You Come Too: Favorite Poems For Young Readers, by Robert Frost
This particular short book of poetry answered a few questions for me personally. For one, how was it that I viewed Robert Frost as a good poet? If one reads his early poetic works, which are the ones most accessible to adults, the poetry that is shown is, for the most part, not very good. To be sure, “The Road Not Taken” and “The Death Of The Hired Man” are classics, and you will be seeing them in just about every poetry volume of Frost’s that you would read (including this one), but the context around those early works is not as enjoyable. I grew up thinking of Frost as a good poet, and when I read his early works I had no idea why that was the case since those volumes were so undistinguished. And yet this book answers the question of how it was that a young man who grew up enjoying reading and writing poetry came to think of Frost as a worthwhile poet. This book serves as a better introduction than most to the poets work, but it is a shame that many adults will not read it because it it targeted at young readers, and many people who are adults, even those who read, are self-conscious about such matters.
As a volume, this book contains about 100 pages worth of poetry and copies of woodcuts by Thomas Nason. The woodcuts certainly add that New England verisimilitude to the poems, which likewise picture a world where one can be acquainted with the night and the snows of winter pretty easily. The poems are pretty good to great, ranging from the short and enigmatic “One Guess” to the lengthy “The Death Of The Hired Man.” Many of the poems examine gardens or the thaws of winter snows, or plant and animal life that one would see on a farm or in creation or in a small village with lots of green space. some of the poems relate to concerns that children would have, including “Not Of School Age” or the romance of “Two Tramps In Mud Time” or the concerns common to humanity at large of “A Time To Talk.” This is a book I could imagine myself having read as a child and giving me an appreciation of Frost that many readers would not have if they had learned of his works another way. This is a better way of finding out about Frost than most, unless one had read his chicken stories first.
And although Frost had a well-earned reputation for being a crusty person who both complained about being misunderstood and deliberately courted being misunderstood by the way he wrote, there is something endearing about the way that this collection manage to deliberately appeal to the sensibilities of the young and their interest in riddles and the wonders of creation rather than being deliberately difficult for children to relate to. Sometimes writers can be deliberately obscure in ways than alienate readers, and in general this sort of problem can be particularly serious in those people who wish to maintain some sort of critical appeal. The fact that this book is aimed at children allows Frost to put down his persona of being a confusing person and simply be someone who could write charming and accessible poetry for all ages. And surely that is a better thing to be remembered for. The fact that these poems are accessible does not make them boring or uninteresting. Many of them have layers and can provide hooks to more in-depth discussions of issues of life and death, identity, belonging, and the passage of time. Why not celebrate something that can be grasped by the young, for whom an acquaintance with good poetry can inspire a lifelong appreciation for it?