National Poetry Month – “The House on the Hill”

I’m doing something a little special this month. It’s National Poetry Month in the U.S., so this month I’m sharing four of my favorite poems and what I like about them.

Outside of American literature classes, I would be surprised if anyone recognized this poem. Edwin Arlington Robinson, the poet who wrote this poem, was a popular poet in the early 1900s and among the first poets in the U.S. to make a living off of his poetry. Although he is significant in that he won the first Pulitzer Prize awarded for poetry, he’s mostly remembered now for a few short poems. “The House on the Hill,” one of his earlier poems, is one of them.

What do I like about this poem?

I was introduced to Robinson’s work in an American lit class during college, and I felt immediately drawn to this poem. It’s such a bleak image being described, and that appeals to my appreciation for the morbid and the macabre.

What does academia say about this poem?

This poem is a classic example of a villanelle: five tercets, or sets of three lines, followed by a quatrain and featuring two repeating rhymes and two refrains. Most people agree that Robinson was writing about the past when he wrote it – what’s done is done, and the speaker can neither change it, nor can he go back.

What does this poem mean to me?

“The House on the Hill” is not explicitly horror, but it has a lot of similarities. The image being described of an abandoned house isolated on top of a hill is especially common in the horror genre – House on Haunted Hill, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and the two movies based off of the novel, and Stephen Kings’ ‘Salem’s Lot are some prime examples of this image being prominently used. Although Robinson uses the refrain, “There is nothing more to say,” as a horror writer, there is plenty to say about this house. This house holds secrets – terrible and unholy secrets – and I want to know them.

What do you like about this poem, and is there one similar you would recommend? Comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe!


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