Published July 29, 2013 by Steve Donovan
Somebody once asked Robert Frost if his poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" was a contemplation on suicide. Frost, who was surrounded by loss, saw his father die when he was 11 then his mother at age 26. Of his six children, only two of them outlived the poet. Finally, he lost his wife when he was 64. Sometime before his wife passed away, he wrote this poem after staying up all night and watching the sun rise. In it, he contemplated the night and the choices made during a simple travel. When Frost was asked this question - "Is 'Stopping by Woods on a Snow Evening" about suicide?" - during a reading, he became infuriated. Too many people had asked Frost too many times about the subtext of his works. He yelled at the audience member, scolding them. He told them that his poetry is not a parable. The words that he wrote, he claims, are simply words. No subtext. No underlying theme. Nothing about suicide. Or anything other than--stopping by the woods on a snowy evening.
My brother and I discussed the implications of Frost's reaction. What my brother has pointed out to me was that the audience can believe what it wants. Frost says it's not about suicide. But, to us, we can take away from it that it IS about suicide. The audience preception is what counts. Robert Frost may have attempted to describe the night and action of stopping during travels. We all take away what we want from seeing something incredibly expressive as his poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening".
What is your audience taking away from your body of work? Have you shown them who you are? What you're made of? You have to find a way to pull the emotional string by playing up one thing. What's your strength?
This October, a film titled "Gravity" will be released nationwide. I had to look up what the movie was about. The trailer told me just about nothing about the plot. I don't know how they will fill 90-120 minutes of screen time. But, by God, they got me. All they did was show me ONE thing.
The first time I watched it (I think I'm up to 20 viewings), I saw this amazing thing that was full of effects but it felt real. It gave me the point of view of the astronauts. It put me inside their helmets and I suddenly cared about them. I wanted to find out if they lived or died. I wanted more.
They hardly boasted the fact that this film had a stellar number of great things going for it. A cast that features Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. A director who is a three time Oscar nominee. These selling points were put aside for this trailer.
Content is king. And the content belongs to the audience. Create art, have only one message and let the audience make it their own.