Day 26 – 30 Days, 30 Readings: Robert Frost’s “Birches”

Robert Frost, American poet

Robert Frost, American poet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I have done quite a few short poems during this personal challenge of recording and posting a  poem each day of National Poetry Month. So this time I thought I’d do a bit of a longer reading for you. I have been wanting to read “Birches” for some time. I grew up a bit of a country boy, spending a lot of time in the hills and fields and ridges around my uncle Bob’s barn (and no, sadly by uncle Bob, I do not mean tonight’s poet, Robert).  I mention a stand of birches down the hill from that farm in my own poem on day five of this month, Fire Flies,” though I cannot say I was ever a swinger like Mr. Frost.

According to the Poetry Foundation, whom I know I’ve quoted many times–nope they are not paying me a cent, thank you–Frost more or less “stands at the crossroads of nineteenth-century American poetry and modernism.” This is one of his, for me, more challenging pieces to read well, because of it being written in blank verse. It could sound very prosy, or it could sound rather sing-song-ish. Not wanting to lose the beauty of the meter I aimed for something in between, not quite the sermonic chant with which the poet himself recites, but rhythmic and just a tad slower.

Honestly, the poem nearly makes me cry at the metaphor of almost going, skyward, but then returning: “Earth’s the right place for love:/ I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.” I cannot explain it to  you, but something gets caught in my throat when I read or hear those lines. Read along by clicking here (opens in a new window), and see if you get a little of what I mean.

Thank you for listening.

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12 thoughts on “Day 26 – 30 Days, 30 Readings: Robert Frost’s “Birches”

  1. One of my very favourite poems. We read it at Reading Group and like you I get quite choked up at certain lines – ‘I’d like to get away from earth awhile/
    And then come back to it and begin over.’ and the lines you mention. It is poem that is almost two poems but Frost is so skilful a poet that it is woven together with invisible thread to a perfect whole. The video buffers a little on my laptop so your reading breaks up so I shall find a speedier machine to appreciate you properly!

    By the way, as we approach the end of the month I am trying to pluck up the courage to try a reading myself. However, it feels a little like revealing something of myself that I feel a little uncomfortable about. Suddenly I am more than just a photo to all those people I only know in the virtual world!

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    • Ooh! I would love to hear a reading by you! Be daring, caution to the wind. I make hundreds of mistakes, but the poems sometimes save me 🙂

      By the way, Suzie, wasn’t it you who had asked me if I was planning to do a Frost reading? This was the one I had in mind, and I was almost euphoric afterward last night, listening to Brian perform and record on the baby grand. It was nice afterglow. I do love Robert Frost, and I am so glad you enjoyed it.

      As for the buffering, YouTube has this 3D option now, and the default for recordings is “no preference.” So I am wondering if they chose 3 D for this one because of the pictures. That takes up extra data and causes more loading time. I will check it out and disable 3D if it is on there. I don’t want these harder to view on phones and laptops. The questionably improved quality gained just isn’t worth it.

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  2. Well read and touching. Life is full of ‘climb and fall’. Often we feel like we are progressing well just to come tumbling back down to earth!!!! Life eh?

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    • Oh, dear sounds like one of the discussions Brian and I had over coffee and cigarettes this morning. Yes, maybe one of the tricks is, like the birch swingers, to make the most of that return to earth. After all, it is the best place for love, right?

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  3. [Swallowing hard & swiping furtively at eyes]: I don’t think I’ve ever “gotten” this poem like I get it after hearing you read it so movingly. It had always struck me as cerebral, even enigmatic–but your reading infuses it with the movement between the earthly and the sublime that Frost’s images enact. Thank you for this revelation.

    Amazing birch photos, too–I guess our west-coast birches don’t get snowed on or iced over like that, so they don’t suffer from the bowing that inspired Frost!

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    • If you could have heard my intake of breath as I read your words. I wonder if you know how much they mean to me or how much I needed to hear them. This is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for, to help it come alive for someone else. I had a hard time with this poem years ago, until I heard someone read it out loud and bring it to life for me. This is why I think poetry needs to be read out loud, the rhythm after all is the rhythm of the human voice. You just made my poetry month, Ms. Bullis. Thank you.

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    • Thank you so much. I’ve enjoyed the encouragement from your blog, and hearing that my reading helped it come alive for someone means the world to me. Thank you.

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  4. Yes it was me that mentioned Frost and I was SO pleased you chose this one.. Have you ever listened to Robert Frost himself reading? He was not at all as I imagined him!

    And I am taking up the challenge – I will read a poem and put the video up. Something 20th century for a first attempt I think…..

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    • Yes, always a little easier to start with your own language. I honestly decided on the Shakespeare underground reading in the restroom partly so that I wouldn’t have to sound… I don’t know, Elizabethan?

      I’m glad you liked the reading! That one was a challenge for me, but I’m glad I did it, and thus far people seem to like the result. Yes, I agree, I have heard Frost read his own stuff, and sometimes he seems to rush too much. I do like his reading though of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” You can find it in a YouTube search easily enough.

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