Theodore Roethke wanted desperately to be considered the greatest American poet of his generation. In the matter of literary reputation, if you want something desperately enough, you usually get it--or something akin to it. Thus, since Roethke's untimely death a few years ago, some critics have been hauling him up to Parnassus with great fervor and concern, though others are still opting for Lowell or Berryman. Roethke was a dedicated poet who attempted to build an intense and magical world out of the delights and ills of his childhood, the remembrance of his father's greenhouse where he played as a boy, and a self-shattering, as well as self-transfiguring, relationship with nature, with the ""minimal"" and the eternal, with stones and mice and weeds, marshes and flowers. Allan Seager's biography is finely wrought, compassionate, intimate, and bound to be of inestimable value to all future Roethke scholars. But it suffers from the same defects that keep Roethke's own work from blazing into the full power he so often sought. Seager, like Roethke, tends to take the wish for the deed, tends to see mystery and a sense of the marvelous where others, including this reviewer, are more apt to find an emotional fibbing and mystical pugnacity in what Roethke took to be the Blakean-Yeatsian tradition. All his life, Roethke suffered from mental break-downs, a love-hate relationship with his father, and a fear of revealing himself; these are matters which Seager discusses but in no way really explores. Here poet and biographer meet.