Frost-Bite: Robert Frost Home sets the stage for Literary Feast at Greenfield Village

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On October 8, 1912 Millie McCoy and Christine McCoy (American conjoined twins who went by the stage names “The Carolina Twins”) passed away, leaving a fascinating story of being born into slavery, being kidnapped by a showman, learning to speak five languages, meeting Queen Victoria, and finally returning to a plantation owned by their father (which used to belong to the family’s slave master Jabez McKay).  The twins are featured in the book Olio, which received the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.  The author, Tyehimba Jess (born 1965 in Detroit) read from his book at A Literary Feast: An Evening of Frost & Food hosted by The Henry Ford Museum on September 25.

The third annual Literary Feast was set against the beautiful backdrops of the Robert Frost Home, facing the Pavilion on the Green, in Greenfield Village.  Here a cocktail and hors-d’oeuvres reception celebrated  the very place where Robert Frost wrote “Spring Pools” and other classic works.  The Frost Home served as a stage where Tyehimba Jess spoke about his love for poetry.

As the past Vice President of the Poetry Society of Michigan, I have a special love for creative use of language with style and rhythm.  This made A Literary Feast: An Evening of Frost & Food too irresistible to miss. There is also a personal connection – we are related.  Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California, to journalist William Prescott Frost, Jr., and Isabelle Moodie.  His mother was a Scottish immigrant, and his father descended from the Plantagenet Kings of England (as am I, which makes him my distant cousin).

A large segment of the Scottish and English community was in attendance at the celebration. Frost’s British connection is well-known among Anglophiles.

Frost was honored frequently both in the United States and abroad during his lifetime, and is the only poet to receive four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry.  He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1960 for his poetic works.  In 1921 Frost accepted a fellowship teaching post at the University of Michigan, a place near and dear to my heart: this is where I first studied toward my post-doctorate degree.  The home now standing in Greenfield Village is where Robert Frost lived while he taught at U of M.

Every writer has his favorite subject.  For Robert Frost, it was rural life in New England; for me, it is high culture; for Tyehimba Jess it appears to be bringing to life stories of slaves in America’s antebellum south.  He stressed that there was a concerted effort to dehumanize slaves during the colonial era; his poetry is his way to honor their memories. Of course, this is what The Henry Ford Museum is all about – memorializing the people who built our country.  Dr. Jess’ poetry can be heard on Audible at https://www.audible.com/pd/Olio-Live-Audiobook/B07QNRSYQS .

After the cocktail reception at the Robert Frost home, patrons took antique car rides and horse-drawn carriages to the Village Pavillion to enjoy a sumptuous feast.  The beautiful menu featured farm to table courses of spinach salad, fish, roasted beef, potatoes and raspberry cakes. The tables were set with fine linens and shiny dinnerware. A rainbow of wines were served free of charge. The temperature was perfect for an open-air affair! After dinner was served, Mr. Jess read from his book Olio – which means a collection of various musical, theatrical or other artistic works; a miscellany.

 

 

A tribute to Greenfield Village, in iambic tetrameter:

 

A Glimpse of Grand Antiquity

There was a man who had a dream
To build a shrine along a stream
The River Rouge flows slowly by
The sun appears and lights the sky
Horses work to reap a crop
The flow of time we cannot stop
But time stands still at least it seems
Among the vast majestic greens
We catch a glimpse into the past
While strolling round a clearing grassed
Each structure is a sacred shrine
Story tellers dressed most fine
Whisked away perhaps to see
A glimpse of grand antiquity
Aboard a shining model T
Breezes kiss our face with glee
Here stands the home of Robert Frost
His memory now never lost
Time is frozen, ours to see
A glimpse of grand antiquity
A mill where cotton seeds were cleaved
Weavers smiled as they weaved
Around the looms where threads they wove
Exquisite textiles in this cove
A private lab, ideas perceived,
Edison his dreams conceived
Though others may have not believed
He worked and saw his dreams achieved
He saw the light, more ways than one
He gave the gift of carbon spun
He gave us cylinders of sound
He reached the stars while on the ground.
His private lab is here to see –
A glimpse of grand antiquity
The farmhouse of the Firestone clan
Is where a boy became a man
He raised an empire built of tires
A man self-made, his life inspires
The brothers Wright from Dayton town
Nothing kept these dreamers down
They knew one day into the sky
Their craft would leave the earth and fly
From their home at Hawthorn 7
They dreamed a way to rise to Heaven
Their shop and home draw all to see
A glimpse of grand antiquity
Stephen Foster’s gifts of song
Enrich our culture and belong
To beautiful dreamers every where
And make the old folks love to share
His homespun tunes of love forlorn
Here stands the home where he was born
Time is frozen, ours to see
A glimpse of grand antiquity
Noah Webster’s glossary
Of all the words for mastery
Of our language is his tome
Here stands his grand New England home
Lincoln traveled far and wide
Here were Lincoln’s cases tried
Logan Courthouse thus enshrined
A hall of justice for mankind
The voice of earnest probity
A message of integrity
Imbue these walls, ours to see
A glimpse of grand antiquity

 — Poem by Anton Anderssen

Photo: Robert Frost

 

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Sir Knight, Dr. Anton Anderssen, Lord of Hartforth has been published by USA Today, CBSnewsDetroit, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Mensa Bulletin, Broadway World, eTurboNews, Hawaii Tourism Association, HawaiiNews.Online, Michigan Journal, Examiner News and other news outlets. He won the 2009 first prize in journalism from the Detroit Working writers organization, founded 1900 as The Detroit Press Club. He graduated With Highest Distinction from Indiana University (Comparative Literature), earned a Juris Doctor degree (Wayne State University), attended post-doctorate graduate classes in anthropology (University of Michigan), and earned a post-doctorate graduate degree in cultural anthropology (Wayne State University). He is a former concert pianist with Indiana University School of Music and the Detroit Institute of Arts. He is a member of Mensa and several other high IQ organizations including Triple Nine Society, ISPE and The Prometheus Society. He specializes in high culture, and is of Scandinavian, British and Castilian heritage. He was awarded the title of Sir Knight by the Knights of Equity, founded in 1895. He holds the legal title Lord of Hartforth in North Yorkshire, England, and is the direct blood descendant of the first Lord of Hartforth, documented in the Domesday Survey of 1086. He is the direct blood descendant of Plantagenet Kings of England and the Lords Kennedy of Scotland. He lives in Waikiki, Hawaii; Michigan, The Italian Riviera, The Italian Alps, and Milan Italy.