At President Marion Leroy Burton’s invitation, Robert Frost arrived in the fall of 1921 to serve a one-year stint as the first Creative Fellow at Michigan. The two men were kindred spirits: Both forty-six, each had already achieved much, but had much higher ambitions—Burton to build Michigan into a great national university, Frost to become America’s greatest poet if not also a national institution. And each believed the other would help realize these ambitions.
Our Winter 2018 issue pays tribute to the presence of poetry at the University of Michigan. This special issue offers an in-depth look at some of the poets, past and present, who have made significant contributions to the growth and cultivation of poetry at the university, including Robert Frost, Seamus Heaney, and Donald Hall.
Former MQR poetry editor Keith Taylor curated the issue’s content, including poetry by Lorna Goodison, Paisley Rekdal, and Laura Kasischke, as well as essays and interviews.
On the dedication page for Henry Hart’s recent biographical work, The Life of Robert Frost: A Critical Biography, we find a quote from Yeats: “The intellect of man is forced to choose / Perfection of the life, or of the work.” Using it as the book’s guiding principle, Hart may be provoking us to ask whether those, like Frost, who “perfect the work” should also be expected to “perfect the life.”
The after-effect of the force of the archive is a kind of ghosting: it hints too uncannily at history reified, at history returned to the present. The voice is physically indexed, it leaves a residue in a way it simply can’t in the ordination of the library. Nowhere can one feel this more than in the archives of poetry read aloud, that most ephemeral event.
Spring break of my seventh-grade year was not my wildest on record, though what it lacked in the usual spring break trappings it made up for in folk art and maple syrup. Years later, my mother admitted she’d planned our road trip to Bennington, Vermont on a lark, lured there by the prospects of a Grandma Moses exhibition. Though my younger brother and I didn’t share Mom’s enthusiasm for Grandma Moses, we shared her minivan nonetheless. 700 miles later, we arrived at our destination—or almost. As we drove in circles in search of Grandma’s art, we found instead a rare eyesore on the otherwise unblemished terrain.