Theodore Roethke


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Showing 1 - 5 of 5 annotations associated with Roethke, Theodore

In a Dark Time

Roethke, Theodore

Last Updated: Jan-20-2010
Aull, Felice
Founder and Editor Emerita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This beautiful poem appears in a section called "Sequence, Sometimes Metaphysical." It is a penetrating rendering, at one and the same time, of "pure despair" and of transcendence; of the curse and simultaneous exaltation of heightened awareness; of the personal experience of "madness," "my shadow pinned against a sweating wall," "the edge is what I have," and of a more profound soul-searching that contemplates union with nature and with God: "I climb out of my fear / The mind enters itself, and God the mind, / And one is One, free in the tearing wind."

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Meditation in Hydrotherapy

Roethke, Theodore

Last Updated: Jan-20-2010
Aull, Felice
Founder and Editor Emerita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This short poem appears chronologically just before another poem entitled "Lines Upon Leaving a Sanitarium." The narrator describes a treatment he is undergoing for suicidal depression--soaking in a warm bath for hours each day. Rhyming couplets chillingly (in contrast to the water temperature) relate how the treatment is supposed to work to "refit" him for life. But the narrator is numb: "I do not laugh; I do not cry; / I'm sweating out the will to die."

He notes in ending, the paradox of mental illness: that recovery requires disposing of the past. But how can one dispose of that which is a part of the self? What does it mean to "be myself again"? Is it possible to be yourself if you lose your past? In another poem, In a Dark Time, Roethke asks, "Which I is I?" (see this database).

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The Waking

Roethke, Theodore

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Aull, Felice
Founder and Editor Emerita
Chen, Irene
Annotator

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet characterizes, with the tranquility and rhythm of a lullaby, his drifting states of sleep and awareness: "I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow," also hinting at his knowledge and acceptance of impending death. He seems to become one with Nature and the unknowable, ending the poem with a sense of peace and resolution: "I learn by going where I have to go."

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My Papa's Waltz

Roethke, Theodore

Last Updated: Apr-23-2001
Chen, Irene
Annotator
Aull, Felice
Founder and Editor Emerita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A child recalls waltzing with his drunken father. His papa's breath stank of whiskey, his moves were clumsy and borderline abusive, and the son's love and fear caused him to cling to his father "like death."

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Epidermal Macabre

Roethke, Theodore

Last Updated: Jun-28-1999
Terry, James
Annotator

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In rhyming couplets, the author describes his loathing for his body--his "fleshy clothes" and his "epidermal dress"--and describes wanting to dispense with "the rags of my anatomy" to become pure sense or spirit. The difficulty, of course, is imagining oneself without a body, so that Roethke is forced to close with his ideal of being "a most / incarnadine and carnal ghost."

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