No anthology is as nearly complete as the editor wishes. In the case of The Best American Erotic Poems, permission for the use of several poems was denied. Theodore Roethke's 1958 poem "The Sensualists," for example, had an honored place in the book. And his reputation could use a boost. But it was not to be. I would love to post that poem here, but that doesn't seem right. So I'll just refer you, dear reader, to Roethke's Collected and I'll write you a brief head note. Here goes:
Theodore Roethke (1908 –– 1963). Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Roethke spent many boyhood hours in the greenhouses that his father and uncle operated and owned. The poet was a big man –– six feet two and over two hundred pounds –– and for a time he coached tennis at the colleges where he taught. At the University of Washington, where he held a faculty appointment from 1947 until his death, Roethke exerted a powerful influence on student poets, among them Richard Hugo, Carolyn Kizer, and David Wagoner. "Poetry is an act of mischief," Roethke wrote. He accumulated aphorisms and observations in the manner of Wallace Stevens. In "The Poet's Business," for example, he notes that "A poet is judged, in part, by the influences he resists." I'm not certain I agree that "a `movement' is a dead fashion" -- this seems just clever -- but the idea that "almost all language is dead metaphor" succinctly states the poet's challenge. As one who spent time at Bennington College, as Roethke did, I prize this notebook entry from the 1940s: "Going to Bennington a little like going into the Marines."