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Judgment must be applied, however, when deciding whether to use poetic license in a college essay.

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If the writer also has straight As in AP English and high verbal SAT scores, the admissions reader “gets it.” However, for most students, especially those for whom English is not their strong suit, I suggest avoiding poetic license and sticking to the letter of the law in college essays.

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Yet even though Frost’s poetry is simple and clear, Richard Wilbur points out that it is not written in the colloquial language of an uneducated farm boy, but rather in “a beautifully refined and charged colloquial language.” In other words, Frost’s ability to express such a depth of feeling in each of his poems through the medium of colloquial speech reveals a far greater grasp of the human language than many of his critics would admit. It is because of the clarity of his poetry that his poems are beloved and studied in high schools throughout the United States, and it is also because of this clarity that Frost is able to explore topics of emotion, struggle, and conflict that would be incomprehensible in any other form.

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During his beginnings as a poet, Frost was often criticized for using such a colloquial tone in his poetry. When his first poem was published in The Independent in 1894, the acceptance was accompanied by a copy of Lanier’s “Science of English Verse,” a not so subtle suggestion that Frost needed to work on mastering a more traditional tone and meter. Even after his success as a poetic was assured, Frost was still censured by some for writing seemingly simplistic poetry, works that were not reminiscent of high art.

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_This essay was drawn from the introduction to “Collected Poems 1950–2012,” by Adrienne Rich, which is out June 21st from W. W. Norton & Company. _