Without Luggage

Theodore Roethke is undoubtably my favorite poet, especially if you don’t count Milton, Pope, and Keats. Although this is a long-ish poem, it contains the one image that the poet burned into my mind and there is an interesting video at the end.

The Far Field
I
images.jpgI dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
Where the car stalls,
Churning in a snowdrift
Until the headlights darken.

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My Papa’s Waltz

images.jpgI am enjoying another month of somewhat light reading. I can’t simply say “light reading” because I am encountering twisted or barely-conceivable plot elements, putrid and gory dead bodies, cockroaches, and an occasional virgin or two. One pleasure I find is references to Los Angeles, whether by a struggling script writer or a grizzled homicide detective.

I left Los Angeles in 1968 but have nurtured a nostalgia for the city since the early ’50s. I have admitted this before when discussing the Philip Marlowe stories. I was born so I could experience the Los Angeles of ’30s and ’40s just as that world was slipping away. My college years at the university, my struggles of (too) early marriage, and a 1950 MG TD with the doors tied together by a frayed rope and a rag-top permanently fixed in the down position, gave me further insight into the city. My most vivid image: riding in that MG down Wilshire Boulevard in a misty rain with an large umbrella held over my head.

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Ted Roethke

As an undergraduate who could recite most anything written by John Keats, I sat in a chilly classroom sipping a cup of watery coffee from the Gypsy Wagon listening to a professor tell us that our anthology textbook would introduce us to a strong representation of contemporary poets … in fact, only one poet in the collection was dead (he had died just two years earlier) … Theodore Roethke. Now I had long ago been warned about living authors who might publish that last novel and destroy the logic of your thesis, so Roethke piqued my interest. Long after that class I was still reading Roethke’s books of poems and books about Roethke (including his biography). I even did my senior thesis on Ted Roethke.

So I was rummaging around earlier today and I came upon a half-dozen of Roethke’s best known poems. Although I remember several other poems as perhaps being more deserving of attention, this was the one of the six that I really liked (I may have to dig out the old Roethke books … let’s see, they are almost fifty years old now).

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