Tag: Theodore Roethke

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
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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