An August 22 presentation on Robert Frost at the Marion Council on Aging is further evidence that what the Marion COA has to offer area seniors – and residents in general – is a continuous stream of quality cultural and literary immersion with the opportunity to share in the conversation with fellow community members.
Robert Frost, the only poet to win the Pulitzer Prize four times, is considered the quintessential New England poet, as presented by Stephen Collins who introduced Frost to a few dozen attendees, each holding a handout of several of Frost’s poems up for discussion that afternoon.
Without even a single poetic word spoken, the images of farms, broken down stone walls, birches, and apple trees emerge from our collective consciousness, all metaphors for the shared human experience that Frost so eloquently, so effectively (yet casually and relaxed, as only Frost can do) conveys to us.
Reading The Tuft of Flowers, Collins points out, “It’s conversational. It’s like he’s just chit-chatting with you.” Collins later said, “He took everyday colloquial English and made it into brilliant poetry.”
As Collins shared during what he deemed his “thumbnail” introduction of Frost’s life story, Frost’s childhood was tarnished by alcoholism in the family, which caused much instability during his formative years and took the life of his father at age 38. Furthermore, as Frost openly acknowledged, depression was pervasive on both sides of his family.
From his farm in Derry, New Hampshire, to England where he was first published, and back to the United States where he eventually spent 40 years teaching at Amherst College, Frost always sough the beauty of nature and life, fullness of love, the joie de vivre, as Collins described Frost’s poetic works, reading and discussing other poems such as Mending Wall, Birches, Desert Places, and Acquainted With the Night.
Analysis and exploration of the poems was an interactive discussion between presenter and audience, each providing insight and personal interpretation. Collins’ understandings of the poems are evident in the poignancy of his explanations and the sincere responses from the audience. Collins has spent years studying Frost and has read just about every biography on him that he could get his hands on.
Collins offers a number of different literary presentations, including a Walt Whitman impersonation, which he performed at the Mattapoisett Library in April of 2015. He also gives lectures on Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy’s poetry, Yeats, and other more modern poets, although his presentations are more of a fusion of teaching and performance.
Collins often visits councils on aging throughout the state and nearby states, and this year is part of the Young Audiences of Massachusetts program, visiting local schools sharing his literary insights and talent for performing with students.
The COA has a number of literary-centric programs forthcoming, starting on August 29 with a lecture titled “Swans” presented by Marion resident and author Phyllis Washburn on her book Good Morning Sam.
On September 12, Professor of American Literature at UMass Dartmouth and Marion resident Charles White will give an informal lecture on the life and works of Emily Dickinson.
Both programs begin at 12:45 pm at the Marion Music Hall on Front Street, free to the public.
“I try to have a broad mix [of programming] that will appeal to different people,” said Karen Gregory, COA programming coordinator. “Sometimes I’m amazed at what works and what doesn’t work.”
Stephen Collins’ Robert Frost lecture was funded by a grant the COA received from the Marion Cultural Council.
“We are very happy that the Cultural Council supported this one,” said Gregory. “I think Stephen’s performance was overwhelmingly positive.” Gregory said many attendees remarked on how they would be speaking with the local schools to invite Collins to give a presentation to students. “I think that speaks volumes to his presentation.”
By Jean Perry