Invitation to a recitation
Come celebrate poet Robert Frost on Feb. 7 at The Ware Center. By Jo-Ann Greene, Books Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
"You come too," Lancaster County Poet Laureate Chris Longenecker says, inviting an audience to "The Myriad of Roads Not Taken: An Evening With Robert Frost."
Her invitation is also a recitation, as those three words form a refrain in "The Pasture." That poem will bookend an evening of Longenecker and her actor husband, Rick Shoup, leading -- as she describes it -- a walk through Frost's life through his poetry.
It starts at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at The Ware Center, Millersville University Lancaster, 42 N. Prince St. The Lancaster Literary Guild, which appoints the poet laureate, is co-sponsoring the program, which incorporates commentary and musical pieces from composer Randall Thompson's "Frostiana" -- Frost poems set to music. J.R. Ankney will direct singers Matt Sware, Will Landon, Menno Wiebe, Dave Sheaffer, Merle Gingerich and Emery DeWitt, accompanied by pianist Gretchen Thomas.
n"We have divided the program into sections that emphasize different 'side trails' of Robert's complicated multifaceted life .... going down some of the 'myriad roads' he didn't take, all the way to their ends (poetry being the 'road less traveled' that he did pursue all the way)," Longenecker explained via email. Studying Frost since her youth, Longenecker is on a first-name basis with him.
Those program sections include poems -- casting Frost as farmer, lover, astronomer, griever, teaser -- linked to "key facts about his life and also some quotes from his lectures and letters."
For a finale, "we hope to invite audience members to recite any Frost poems they may know by heart or to request any they were hoping to hear that we didn't include," Longenecker said.
"Robert wanted to reach 'all sorts and kinds' through his poetry. I, too, want, more than anything, for everyone to have access to good poetry. I don't like poetry that is for an elite or exclusive group of literary types. I like poetry that can be accessed by anyone, even those who 'don't like poetry' or don't think they like poetry.
"I can't tell you how many times people have told me, 'Frost is my favorite poet.' I think that's pretty amazing given that he's been dead 50 years ago this month." And it's 100 years since publication of Frost's first book of poetry.
Longenecker and Shoup have chosen some "well-known poems that people love and will expect" some that fit the theme, some that can be performed as small "playlets" and some that allow them to balance their voices.
One poem they both love and plan to recite is "The Star Splitter," she said. "It contains so much ... hints of friendship, judgment, forgiveness, the pursuit of knowledge, the acknowledgment of failure, the need for wisdom, plus it's funny."
"Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening," "Fire and Ice" and "Death of the Hired Man" are all on the bill too.
nFor those who want to prepare for the experience, Longenecker recommends Lawrence Roger Thompson's biography, though "it's prodigiously long." Some say it "emphasizes too many of the less admirable aspects of Robert's life," she concedes, but "I like it, though, for its depth and insight, and I guess I figure we're all flawed. The fact that Robert made such an effort to put such good poetry together in spite of his personal flaws and failures speaks volumes to me (and, yes, this biography comes in three volumes)."
As far as collections of his poetry, she prefers "small collections with pictures, especially simple pen-and-ink drawings of scenes that enhance the poetry." They can be found in the Lancaster County Public Library's children's room, she said, which will receive part of the proceeds from the event.
Tickets are $10 and include refreshments; visit muticketsonline.com or call 872-3811 or 871-2308 to reserve.
Chris Longenecker also will sign her own book of poetry, "How Trees Must Feel," which is also available at DogStar Books, 401 W. Lemon St.