In early April I attended the morning session at the University of Michigan Union of the daylong “Poets at Michigan, Then and Now” symposium. The Union ballroom is huge, stretching across the width of the second floor, but the crowd was a very healthy one, keenly attentive, and – I believe – as captivated by the presentations as I was. I’m still musing upon it.
The morning session was led by Paul Dimond, fellow barrister and Michigan grad, who provided much of the content and organization. He began with a fascinating discussion of Robert Frost’s experiences as a ‘Michigan creative fellow’ during the 1920s. Though Dimond confessed to not being an academic, his presentation, commentary, and answers to questions at least equaled those of the others on the panel. And an erudite panel it was. The program is here (and the session is on YouTube): https://events.umich.edu/event/38277
Dimond also introduced and explained compelling videos of Frost’s appearance at University events and a pair on associations with President John F. Kennedy. One involved the eulogy delivered by the President nine months after Frost’s death, and not long before Kennedy would lose his life. It is hard to imagine a U.S. President saying anything better about poetry than JFK did – using prepared text, text he had revised, and extemporaneous commentary.
After 90 minutes, the session ended to my disappointment, for it could have gone on and on.
Notably gratifying were comments, by a fellow panelist and an audience member, both of whom praised Dimond’s recently released “The Belle of Two Arbors” as a terrific work. The novel weaves Frost’s Michigan story into that of a fictional character who has roots both in Ann Arbor and in northwestern Lower Michigan’s Glen Arbor.
I’ve seen “The Belle of Two Arbors” described as a page-turning read. I wholeheartedly concur. The book is an evocation of the creative process, of the power of great prose and unforgettable poetry, of the vitality of letters and learning. With which, todo es bello.