Many of Theodore Roethke's finest poems evoke the plant and insect life he knew intimately growing up in Michigan around the greenhouses of his family’s floral business. Troubled throughout adulthood by mental instability and alcoholism, he often dwells on his psyche’s vulnerability, but also shows a deft comic touch in treating familial and erotic relationships. From 1948 until his death, he was a legendary teacher at the University of Washington; his posthumous collection The Far Field won the 1964 National Book Award.
More By This Poet
My Papa’s Waltz
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother’s countenance
Could not unfrown itself.
The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one...
I Knew a Woman
I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to...
In a Dark Time
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood—
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill...