Books: Embedded in Our Subsoil

A biography puts Frost's dark side in perspective

"[My] utmost ambition," Robert Frost claimed, "is to lodge a few poems where they will be hard to get rid of." He succeeded. Fragments of Frost's handmade poems turn up in the subsoil of the American mind like arrowheads or old farm tools.

Ulysses Grant sat in the White House when Frost was born; John Kennedy was 10 months away from assassination when Frost died. During the 1960 presidential campaign, Kennedy would end his set political speech by saying: "But I have miles to go before I sleep." Everyone recognized the line. As Jay Parini remarks in a judicious new biography,...

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