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God knows what I was reading, but twice last week I came across the name of Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) who, previously, was quite unknown to me. Well, glad synchronism! Jay Parini, in this week's TLS (article not available online), reviews Theodore Roethke: Selected Poems, edited by Edward Hirsch. And on the essential Modern American Poetry website, I read:


Roethke's historical significance rests both on his established place in the American canon and on his influence over a subsequent generation of award-winning poets that includes Robert Bly, James Dickey, Carolyn Kizer, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, William Stafford, David Wagoner, and James Wright. Although Roethke's last works have been criticized for their indebtedness to such high modernists as T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and W. B. Yeats, contemporary poets and critics have also emphasized the expansive vision of self, at one with American place, that Roethke masterfully presented in the Whitmanesque catalogs of North American Sequence. "There is no poetry anywhere," James Dickey wrote in the Atlantic (Nov. 1968), "that is so valuably conscious of the human body as Roethke's; no poetry that can place the body in an environment." Roethke's pioneering explorations of nature, regional settings, depth psychology, and personal confessionalism - coupled with his stylistic innovations in open form poetics and his mastery of traditional, fixed forms - have secured his reputation as one of the most distinguished and widely read American poets of the twentieth century.

Readers Comments

  1. Richard Fitzpatrick Thursday 29 January 2009

    For others interested in Theodore Roethke :

    I have written a one man show called 'Conjuring the Garden Master" dramatizing Roethke's creative and emotional life. Most recently I performed it in Michigan at Saginaw Valley State University for Roethke's centennial.
    The poet and Roethke scholar, William Heyen ( Finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry for his book "Shoah Train" ). Prof. Heyen said of my performance:

    Richard Fitzpatrick's moving and memorable tribute to Theodore Roethke is stunning....honed, honest, balanced, inspired...the work of a great actor who understands a great poet with all his heart and mind"

    I am a professional actor, writer, and producer and this play is available for staging.

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