A glimpse of Frost

Statewide reading program explores life of Robert Frost

Aug. 21, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

American poet Robert Frost’s work is often associated with the quiet surroundings and pastoral beauty of the New England landscape. His poems are required readings in schools across the country and now, with a program through the Vermont Humanities Council, Williston residents can take part in a number of events surrounding the famous Vermonter’s life.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
‘A Restless Spirit: The Life of Robert Frost’ by Natalie Bober is available at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library as part of the Vermont Reads program.

The Dorothy Alling Memorial Library and the Williston-Richmond Rotary are sponsoring the Humanities Council’s Vermont Reads program for Williston, which aims to bring groups of people from across the age spectrum together to read, discuss and take part in different activities.

The Vermont Humanities Council has chosen the book “A Restless Spirit: The Story of Robert Frost” by author Natalie Bober for its Vermont Reads program, now in its sixth year. Sally Metro of the Williston-Richmond Rotary thought the program sounded like a great way of bringing community members together. This is the town’s first participation with the program.

Metro said the program for Williston officially kicks off on Sept. 6 at the Vermont Story Festival in Middlebury — hosted by the Humanities Council — and focuses on Frost. She said residents interested in taking part in Vermont Reads could read “A Restless Spirit” before the festival. Dorothy Alling Library Director Marti Fiske said there are 50 copies on hand to check out.

“When people take the books out, we ask them to register with (Vermont Reads),” Metro said.

The many events of the Vermont Story Festival will be held at various locations in downtown Middlebury, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. “A Restless Spirit” author Bober will be on hand to answer questions and sign books, and Frost’s granddaughter, artist Robin Hudnut, will also be there to answer questions and display her artwork. All events are free and open to the public.

Metro said the Rotary is planning to organize a carpool from Dorothy Alling Library to Middlebury for those that are interested.

Fiske said the library should have more than enough books for the program and will be able to keep several copies after Vermont Reads ends. She said the remaining copies would probably be donated to the libraries of area schools. So far, only four books had been checked out, but Fiske said they had just started getting the word out.

After the Middlebury event, a book discussion of “A Restless Spirit” will take place at the library on Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m. Both Metro and Fiske said the discussion is open to all ages, and they hope a good mix of young adults through senior citizens turn out and give the talk a variety of views and opinions.

Continuing on, there will be two chances to take part in a watercolor painting class at the library in October. Local artist Deb Runge will be holding painting classes inspired by Frost’s poems on Monday, Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. and Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. According to Fiske, the class will read Frost’s “Birches” poem before painting a birch forest in watercolors. Participants only have to attend one of the painting sessions if they choose, Fiske said.

The Williston Vermont Reads program will culminate with a poetry slam on Monday, Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the library. Participants can read their own poetry inspired by Frost or read someone else’s.

Fiske said she hopes to see a broad range of age groups at the poetry event and said several Champlain Valley Union High School students had already expressed some interest.

Fiske said the Vermont Humanities Council has been “amazing” in organizing nonfiction and fiction book series with state libraries. Vermont Reads is a continuation of its work.

“Every year I’ve been here we’ve done a project with the Vermont Humanities Council,” Fiske said.

The council, based in Montpelier, helps run statewide literacy programs and other community-based events. Mark Fitzsimmons, director of community programs for the Vermont Humanities Council, said the organization picks books that are appropriate to a broad range of reading skills and interests.

“In addition, we try to get something that is current or has issues important to Vermonters,” Fitzsimmons said.

Fitzsimmons said Frost is of interest to Vermonters because of his ties to New England and the state. Frost lived and worked in Ripton and Bennington — where he is buried — during his lifetime, as well as in Derry, N.H. and Franconia, N.H.

“We feel we own him, as does the state of New Hampshire,” Fitzsimmons said, referring to a friendly state rivalry.

Metro said the book tells the story of Frost’s life in a well-written and interesting way. She also said many of his most famous poems are included, as well as pictures of his life and family.

According to Metro, the book stresses how Frost was an ordinary man who was unsure of what he wanted to be before becoming a poet and only stumbled onto greatness, but never sought it out. She hopes people, young adults especially, will be drawn to Frost’s story and see parallels to the famous poet and their own lives.

“We’re not born stars and we’re not born as famous poets,” Metro said. “(Frost) didn’t have huge goals, but worked hard at what he did. He was kind of an ordinary man.”

To register for Williston’s Vermont Read program and for more information on the Sept. 6 event in Middlebury, contact the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library at 878-4918 or Sally Metro at 879-4506.