise). I focused my paper on the phrase “ends in a clarification of life”.

I went on to adore the deceptive simplicity of Frost’s poetry: “It is through simple metaphors that Frost expresses his belief that a thing of great import and weight cannot be said bluntly. In his works, small details take on more elaborate, foreign meanings.” Mind you, I'm sure I stole a lot of this from textbooks. I was 14!

Ignore the margin note from my teacher: “rather than idea after idea, how about an occasional example from a poem?” Why couldn’t he recognize that I was inspired by the poetry I had just read (or maybe I’d already returned the book)? Anyway, he was my neighbor and he didn’t know how to take care of his sheep! So there!

This is the point: “It is also with his characteristic simplicity that Frost was able to address such tragic subjects as death and destruction, with a touch that was light, however certain.” This observation, which I borrowed from a book by some guy named Untermeyer, is what strikes me as I sit here under the chaos of my “cleaning”.

It reminds me of something I’ve been pondering for some time – the lightness that is needed when considering the harder realities of life. So many non-profit, well-meaning organizations predict death and doom in every communication (newsletters, web banners, ads, email blasts). It is in their lack of poetry that they lose their audience. They lose me.

I’m deeply hurt by pictures of stranded polar bears. I can’t even look at the (recently inescapable) images of seal-clubbing. Come on people! I can’t stand it. And that picture certainly won’t drive me to click further and donate money if I can't bring myself to even look at it.

Where is the poetry? Where is the light hopefulness; the nostalgia for what is beautiful rather than the fear of devastation?

Scare tactics are so old school, and they never really worked. Give me poetry!

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