Discipline: Literature – poetry

Robert Frost

Discipline: Literature – poetry
Region: Cambridge, MA

Edward MacDowell Medalist: 1962

Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963) was an American poet known for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. He frequently wrote about settings from rural life in New England in the twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and philosophical themes. He was influenced by poets Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke, Thomas Hardy, William Butler Yeats, and John Keats. The founding publisher and editor of Poetry, Harriet Monroe, emphasized the folksy New England persona and characters in Frost's work, writing that "perhaps no other poet in our history has put the best of the Yankee spirit into a book so completely."

Frost was honored frequently during his lifetime, receiving four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry (1924, 1931, 1937, and 1943). For forty-two years – from 1921 to 1962 – Frost spent almost every summer and fall teaching at the Bread Loaf School of English of Middlebury College, at its mountain campus at Ripton, Vermont. Although he never graduated from college, Frost received over 40 honorary degrees, including ones from Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge universities, and was the only person to receive two honorary degrees from Dartmouth College. He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1960 for his poetic works.

In June 1922 the Vermont State League of Women's Clubs elected Frost as Poet laureate of Vermont. When a New York Times editorial strongly criticized the decision of the Women's Clubs, Sarah Cleghorn and other women wrote to the newspaper defending Frost. On July 22, 1961, Frost was named Poet laureate of Vermont by the state legislature through Joint Resolution R-59 of the Acts of 1961, which also created the position.

Frost became one of America's rare "public literary figures, almost an artistic institution."