They seem incapable of the over-and-above stuff. I do believe maybe it goes on within their heads because they read but they are incompetent at catching it. These are typically too directly intent from the reading. They cant get started looking two ways at the same time. I do believe too they’ve been scared of the simplicity of several things they believe in the side while they read. They wouldn’t have the face for connecting it on paper aided by the great author they have already been reading. It may possibly be a childhood memory; it could be some homely simile; it may be a line or verse of mother goose. They want it to be big and bookish. But they haven’t books enough within their heads to fit book stuff with book stuff. Needless to say a number of that could be all right.
Indeed, in a variety of ways Frost’s advice on essay-writing is actually suggestions about reading — that mutuality of thought between reader and writer, pulsed through by the book as “a heart that only beats when you look at the chest of some other.” Echoing Virginia Woolf’s dictum on how to read a written book, Frost offers counsel so passionate that it becomes almost a stream-of-consciousness prose poem, barely punctuated:
The game is matching your author thought for thought in any of many possible ways. Reading then becomes that are converse and take. It really is only conversation in which the reader takes part addressing himself to some thing into the author in the matter that is subject or. Just as once we talk together! Being careful to carry up our end and to do our part agreeably without way too much contradiction and mere opinionation. The smartest thing of most is going each other one better mounting up the ideas anecdotes and incidents like alternating hands piled up in the knee. Well its out of conversation similar to this with a book which you find perhaps one idea perhaps yours possibly the book’s that will serve for any other lesser ideas to center around. And there’s your essay.
He lands from this poetic elation into some practical advice:
Be brief in the beginning. You should be honest. You don’t want to help make your material seem more than it really is. You won’t have a great deal to state in the beginning while you shall have later. My defect is within without having learned to hammer my material into one lump. I haven’t had experience enough. The facts of essay won’t come in right for me personally because they will in narrative. Sometimes I have gotten around the difficulty by some dodge that is narrative.
Take it easy with the essay whatever you do. Write it as well if you have to write it as you can. Be as concrete as the statutory law allows on it — concrete and experiential. Don’t allow it to scare you. Don’t strain. Understand that any old thing that takes place in your thoughts as you read will be the thing you want. If nothing much appears to happen, perhaps another reading will help. Probably the book is bad or perhaps is not your kind — is nothing to you and may start nothing in your nature some way.
He interjects a meta-remark on the nature — and naturalness — associated with essay form:
Of course this letter is essay. It is material which has started to the top of my mind in reading in the same way frost brings stones into the surface of the ground.
In the very end, before signing off “Affectionately Papa,” Frost can’t resist taking only a little jab during the essay, voicing the sentiment that appears to explain his own lifelong resistance to partaking in the genre:
I don’t know you understand whether its worth very much — I mean the essay — when you have it written. I’m rather afraid of it as an enemy to the really creative writing that holds scenes and things when you look at the eye voices within the ear and whole situations as a sort of plexus in your body (I don’t know just where).
Lesley grew up to be an author herself, albeit not of essays — she published two books of stories for the kids: Really certainly not in 1962, published months that are mere her father’s death, and Digging right down to China in 1968.
With its portly 850-page totality, The Letters of Robert Frost is a trove of writerly wisdom and heartwarming parental advice to the poet’s six children, of whom Lesley and her sister Irma outlived their father. Complement it with Frost’s poem that is beautiful art and government, that he intended essay writing service to but didn’t read at JFK’s inauguration, and F. Scott Fitzgerald on the secret of good writing in a letter of advice to his own daughter, then revisit this growing library of writers’ advice on writing.
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