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Virginia F. Smith

Science in the poetry of Robert Frost

Robert Frost’s life spanned a remarkable period of progress in science and technology. He was a teenager when the speed of light was determined; he was a young man when the theory of relativity was proposed; he was middle-aged when penicillin was discovered and was elderly when the structure of DNA was solved.  Not only did Frost live through these events and discoveries, but he strove to comprehend and internalize them in a way that few writers or poets of his time did. Frost’s interests were broad, extending from biology to cosmology and from the microscopic to the universal, and deep, delving into advanced topics such as quantum mechanics and cosmology.  As a result, Frost’s poetry is brimming with allusions to science, many of them quite sophisticated and subtle. And while Robert Frost’s conflict with the implications of modern science has been thoroughly explored and well-described by other writers and literary critics, I am more interested in how he used scientific language and imagery to expand his artist’s palette.  I would also like to use Frost's poetry to bring scientists and humanists together in a shared scholarly pursuit. 


    Book - A Scientific Companion to Robert Frost 

    Smith, Virginia F. A Scientific Companion to Robert Frost. Clemson UP, 2018

 A description of the book may be found at the JSTOR website.

    Book review in Washington State Magazine

    Book review from Nashua Telegraph  (Dec 27, 2018) - page 1, page 2 

    Book review in New England Quarterly (USNA users have full access)

    Book review in Mount Holyoke Alumni Quarterly

    Book review in The Robert Frost Review, Fall 2019, No. 29, pp. 96-99.  



Podcast Interview

Listen to interview about the book on "The Poet and the Poem," a podcast sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by the poet Grace Cavalieri. The interview was recorded in Washington DC in August of 2018.

 Click here to listen to interview (28:53)

Peer-reviewed articles

Smith, VF. (2019) 'Man's Greatest Enterprise': Revealing the Science in the Poetry of Robert Frost. Journal of the Friends of the Dymock Poets, Number 18: 74-85.

Smith, VF. (2016) Frost on the Apple, Interdisciplinary Studies on Literature and Environment doi: 10.1093/isle/isw074 View or download PDF

Smith, VF. (2015) The Varieties of Natural Experience: The Importance of Place Names in the Nature Poetry of Robert Frost, The Robert Frost Review 25: 87-102.

Smith VF (2010) A Scientist’s Appreciation for Robert Frost, The Robert Frost Review 25: 23-38.  

Invited Talks

"Why Poets Need Science and Why Scientists Need Poetry." Invited panelist. West Chester University Poetry Conference. West Chester, PA. 5 June 2019.

"Two Roads Diverge in a Yellow (?) Wood: Looking for Evidence of Colorblindness in the Poems of Robert Frost."  American Literature Association Conference , Boston, MA. 25 May 2019. Dowload handout as PDF.

"Acquainted With the Night and Versed in Country Things: Science in the Poetry of Robert Frost." Virginia Military Institute. Lexington, VA. 15 April 2019.

"What Did He Know and When Did He Know It? Using the letters of Robert Frost to verify his understanding of science." Annual Meeting of the Modern Language Association, Chicago, IL, 5 January 2019.

"Science in the Poetry of Robert Frost." Featured speaker at Annual General Meeting of the Friends of the Dymock Poets, Dymock, Gloucestershire, UK, 6 October 2018.

"Robert Frost: Farmer-Poet-Scientist." The Robert Frost Farm Literary Series, Derry, NH, 5 August 2018.

"A Scientific Companion to Robert Frost," The Friends of Robert Frost lecture series at the Stone House Museum, South Shaftsbury, VT June 11, 2017.

“The Importance of Place Names in the Nature Poetry of Robert Frost,” Panel on Robert Frost and Environmentalism, 86th Annual Conference of the South Atlantic Modern Language Association, Atlanta, Ga, 7 November 2014. 

“Acquainted with the Night: Backyard Astronomy in the Poetry of Robert Frost,” The Robert Frost Society panel, 25th Annual Conference on American Literature, Washington DC, May 2014.

“Frost on the Apple,” The Robert Frost Society symposium, 23rd Annual Conference on American Literature, San Francisco, CA, 25 May 2012. 

“A Scientist’s Appreciation for Robert Frost,” The Robert Frost Society symposium, 20th Annual Conference on American Literature, Boston, MA, 21 May 2009.

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