Braving Storms: John Foy on “Storm Fear”

John FoyYes, in the midst of those dreadful downpours, the floral fireworks may seem long in coming…and yet don’t the ingenuity and endurance that get us through life’s toughest tornadoes always make for the best stories?!


“Storm Fear” has always been one of my favorite early Robert Frost poems. Like “The Seafarer,” it’s an adversity poem that finds the speaker wondering how he’ll manage as the elements work upon him. In this case, it’s a blizzard at night in the country.

Frost’s deployment of rhymes and iambs was instructive to me early on, showing how a poet who worked in form could modulate into freer-looking verse that used varying line lengths and an irregular though nonetheless tuneful rhyme scheme, all the more lovely and alive because of its unpredictability. This, clearly, was one way to let a poem breathe.

Storm Fear

When the wind works against us in the dark,
And pelts with snow
The lower chamber window on the east,
And whispers with a sort of stifled bark,
The beast,
‘Come out! Come out!’–
It costs no inward struggle not to go,
Ah, no!
I count our strength,
Two and a child,
Those of us not asleep subdued to mark
How the cold creeps as the fire dies at length,–
How drifts are piled,
Dooryard and road ungraded,
Till even the comforting barn grows far away,
And my heart owns a doubt
Whether ’tis in us to arise with day
And save ourselves unaided.

Robert Frost (1874–1963)


~~~John Foy is the author of Techne’s Clearinghouse (Zoo Press/University of Nebraska Press). His poems are featured in the Swallow Anthology of New American Poets, and he has appeared widely in journals, including Poetry, The New Yorker, The New Criterion, Parnassus, American Arts Quarterly, The Raintown Review and many others, with poems forthcoming in The Hudson Review, The Village Voice and The Yale Review. He has also published extensively online and has been a guest blogger for The Best American Poetry website. His essays and reviews have appeared in Parnassus, The New Criterion, Contemporary Poetry Review, The Dark Horse(in Scotland) and other publications, both print and on line. He lives in New York and helps to curate an uptown reading series in Manhattan. You can visit him at


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