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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Wilmington Writer Franklin Reeve Dies

Courtesy Brigantine Media

Author and scholar Franklin Reeve of Wilmington has died.  Reeve was 84.  He was the father of the late actor Christopher Reeve.

Franklin Reeve was many things:  Poet, novelist, translator, teacher, scholar, critic.   He was a tall, rugged man; vigorous and charming says writer and Middlebury College professor Jay Parini.

“Sometimes people make a vivid impression in the world.  When you meet them, they have a kind of radiant quality.  Frank had this kind of luminous intelligence,” Parini says.

Parini considers Reeve both a good friend and a mentor.  Reeve’s knowledge of poetry was profound, Parini says.  

Reeve was a young man when he befriended the poet Robert Frost.  As a scholar of Russian literature who was fluent in the language, Reeve served as translator when the aging Frost made an historic visit to the Soviet Union in 1962, highlighted by a meeting with then premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Reeve wrote a book about the experience called Robert Frost In Russia.

Reeve first came to Vermont in the 1970s and had lived in Wilmington since 1995.  For a number of years he commuted twice weekly from Vermont to Wesleyan University in Connecticut where he taught.

Among the books he wrote was a novel set in Vermont called Nathaniel Purple.  Reeve once wrote of Vermont, “I keep looking for ways to express its indifferent magnificence, but the danger of sentimentalizing it restrains me.”

Jay Parini says Reeve was first and foremost a poet.   “What will survive of Frank, and I’m sure it will, is he was an incredibly powerful poet.”

Poetry is what we turn to in moments that really matter, Reeve observed.

In an essay Reeve writes about all the places he imagined he belonged, from the New York City waterfront to a dacha near Moscow and finally “the  old, white farmhouse with a view west down a valley across the Green Mountains.”  

“In a final sense,” he wrote, “all writing, all painting, all music and all art are only efforts to get closer to defining the one, ultimate place where we suppose we’ll know exactly who we are.”

Franklin Reeve died Friday.  His ashes were scattered at the Wilmington farm he shared with his wife, novelist Laura Stevenson.

Reeve’s survivors also include four children.  Christopher Reeve, his oldest son, died in 2004.

Read the poem “Home In Wartime” by F.D. Reeve.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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