A Meeting of Equals

A poet's critical prose holds interest for many people. Scholars examine it for clarifications or contradictions of the poet's verse, admiring readers for echoes of the language that captivated them in the poetry, to which students and new readers may want some kind of "authorized introduction." When writing about the work of others poets reveal as much, or more, about themselves and their own work. These three essays by Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, and the late Joseph Brodsky, gathered in Homage to Robert Frost, remind us why we should trust poets more than most critics when it comes to discussing the art.

"Among major poets of the English language in this century," Heaney observes, "Robert Frost is the one who takes the most punishment." Much of this brief volume's appeal lies in its unabashed praise for Frost's achievement. It continues the attempts of William Pritchard and a few others to rescue the poet from the grotesqueries of his biographer, Lawrance Thompson, and the kind of portentous generalizations launched by Lionel Trilling upon the occasion of Frost's 80th birthday, when he pronounced Frost "the most terrifying poet of our time."

It is not just that poets—these three in particular—provide an inside view, a practitioner's insight into Frost's colloquial tone or his handling of meter. The initial delight of these essays...

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