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« "Cassetta Frame" (by Sarah Hannah) | Main | "Symposium" (by Maxine Kumin) »

June 22, 2008


Thanks for the shout-out to Roethke, David. He is a wonderful and sadly underread poet (except for "My Papa's Waltz," in every Intro. to Lit. anthology, and maybe "The Waking" when people are teaching villanelles). His poetry is such a contradiction of his large, sometimes manic and excessively macho public persona - so tender and intimate, so concerned with things of the earth and of the heart. Every gardener (and anyone who loves a gardener) should read him.

perhaps roethke is underrated or underread by many people -- but many people do many foolish things. as it is said, "humanity's great poets will never be read by humanity, because only humanity's great poets can read them." "tale of two cities" is considered a children's book, but it was a huge inspiration to fyodor mikhailovich dostoevsky in the composition of "the double" and other works. for myself, hardly a week goes by without my thinking of roethke's line about a rat: "under the water it usually goes." i'm sure others have favorite roethke lines as well.
mitch s.

I had heard some apocrypha that Roethke had an admirable practice as a teacher: he would ask students not only to memorize a poem, but then to *transcribe* it (without looking), as a test. I've tried this myself (on myself, and in a class). It's amazing how much more closely one notices not only those tiny connector words (which any good memorizer ought) but also the punctuation, the line breaks, the *choices*.

And I guess I love the story best because I love Roethke--beyond, beside, and apart from the story, even if there were not story! (I'm glad you'd had him pegged for the BAEP, David!)

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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