STRAW FOR THE FIRE: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943-1963 by Theodore Roethke

STRAW FOR THE FIRE: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943-1963

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Editor Wagoner, Roethke's student and colleague, here only begins to sample the 277 notebooks, not to mention some 8000 loose pages, left on the poet's death. He justifies his taking the liberty of a thematic rearrangement on grounds that the original disarray might daunt many otherwise interested readers. But it is not simply as posthumous works that these writings interest us, obviously; what compels is the privileged entree into Roethke's mind, at once so charming and so full of terrors he never fully managed to illuminate. One regrets losing the gist of his associations, but there is enough in the range of moods and modes, the oscillations between self-awareness and self-consciousness, and the compulsion to salt his trail with fragments (to be picked up later? to be followed backward?) to substantiate his statement, ""I practice walking the void."" The themes of his published poems are broadly, deeply evident, quite often in poetry of eminently publishable quality, but in this context they gain an additional power with the backing of such simple, unelaborated entries as: ""When I go mad, I call my friends by phone/ I am afraid they might think they're alone."" Between what Philip Booth has called Roethke's ""natural noise and sweet quiet"" we begin to hear the thrum of point-blank solitude.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1972
Publisher: Doubleday