Robert Frost and the Fitzgerald Rule
Robert Frost left Harvard due to illness and worked on a farm for nine years. During that time he wrote a lot of poetry. He didn't get much published and he was a poor farmer. After a few years working as a teacher, he sailed for England. He was 39 when his first book of poetry was published by Ezra Pound. He had been born in the 1870s and he was published shortly before the Great War.
He was then on the track to becoming the great Robert Frost, winning his first Pulitzer Prize ten years later.
Opinions on Frost have not always been so uniformly positive. Frost is a very traditional poet who published not in his youth when the forms and styles of his poetry were current, but during the high water mark of Modernism.
His favourite anthology was the Oxford Book of Victorian Verse, full of the style, tone and structures he would use throughout his work. He was inevitable and unavoidable, despite being unfashionable, because he was the best writer of formal poetry in his generation.
There's always room for someone as good as Robert Frost. He succeeded because of the Fitzgerald Rule: you spot talent by looking at what people persist at, not what persistently happens to them.
His simple aim was to write half a dozen poems that would be lodged in the culture, which he achieved. The most famous of those poems The Road not Taken, was written in 1915, after his time in England, when he was nearly half-way through his life.
Frost had always been that good. Some of his great poems were written in the early days on the farm. But he hadn't written enough publishable work. He wasn't part of the club, and he wasn't fashionable.What he was, was persistent.