University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The University of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Hove, Arthur (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 63, Number 8 (Dec. 1961)

Union Literary Committee sponsors creative writing contest and a visit from Robert Frost,   p. 16

Page 16

Union Literary Committee Sponsors 'Creative WIriting Contest
                                                     and a -Visit from
                                            Robert Frost
R OBERT FROST, America's unoffi-
     cial poet laureate who combines
 Yankee simplicity and metaphysics in
 rhymed couplets, visited Madison and
 the University recently as a guest of the
 Wisconsin Union Literary Committee.
 Ostensibly, the poet was here to present
 "Frost on Frost", and, although the ca-
 pacity Union theater audience relished
 the poet reciting his own works, they
 were most taken with his informal re-
 marks ("thought in free verse") about
 the contemporary scene and other
   Frost began the evening by indicat-
 ing that he was happy to be in Madison
 and a guest of the University. '"I have
 a sort of parental feeling for these land
 grant colleges because they were
 granted by my state of Vermont," he
 said. "And this idea of land grant col-
 leges has been invaluable in the devel-
 opment of our country. . . Out of
 quantity, quality-that's the essence!"
   When it came to the cold war and
allied matters, Frost spoke out in his
flinty voice about our competition with
the Russians. "I want to lick 'em," he
exclaimed. But before we can do this,
"You've got to know what's at stake.
That's what we have universities for."
In this competition, Frost feels that, as
Americans, we often sell ourselves short.
"Who thinks we're the greatest country
in the world ?" he asked. "Not us-the
Russians."  The simple   fact remains
that "we're the team to beat, as they say
in baseball."
   Although his 87 years have slowed
him a step or two, Frost is unflaggingly
crisp when it comes to badinage. "I love
a free-for-all talkin' evening," he said
as a smile lighted up his face. Then,
commenting on his political beliefs, he
noted, "I've lived all my life to keep
from being labeled." He further quali-
fied this statement by quoting one of his
few examples of free verse: "I never
dared being radical when young for fear
of being conservative when old."
   And there was a variety of Frost ob-
servations on other matters: science-
"I'm all for the wonder of science, but
it's fun to joke about it a little bit."; the
dangers of the present world-'"It's a
hard world to get out of without being
killed."; his personal philosophy-"I
don't like to go head-on into anything.";
and finally on the Bible-"It's quite a
book. There's a lot of good cracks
in it."
   Throughout the evening Robert Frost
 had punctuated his personal remarks
 with readings from such works as "De-
 partmental," "Stopping by Woods on a
 Snowy Evening," and "Mending Wall."
 When the audience gave him a standing
 ovation at the conclusion of his presen-
 tation, he treated them to an encore, a
 reading of "Birches." It was not diffi-
 cult to agree with the closing line of
 that poem that "One could do worse
 than be a swinger of birches."
   During his stay in Madison, Robert
 Frost generously agreed to participate in
 a round of literary activities in addition
 to his public appearance. He was a din-
 ner guest at the home of President and
 Mrs. Elvehjem which was attended by
 members of the English department,
 and selected student members of the
 Union Literary Committee. Following
 his reading of poems, he chatted with
 the members of the Literary Committee
 and later, with a seminar composed of
 junior and senior Honors English stu-
 dents and advanced writing classes.
   The Union Literary Committee,
 which was responsible for bringing Ro-
 bert Frost to the University of Wiscon-
 sin campus, has been one of the most
 effective influences in stimulating an in-
 terest in creative writing on the campus.
 Over the years, the committee has spon-
 sored lectures dealing with writing and
 the creative arts-some of the recent
 visitors to the campus in this context
 have been poets Carl Sandburg, Paul
 Engle, and Louis Untermeyer, television
 critic John Crosby, and publisher Ben-
 nett Cerf. In addition to the lectures,
 the committee also sponsors writers
 workshops and informal get-togethers
 with the editors of student publications.
   The Literary Committee's greatest ef-
 fort, however, is the annual Creative
 Writing Competition which is held in
 the second semester of every year. The
 competition, now in its eleventh year,
 will present awards totalling more than
 $200 to students for excellence in the
 short story and poetry. In the previous
 ten years of existence, 239 students
 have entered the competition and 19
 have received $2,121 in awards. Many
 of the student writers who experienced
 their first taste of literary success by
 winning an award in the Creative Writ-
 ing Competition have successfully con-
 tinued their writing careers beyond
Wisconsin Alumnus, December, 1961

Go up to Top of Page