Summer Poetry: Audio and Analysis
Summer is on its way, but there's still time for literature! Robert Frost was a master at capturing the nuances of different seasons, and summer is no exception. In his poems, we find summer captured in a variety of ways. It is portrayed as a time of flowers, a time of work... and as a "diminished thing" (the time after spring has lost it's luster).
Some of the images are quite different than those a school child (or teen) would use to characterize the season. Exploring contrasting images, though, could be a good exercise in summertime learning.
Some of Frost's seasonal poems do depend on background knowledge, like a familiarity with New England species or of customs in Frost's day. I have provided some context -- my own thoughts and a few favorite web resources.
I have also done audio readings for several poems -- just click on the "Listen!" button under the pictures.
Unless otherwise noted, all images are my personal or family photo collection.
Reflecting on These Poems
Reading a poem, and listening to it, are both helpful for understanding the nuances. Reading forces a person to give consideration to each line. When a person listens, on the other hand, they can get a holistic sense or impression. A good exercise is sketching the images -- something that can be done while listening.
Rose Pogonias: Audio
"Rose Pogonias" is an idyllic summer poem in some ways, but there's a conflict here that appears in several of Frost's poems.
In Frost's time and place, mowing was about something very different than keeping one's yard tidy -- it was about providing hay for the farm animals in winter. Thus is was solid, respectable work, but it left the world less beautiful. The poet does not want to see this cluster of flowers mowed down!
A Tuft of Flowers
"A Tuft of Flowers" is another poem that reflects ambivalence toward mowing the grasses. Here are a variety of resources from YouTube, including narration... and, yes, someone singing the poem to the tune of a mandolin.
It can be a good exercise to compare and contrast versions. Have your child begin with the basics (i.e. spoken or sung) and move toward more sophisticated concepts like the mood the poem evokes.
A reader understands a poem more easily if she is able to make connections between the text and her own experience or knowledge. While I live across the country from Robert Frost, I observe some natural phenomena, and have a bit of the same reaction.
I live in a land where there is a lot of water, but the summer is the dry season; I can definitely imagine a brook that has "run out of song and steam" -- dryer and somewhere older -- even in June.
The Oven Bird: Audio and Discussion
In "The Oven Bird", Frost personifies one of the summer's noisiest songbirds, casting it as someone who is loudly disappointed in the summer (and possibly a bit puzzled by it). Summer just isn't as lovely as spring, the oven bird notes.
I don't see evidence in the poem (as some have suggested) that Frost saw himself as the oven bird, less or diminished in middle age. I do think that a lot of us have a bit of that oven bird in us, though. We may mourn the loss of brightness, newness, freshness -- while ignoring that what's around us is in its prime.
The Real Ovenbird
In understanding this poem, it helps to know that there is indeed a bird out there in nature that is called the oven bird.
I am not familiar with the oven bird, so when I was first seeking an understanding of the poem, I looked it up. The following page offers a nice introduction to the species -- and even lets you hear its call.
- The Ovenbird
A multimedia introduction to the species.
More Analysis of The Oven Bird
- On the Oven Bird
Here we find discussion by a number of people, some discussing the meter, others exploring allusions.
- The Oven Bird Online Poem
Here is the text of the poem and some short interpretations written as comments.
The Rose Family: Audio
I wasn't aware, before reading "The Rose Family", that the rose was related to several flowering fruit trees.
It was a hunch, though, that this emerging scientific knowledge was what Frost had been musing over -- so I looked it up.
What I like best about this poem is how Frost turns it around at the end and makes it a love poem. It's preposterous to call the apple a rose -- ah, but not to call the person the poet is addressing one!
More Resources - For Understanding Robert Frost's Summer Poems
Here are more resources. Some are written for teaching Frost's poetry.
- A Tuft of Flowers and Mowing
Here Sparknotes puts two poems with similar images into context.
- Hyla Brook and The Oven Bird
a Guide for Teachers
Thoughts to Share?
Rosario B Villaluz from Philippines on July 20, 2017:
reasonablerobby on July 01, 2012:
I was taught Robert Frost poems at school. I must revisit them. Something I must do, to use T.S.Elliots idea from Little Gidding, in order to know them anew - "We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring. Will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time."
anonymous on June 12, 2012:
I very much enjoy your overviews. I have never been a Frost fan, but then again, I've never really gone out on a limb to get to know his work. So I appreciate the tender insight you offer into his poem's subjects. Wonderful work!
KarenCookieJar on June 23, 2011:
I was just reading some Frost the other day, great poet!
james g pete on May 28, 2011:
Hey, thanks---and have a good trip. I used your lens here on my just published lens on Frost's "Design." A lot of talking.