115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

“Not Unbounded”: Structure and Form in Frost’s A Witness Tree (1942)

Mark Richardson, Doshisha University

I will attend to the remarkable range, in form, style, and tone, that characterizes Robert Frost’s last great book of verse: A Witness Tree (1942).


Nested within the six-part structure of the 1942 edition of A Witness Tree we find poems composed over a forty-year period; narrative, lyric, and satiric poetry; blank verse; epigrams; rhymed poems both schematic and un-schematic; several species of quatrains; sonnets; and poems in other voices––whether speaking as from the New England Primer, or as if by a character identified (in a pun on the poet’s mother’s maiden name) as “The Moodie Forester.” I aim to show how the curious acknowledgment made in the opening lines of A Witness Tree––that the poet is “not unbounded”––is just as curiously “established and borne out,” as Frost suggests, by the many shapes the book assumes.