[CROSSING THE RUBICON] Ep. 2: The Lockless Door with Valerie Wick


Mimi Huelster

Crossing the Rubicon is a monthly podcast where Maddy Fisher interviews people about their poetry related interests and projects.

Maddy: Hi, I’m Maddy Fisher, and this is Crossing the Rubicon, SPAs poetry podcast. In this episode, I will be discussing Robert Frost’s The Lockless Door with sophomore Valerie Wick.


The Lockless Door

It went many years,
But at last came a knock,
And I thought of the door
With no lock to lock.

I blew out the light,
I tip-toed the floor,
And raised both hands
In prayer to the door.

But the knock came again
My window was wide;
I climbed on the sill
And descended outside.

Back over the sill
I bade a “Come in”
To whoever the knock
At the door may have been.

So at a knock
I emptied my cage
To hide in the world
And alter with age.

Maddy: Why did you choose this poem?

Valerie: Do you want the actual answer or the cool, interesting answer?

Maddy: How about both?

Valerie: Okay. Well the actual answer is, it was 7:45 this morning. I’d still not sent any poems to you to discuss even though you told me very explicitly to send you them before nine last night. I did not do this and so I looked up Robert Frost poems, and I pulled up the fifth image on image search. The cool answer is that I thought this was sort of an ambiguous poem. And I thought it would be really interesting to discuss because it’s so subjective. I would like to clarify, Madeline, that there is no correct answer in this case, so I cannot be objectively wrong.

Maddy: Good to know. For a little context, we already had this entire discussion but I wasn’t recording.

Valerie: And she told me I was objectively wrong!

Maddy: So, if Valerie sounds a little bitter, that would be why.

Valerie: I’m not bitter!

Maddy: Moving on, what was your initial impression of this poem when you first read it?

Valerie: When I first read it, I didn’t know what was happening. And I secretly hoped that you wouldn’t pick this one. But you did so here we are. Upon further reading, I decided in my own mind, in my eyes, that it sort of represented the psyche in the process of self knowledge.

Maddy: Moving into the discussion portion of this episode, what is your interpretation of this piece?

Valerie: Well I already sort of started talking about it. I think that it’s all about self knowledge, and if not growing up—which was my thesis when we started recording the first time and it didn’t record—I think it’s more about change, just in general, at any point in a person’s life.

Maddy: Are there any particular lines that you feel support your argument?

Valerie: Well I think they can all support my argument, Madeline. Wow, I sound so angry. I promise I’m not mad at her to anybody listening. Yeah, no, I think, “to hide in the world and alter with age,” the very end of the poem. And the very beginning, “it went many years but at last came a knock, and I thought of the door with no lock to lock.”

Maddy: So, coincidentally, while my argument is definitely different, I feel that the pieces of the poem that support mine the most are the exact same ones you chose—the beginning and the end.

Valerie: Wow.

Maddy: When I first read this poem, my initial—well, obviously on the more literal side; someone’s knocking at the narrator’s door, and rather than open the door, he chooses to jump out the window and say “come in” so they enter into an empty house. Anyway, so that made me think like, oh, he must be afraid of his visitor. And my initial argument was that it’s about the regret that comes with age, and I still think that is partially correct, but I feel like—expanding my argument a little bit more—I think, more specifically, it’s about conscience and yes, the regret that comes with age, but more specifically, the sort of guilt and the things that you look back on and you know you were in the wrong, but you never had a chance to fix them. The part where it says “it went many years but at last came a knock” makes me think, almost of something catching up to him, like whatever whatever the narrator did wrong in the past is catching up. And then the last section so “I empty my cage to hide the world and alter with age,” really feels to me like the narrator’s almost avoiding responsibility. It also sort of feels like he’s referencing the change that comes with age.

Valerie: Well, I noticed that you said “change” during your argument,

Maddy: Valerie, “change” is a word, it does not mean I’m agreeing with you.

Valerie: Yes. So, I think that’s very interesting and also translates really well to my point.

Maddy: Here we go.

Valerie: Yes, yes it does. Being scared of learning something about yourself is super common, especially if that thing happens to be rather unsavory. I think it’s sort of representative, if you will, of someone learning something about themselves that obviously they didn’t know before but they don’t really want to know now. I think we both sort of have the same base idea that the room is his mind and the person behind the door is more of a realization or a thought than a physical human being in the sense that the narrator is scared of whatever is coming for them

Maddy: I think, in summary, and in summation, I feel like we can obviously agree that he’s fearing, what is what the knock is and perhaps just an overall, I mean there are so many very specific ways to go with this poem, there are billions of possible meanings, but to me, an overall sort of umbrella would be that it’s about the hardship that comes with with being human, and the difficulties that having a conscience can impose upon our well-being and I think self realization. Looking at yourself in an objective way is very difficult and that is definitely portrayed by this poem.

Valerie: We did it. We killed it. Robert Frost, here we go. Honestly, now that I’m thinking about it, it almost says more about the reader, like the knock on the door could be anything. It’s never exclusively revealed or pointed to so honestly, it probably says more about our own phobias than it does anything else.

Maddy: Thank you to Valerie Wick for participating in this discussion. Once again, I’m Maddy Fisher, and this has been Crossing the Rubicon.

Adding The Sun by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/5708-adding-the-sun
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/