Root Cellar Poem Essay

Except for Auden, who was a great fan of Roethke's.

Auden was best man at Roethke's wedding, and he gave him his house in Austria for his honeymoon.

He was devoted to the craft of poetry and to the rhythm and the sound; to the words and to the passion that drives poetry. For Richard Hugo, Carolyn Kizer, James Wright, David Wagoner, Tess Gallagher -- he convinced them that they had it in them to make poems." I mentioned that years ago I had sat in on some of Richard Hugo's undergraduate poetry-writing classes at the University of Montana.

He instilled the love of poetry in everyone that he taught. "I was amazed," I said, "at how kind Hugo was to his students. I don't think he was so insanely kind." "Who was Roethke's most important teacher?

Edited by Edward Hirsch; The Library of America, American Poets Project, 2005; 158 pages; $20.

FROM THE DUST JACKET: From the recollections of his youth in Michigan to the visionary longings of the poems written just before his death, Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) embarked on a quest to restore wholeness to a self that seemed irreparably broken.

We romped until the pans Slid from the kitchen shelf; My mother's countenance Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist Was battered on one knuckle; At every step you missed My right ear scraped a buckle.

In the words of editor Edward Hirsch, "He courted the irrational and embraced what is most vulnerable in life." Hirsch's selection and perceptive introduction illuminate the daring and intensity of a poet who, in poems such as "My Papa's Waltz" and "The Lost Son," reached back into the abyss of childhood in an attempt to wrest self-knowledge out of memory.

Roethke's true subject was the unfathomable depths of his own being, but his existential investigations were always shaped and disciplined by an exacting formal stringency, as equally at ease with Yeats's vigorous cadence ("Four for Sir John Davies") as with the spacious Whitmanian idiom on display in the virtuoso efforts of This gathering of Roethke's works also includes several of his poems for children, and a generous sampling from his notebook writings, offering a glimpse of the poet at work with the raw materials of language and ideas.


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