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Photo: 50 years ago: Robert Frost at the University of Detroit Memorial Building

November 28, 2012

50 years ago, Nov. 14, 1962, the poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) presented his poetry to more than 10,000 people in the University of Detroit sports auditorium. The reading was arranged by then-faculty member the late Dr. Peter J. Stanlis (1919-2011), who shared his office with the novelist Joyce Carol Oates. This photo was given to Editor and Publisher Frank Schier by Stanlis and Professor Joan B. Clark. Stanlis spoke often of this event, noting people were brought in by the busloads; and when Frost came to the podium, he declared to the crowd, “You’re an avalanche!” This was the last large public reading by Frost before his death, Jan 29, 1963. Stanlis was a student and friend of Frost for 23 years, and the Detroit reading was one the proudest moments for both of them. The day before Frost was awarded an honorary degree by the university (a practical and ironic man, Frost had a quilt made of all the cowls from his honorary degrees), and Stanlis gave quite an intellectual tribute to the poem titled, “Poetry as Revelation.” That tribute was included in Stanlis’ lifework he had promised Frost he would complete, Robert Frost: The Poet As Philosopher, which he completed in 2007, four years before his passing. That book has challenged all previous Frost scholarship, drawing the poet as a simplistic New England poet, showing the depth and complexity of Frost’s knowledge and writing through Frost dualism, rather than the polarizing monism absolutists favor. Stanlis authored two other books and many articles about Frost and his conversations with the poet, which he wrote down from his steel-trap memory after every single meeting with Frost. Former head of the English Department and Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus, at Rockford College, Stanlis was appointed by President Reagan to serve on the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1982, and he was primarily noted for his scholarship on Edmund Burke, seen as the father of Conservatism, who was a champion of the American colonies as a member of Parliament and an opponent of the French Revolution. Stanlis’ famous 1958 book, Edmund Burke and the Natural Law, revolutionized previous scholarship by showing Burke not as a utilitarian as popularly believed, but as an ethicist and champion of reason. F.S. (University of Detroit photo)

From the Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2012, issue

One Comment

  1. Pat Higo

    November 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    You might be interested in the blog item I put up on his visit to the University of Detroit http://archives.commons.udmercy.edu/2012/11/09/robert-frost-poetry-reading-and-informal-talk-at-university-of-detroit-nov-14-1962/

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