These two poems are separated in time by almost 100 years. Times have moved on. Flynn is able to make references that Frost hadn’t even imagined. But both serve to revel the poet’s inner being, his thoughts, and his priorities.
Frost said: ‘All poetry is a reproduction of actual speech.’ (The American Poet, 2010) Poetry often reveals as much about the person who writes it as the subject chosen, not so much his voice as his inner being.
Robert Frost, ‘After Apple-Picking’.
This Robert Frost poem of 1915 is very personal and seems to be autobiographical. Many of his poems describe nature, although he said ‘I am not a nature poet’. The narrator is an apple farmer at the end of a tiring day towards the close of the year. He wants to rest, but cannot seem to escape from the tasks he has been done, and also from the work still ahead of him, as well the need to preserve as many apples as possible from damage that would make them worthless.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
Yet the weather is freezing and time is against him.
Work for the day is finished, but he can still feel the pressure of the ladder rung under his foot, overtired, yet he cannot sleep. He even, for just one line, seems to wish for a ‘long sleep’ which he compares to hibernation.
There are religious overtones, as in other poems such as ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ when he refers to sorting the worthy from the unworthy and to salvation: –
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
This imagery is despite the fact that Frost was not a believer, preferring to describe himself as a freethinker. Perhaps it is also linked to his sometimes despairing nature, after the deaths of several family members. According to Timmerman ( 2002, page 183), he had an almost total lack of faith.
This is more or less a traditional poem if wandering. There are a number of end rhymes for instance. It is iambic, mostly in pentameters, but lines are of many lengths. The poet may be drowsy, but the reader is kept alert by many changes.
Nick Flynn, Cartoon Physics
Another American with a difficult life background, and a mother who committed suicide, ( Biography of Nick Flynn, 2011) Flynn, born in 1960, unlike Frost, is concerned not with himself, but with the young children he knows. He seems to be trying to protect them, not wanting them to grow up too fast. But then, if you listen carefully he isn’t trying to protect them from a knowledge of bad things. Perhaps he realizes that with the pervasion of modern media there is no chance of that. Instead, he is trying to protect them from the intangible things, the questions that are hard to answer. They already have enough to learn, he says, about things around them, things that can be easily observed, including the rules of cartoon animation, without trying to deal with intangibles. There are no attempts at clever rhymes, yet there are rhythms and you are very aware that this is poetry, not prose.
Both poems, although very different in style and subject, are able to put their author’s views across, letting the reader into their soul to some extent. One uses everyday occurrences of his day, and the other puts himself into the world of children in a very different age. They use different methods and styles, but these are both poems that make readers think and which they will remember.
Biography of Nick Flynn, 2011, 29th October 2011
Frost, R., After Apple-Picking, 1915, Bartleby.com, 2011, 29th October 2011
Frost, R, Nothing Gold Can Stay, The Literature Network, undated, 29th October 2011,
Fynn, N. Cartoon Physics, Part 1, video from Some Ether, part of Poetry Everywhere 23rd March 2010, 29th October 2011,
Timmerman, J., Robert Frost, the Ethics of Ambiguity, Pennsylvania, Bucknell University Press, 2002