Friday, August 28, 2015

Robert Frost Traveled to the Soviet Union on Goodwill Mission (August 29, 1962)

This week (August 28 – September 3) in literary history – Canadian novelist Robertson Davies was born (August 28, 1913); Robert Frost traveled to the Soviet Union on a good will mission (August 29, 1962); Novelist Henry James returned to the U.S. after two decades abroad (August 30, 1904); Armenian American novelist William Saroyan was born (August 31, 1908); Novelist Robert Pirsig was born (September 1, 1928); Eugene O’Neill’s The Ice Man Cometh opened on Broadway (September 2, 1946); Author Malcolm Gladwell was born (September 3, 1963)

Highlighted Literary Story of the Week -
On August 29, 1962, poet Robert Frost traveled to the Soviet Union on a goodwill tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department in an effort to soften Cold War relations. Frost’s poetry has established his international reputation as American’s unofficial poet laureate. While his best work appeared in earlier decades, he is nevertheless seen as an elder statesman of literature.

Despite his close association with New England, Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874 in San Francisco, California. His father, a journalist, died when Robert was 11 and Frosts mother moved to Massachusetts. Frost graduated as co-valedictorian of his high school class and then attended Dartmouth and Harvard, but didn’t complete a degree at either school. Three years after high school, he married his high school sweet heart, Elinor White.

Frost tried unsuccessfully to run a New England farm, and the family, which would eventually include six children, struggled with poverty for two decades. Frost became more and more depressed and in 1912, he moved his family to England to make a fresh start. There he concentrated on his poetry and in 1913 published a collection called A Boy’s Will, which won praise from English critics and helped him win a U.S. publishing contract for his second poetry book, North of Boston (1914). The American public took a liking to the 40-year-old Frost, who returned to the U.S. when World War I broke out. He bought another farm in New Hampshire and continued to write poetry. Frosts wife died in 1938 from heart failure and he remained single the remainder of his life.

He taught and lectured at Amherst, the University of Michigan, Harvard, and Dartmouth, and read from his work at the inauguration of President Kennedy in 1960. He also endured personal tragedy when a son committed suicide and a daughter had a mental breakdown. His last poetry collection, In the Clearing, was published in 1962. While Frost never graduated from a university, he collected 44 honorary degrees before he died on January 29, 1963 in Boston and was buried at the Bennington Old Cemetery in Bennington, Vermont.

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes America’s Literary Legends and Literary Legends of the British Isles. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:

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