How fitting it is that the City of Scottsdale’s first official poet laureate would be named Robert Frost. After 11 years of service, Frost will step down from the city’s honorary position.
His love affair with poetry came after Frost’s high school English teacher assigned him to write a poem. Like his famous counterpart, poetry has become synonymous with his life.
“During my time in the Marine Corps and throughout my working life, I’d write poems,” Frost said. “After I retired in 1997, I pulled all my poems out of the folder I kept them in, and I published my first book of poetry entitled A Sweet Place to Play.”
While riding with the Verde Vaqueros, a group of men who do an annual charity ride for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale, Frost was inspired to write a cowboy poem. He penned more of the theme and won a cowboy poetry contest in Tombstone. This propelled him to publish his second book in 2009 called Cowboy Poems about the Old West and New.
“Since my name is Robert Frost and Scottsdale is ‘The West’s Most Western Town,’ I thought ‘shouldn’t the City of Scottsdale have its own cowboy poet?’,” Frost said. “So, I approached then-Mayor Jim Lane, gave him my book and asked him if I could be the poet laureate.”
Frost didn’t get a response from the mayor right away, but he continued to share his work with the community. During poetry month in April, he read a poem at a Scottsdale City Council meeting and then a couple of months later, Councilman Bob Littlefield asked Frost to write and read a new work at fellow Councilman Tony Nelssen’s memorial.
“I read A Cowboy’s Lament, and after that reading, the mayor asked if I still wanted the position,” Frost said.
As poet laureate, Frost said his job is to get people interested in reading, writing and enjoying the genre. The position works closely with the Scottsdale Center for the Arts and the Scottsdale Public Library. Over the years, he has conducted and sponsored many public workshops and activities. He’s also hosted several episodes on Scottsdale’s TV channel, and he’s led numerous poetry hikes in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, where a group of people hike and stop about every 300 feet to read a poem.
Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega will usher in a new poet laureate, making Robert Frost the poet laureate emeritus. He is on the selection committee for the new position, and will help review all the applications and make recommendations to the mayor, who will then publicly announce the name of the new poet laureate this month.