A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Robert FrostNovember 17, 1915, from Number Five Bank Street, New YorkDartmouth 

As one displeased with the poets of the Spoon River school, wishes to thank him for producing the only recent American poetry that has captured her interest. The emergence of his distinctive voice is an important event. Wishes she could enjoy all the poets listed by Mr. Bynner and Miss Rittenhouse, but if Ezra Pound and Mr. Masters can be called "poets," how can Frost be? Is embarrassed by her lack of interest in "new" poetry and by her tendency to mock it, so takes special pleasure in Frost's work, which, though "new," is rich with classic poetic elements.   Willa Sibert Cather 

To Robert FrostJanuary 20, [1916], from 1180 Murray Hill Avenue, PittsburghDartmouth 

Wishes she could be in New York for the Poetry Society banquet, but cannot. Regrets missing the opportunity to meet him and Mrs. [Elinor Miriam White] Frost. Wonders if he ever chanced to meet Miss Jewett. Has often thought, if she had lived to see them, that Frost's books would have been a great encouragement to her in a world full of poets like Witter Bynner and Phoebe Snow. Unfortunately, Frost's fellows in the Poetry Society are so wound up in the ideal of "free verse" that they can't distinguish a line by him from one published in a rural newspaper. They don't even know enough to dislike Florence Earle Coates or Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Many of the so-called "poets" seem to be so just to make Miss Rittenhouse happy. Thankfully, the success of junk only damages things in the short term. Fears that if she ever attended a meeting of the Poetry Society she would be unable to suppress her opinions, and begs Frost to keep them private. Since poetry needs publicity as much as anything else, perhaps the Rittenhouse crowd will actually help Frost somewhat. Anyhow, more subtle methods can still succeed. Has shown many of his poems to others, including "The Mountain," "Mowing," "Going for Water," and "The Tuft of Flowers," and no one needs to have them explained, nor has anyone's sensibility been altered because, in Mr. Masters's words, "the hammock fell/ Into [sic] the dust with Milton's poems [sic]" [from Masters's poem "Many Soldiers" in Spoon River Anthology]. Not everyone believes that is symbolic!   Willa S. Cather 

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