He was a revolutionary poet of the 20th century and achieved what few poets could in their lifetimes: fame and recognition for their work.
Robert Frost became an American institution and his prolific repertoire of poetry collections won both the critics' respect and the public's support and affection. Frost's writing style is known to capture the diversity of American speech/colloquialisms while also depicting honest and accurate portrayals of New England rural life.
But why are we writing about Frost, who seems to be associated only with the East Coast? Well, looks (or in this case poems) can be deceiving, because the great American poet was originally from San Francisco, and not New England.
April is National Poetry Month and here at Tourism for Locals, we're going to highlight monuments and locations that either shaped or pay tribute to those who have contributed to the San Francisco and national poetic canon. For this week, we're visiting the Robert Frost Monument near the Embarcadero.
Located at the intersection of California and Drumm streets, the monument is simple and understated, just like the poetry Frost was famed for during his career. It's a cylindrical colonnade of highly polished black granite sitting in front a cable car loading platform. It stands at about 4 and a half feet tall and the top is cut at a 45 degree angle. A simple plaque adorns the top with an image of Frost and some of his accomplishments.
Frost was born March 26, 1874 in San Francisco to journalist William Prescott Frost, Jr., and Isabelle Moodie. His father was a teacher and later an editor of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin. According to the plaque at the Frost Monument, the Frost family lived in seven houses all east of Van Ness Avenue and North of Market Street.
Upon the death of his father in 1885 from tuberculosis, Robert Frost's mother moved him and his sister to Massachusetts, where he would finish growing up and become more connected to rural environment, rather than high-speed urban living.
Frost earned fame for his poetic writing while attending Dartmouth and Harvard during his undergraduate career. His breakthrough poem was "Mending Wall" published in 1914 from his poetry collection North of Boston. In the poem, he addresses the theme of the clash between prevailing societal norms dictating behavior that are at a stark juxtaposition with the changing thought ideologies brought about by World War I. Frost's style of poetry further mimicked the themes of "Mending Wall" -- the utilization and combining of antiquated writing styles with modern speech and expressions.
Robert Frost won four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry in his lifetime: New Hampshire (1923), earned him his first Pulitzer Prize; that prize was also awarded to Frost's Collected Poems (1930), A Further Range (1936), and A Witness Tree (1942). Along with Eugene O'Neill, they've won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry more than any other author in history.
Other accolades include 43 honorary degrees, a Congressional Gold Medal, and a reading of his poem "The Gift Outright" at President Kennedy's inauguration, becoming the first poet to read at a presidential inauguration.
So while, we as San Franciscans may not be all that surprised that our city produces genius, we always take pride in those that do our City proud.
Our advice when visiting this understated monument, is to take your favorite poetry book (it doesn't have to be a Frost creation) and sit at one of the nearby benches. Crack it open and just read. The City will add background music and layers of audible texture to your favorite poet's work and the world won't appear the same, at least for that moment. Try this approach for it is the road less trodden, to echo this mastermind of letters.
As a send off, we conclude with one of Frost's poems dedicated to his hometown of San Francisco:
"Such was life in the Golden Gate:
Gold dusted all we drank and ate.
And I was one of the children told,
'We all must eat our peck of gold.'"