ON ROBERT FROST'S POEM "MENDING WALL" AND KIRSTEN GREENIDGE'S PLAY THE LUCK OF THE IRISH

Hannah, the centeral character in Kirsten Greenidge's new play The Luck of the Irish, lives in a suburb north of Boston in the house her grandparent's bought. It's a good neighborhood with good schools. Hannah's Right to live in the house is challenged and she becomes a little bit obsessed with notions of belonging and with Robert Frost's iconic poem, "Mending Wall."

Over the 45 deceptively simple lines of Frost's poem, he questions the use of the wall he and his neighbor repair each year. Every spring they "meet to walk the line/And set the wall between us once again. We keep the wall between us as we go." Unwilling to question the status quo, his neighbor simply asserts, "Good fences make good neighbors." The poem makes a gentle and quiet argument against building and rebuilding walls, especially since nature and hunters seem so badly to want them down. He cites the cost of rebuilding the wall: "We wear our fingers rough with handling them."

The Luck of the Irish works similarly to the poem, accumulatively. Both look at one moment and see it as a result of many years of choices. And just as a drystone wall is built stone by stone, layered one on top of the other, the play and poem build their arguments by layering digressive images one over the other. In the poem, Frost is defeated by the neighbor's unwillingness to "go behind his father's saying," but in the play Hannah has to breach the wall she has built around herself.

—Lisa Timmel

MENDING WALL

    Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
    That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
    And spills the upper boulders in the sun; 
    And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. 
    The work of hunters is another thing:
    I have come after them and made repair
    Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
    But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
    To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
    No one has seen them made or heard them made,
    But at spring mending-time we find them there.
    I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
    And on a day we meet to walk the line
    And set the wall between us once again.
    We keep the wall between us as we go.
    To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
    And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
    We have to use a spell to make them balance:
    "Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
    We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
    Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
    One on a side. It comes to little more:
    There where it is we do not need the wall:
    He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
    My apple trees will never get across
    And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
    He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
    Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
    If I could put a notion in his head:
    "Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
    Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
    Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence.
    Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
    That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
    But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
    He said it for himself. I see him there
    Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
    In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. 
    He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
    Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
    He will not go behind his father's saying,
    And he likes having thought of it so well
    He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
—Robert Frost

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