Michael Shepherd

Rookie (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

! Travelling With Robert Frost

Poem by Michael Shepherd

Everyone but poets
(who have their own allegiances)
would acknowledge it – you were, and I guess still are,
the most famous and popular poet of
the 20th century – to Americans at least;

though since we’re now into the 21st century,
it’s appropriate that you’re being pushed hard, even overtaken,
at least in the charts here on Poemhunter.com
by the Afro-American and Spanish-American poets;

and your ‘The Road Not Taken’ is
currently lying around fifth place
to the favourite poems of
those guys

it must be the most inappropriate poem title ever given
since you don’t tell us anything about
the road you didn’t take – and come to think of it
not much about the road you did take –
except – and that’s so ‘you’ – that it
‘has made all the difference’ –
without telling us what that difference was or is…

but then, that’s you:
prose doesn’t appreciate much, if any
ambiguity; but it’s the stock-in-trade
of poetry, where – as it’s fashionable to say –
the reader re-writes the poem for themselves;
and ambiguity is certainly your thoughty-forte…

OK the first line then, since
we’re on this road together (whichever) :
like Dante, you’re discovered in the middle of
a dense wood; though (unusually in woods
except those planted for cutting)
there’s some kinda crossroads there;
though of course that’s a neat Dantean metaphor too..

and it’s yellow, which means autumn/Fall, most spectacular
in the New England area – how easy to forget
that you lived your first eleven years
in San Francisco – and wrote this poem
in Old England, not the New; and before
you became the famous you..

As for the second stanza, Mister Ambiguous –
there’s just a sneaky feeling that
it was the obligation to rhyme that
makes you imply, that you were adventurous, but
there wasn’t really much to choose between them…

and right to the end of this famous poem
you leave us with this ambiguity:
sticking onto the road ‘less travelled’ the little word
‘by’ – hinting that both roads get you to much
the same place in the end…
then tell us that that ‘has made
all the difference’…like, uh?

so there you are – that’s poetry:
scholars, academics, pull it to bits
to find out what makes it tick—
whether it’s a heart, or just wind-up clockwork –

yet out there where people just read poems
to aid their deepest lives -
deep in the springtime thicket of their life
or even later, in the yellow wood –
out there, in there, hesitating at the crossroads
looking for some sign; knowing deep inside
that ‘way leads on to way’ –
this is the poem which for so many
their life’s heart has lived with.
And that is how it is.


Comments about ! Travelling With Robert Frost by Michael Shepherd

  • Stephen LoomesStephen Loomes (11/13/2019 5:28:00 AM)

    Frost is the most over-estimated poet and it is astonishing how popular he is rated on this site; his versification makes Leonard Cohen look like a good poet and that's saying something. See Richard Ponsonby's poem, Owed to Leonard Cohen. Frost lived a life of ease and privilege, and turned the most mundane events into laughably epic moments. You've nailed this conman beautifully in your poem.(Report)Reply

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  • Raynette Eitel (2/18/2007 10:33:00 AM)

    From what I know of Robert Frost (stubborn New Englander at the end) , I dont think he would appreciate this assessment of his famous poem. And, ambiguous though it is, I cant tell you how many times, as I go through life, I think of choosing between two roads and consider 'the road less taken.' Thanks for this fun poem about my most favorite poet.

    Raynette(Report)Reply

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  • Tara very irritated with PH injustice (2/18/2007 6:30:00 AM)

    Tee hee hee! Thanks for taking us on a far superior journey M. t x(Report)Reply

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, February 18, 2007

Poem Edited: Thursday, January 20, 2011