Welcome to Delmarva Public Radio’s celebration of National Poetry Month featuring “Literary Biographies with Sue Ellen Thompson.” I’m your host Harold Wilson. Today’s talk is “Elected Friends: Robert Frost and Edward Thomas.” This is the third in our series of lectures by Sue Ellen Thompson on the life and work of three great American poets: Robert Frost, Jane Kenyon, and Jack Gilbert. Sue Ellen has published five books of poetry, served as editor of the 2005 edition of the Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry and is the recipient of numerous awards including nomination for the Pulitzer Prize. Her poems have been read a number of times on National Public Radio’s “The Writer’s Almanac.”
All four of the programs in this series are produced by Delmarva Public Radio with the cooperation of the Talbot County Free Library in Easton, Maryland and The Talbot County Arts Council which funded the original lecture series on which this program is based. All of the lectures were recorded in the Frederic Douglass room of the Talbot County Free Library before a live audience.
Today’s talk is an account of the great friendship between Robert Frost and the English poet Edward Thomas. Friendship is an elusive concept that is probably best defined by the relationship experienced between the two parties. The bond that cemented the friendship between poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, for example, could well be defined by their common struggle against social strictures and mental illness. On the other hand, the connection between Toni Morrison and James Baldwin was much deeper. In her eulogy, “James Baldwin: His Voice Remembered,” Morrison says, “Now I discover that in your company it is myself I know. That is the astonishing gift of your art and your friendship: You gave us ourselves to think about, to cherish.”
Somewhere on this spectrum of friendship between connection through common struggle and the exposure of profound self-revelation, lies that of Robert Frost and Edward Thomas. Each found something almost physically comforting in the presence of the other, an easy acceptance that went beyond literary interests to that bond shared by fellow travelers on a common path: a road that was soon to diverge, with one branch leading to tragic consequences.
And now, Sue Ellen Thompson, and “Elected Friends: Robert Frost and Edward Thomas.”