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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs: "Mark Thwaite ... has a maverick, independent mind"

Friday 16 December 2005

Theodore Roethke

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.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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