Sunday, May 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Theodore Roethke

Today is the birthday of American poet Theodore Roethke. He wrote some incredibly resonant short poems, including My Papa's Waltz (← this is Roethke reading it) and Root Cellar. Here is another that might be thought of as a companion piece to Root Cellar.


This urge, wrestle, resurrection of dry sticks,
Cut stems struggling to put down feet,
What saint strained so much,
Rose on such lopped limbs to a new life?
I can hear, underground, that sucking and sobbing,
In my veins, in my bones, I feel it --
The small waters seeping upward,
The tight grains parting at last.
When sprouts break out,
Slippery as fish,
I quail, lean to beginnings, sheath-wet.

Dark enough for ya? If ever there was a description of the process that is spring (along with Root Cellar), this is it.


Note: If you would like to receive the two current issues of Lilliput Review free (or have your current subscription extended two issues), just make a suggestion at the Near Perfect Books page. How about Roethke then, eh?


Charles Gramlich said...

love the "sheath-wet" ending.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


That certainly brings it home, in so many senses of the word.


Greg said...

those are great poems, but i especially like "cuttings." it definitely turns things on their head.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Yes, there is something about "Cuttings:" a smell you can taste ...


Theresa Williams said...

Roethke is one of my favorite poets. Instead of celebrating his birthday, I usually celebrate the day of the first occurrence of his mental condition. That's because it changed him, for better or for worse, and it made life and writing such a challenge for him, but he carried on. Here is last year's tribute. I'm not sure what I'll do this year.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Great idea, nice post. Could there be anything more Buddhist:

“We think by feeling. What is there to know?” –Theodore Roethke