Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stopping by Woods in August

An online publication to which I subscribe recently had an excerpt from a book (Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth) by Andrew Wyeth in which he discussed the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost.  Wyeth asked Frost if he went through a lot of revisions of this poem, and if it had been written in winter.  Frost answered, "I'd been writing a very complicated, long-drawn-out poem, almost a story type of poem, entitled 'Death of a Hired Man.'  I had finished at two o'clock in the morning. It was a hot August night, and I was exhausted.  I walked out on the porch of my house and looked at the mountain range.  It came to me in flash!  I wrote it on an envelope I had in my pocket, and I only changed one word.  It came out just like that."

I love to think about that sort of flash of clarity, where a great poem leaps from the universe into the mind of a poet, even without the stimulus of the same sort of scene to prompt it.  But it may be that the intense work Frost put in on his long narrative poem was a required part of the birth of the Stopping by Woods poem.  All that intensive effort may have primed the pump. 

Readers, writers, what has been your own experience with writing that appears in your mind more or less fully accomplished?  Is there any pattern to it that you can discern?