On Poetry and Craft: Selected Prose

Overview

"One of the virtues of good poetry is the fact that it irritates the mediocre."

Theodore Roethke was one of the most famous and outspoken poets and poetry teachers this country has ever known. In this volume of selected prose, Roethke articulates his commitments to imaginative possibilities, offers tender advice to young writers, and zings darts at stuffed shirts, lightweights and fools.

"Art is our defense ...

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Overview

"One of the virtues of good poetry is the fact that it irritates the mediocre."

Theodore Roethke was one of the most famous and outspoken poets and poetry teachers this country has ever known. In this volume of selected prose, Roethke articulates his commitments to imaginative possibilities, offers tender advice to young writers, and zings darts at stuffed shirts, lightweights and fools.

"Art is our defense against hysteria and death."

With the assistance of Roethke's widow, this volume has been edited to include the finest selections from out of print collections of prose and journal entries. Focused on the making and teaching of poetry,On Poetry and Craft will be prized in the classroom-and outrageous Roethke quotes will once again pepper our conversations.

"You must believe a poem is a holy thing, a good poem, that is."

Theodore Roethke was of an illustrious generation of poets which included Sexton, Plath, Lowell, Berryman, and like them he received nearly every major award in poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize and twice the National Book Award. In spite of his fame, he remained a legendary teacher, known for the care and attention he gave to his students, poets such as James Wright, Carolyn Kizer, Tess Gallagher, and Richard Hugo. Roethke died on August 1, 1963, while swimming in a friend's pool.

"But before I'm reduced to an absolute pulp by my own ambivalence, I must say goodbye. The old lion perisheth. Nymphs, I wish you the swoops of many fish. May your search for the abiding be forever furious."

On Poetry and Craft

I am overwhelmed by the beautiful disorder of poetry, the eternal virginity of words.

The poem, even a short time after being written, seems no miracle; unwritten, it seems something beyond the capacity of the gods.

We can't escape what we are, and I'm afraid many of my notions about verse (I haven't too many) have been conditioned by the fact that for nearly 25 years I've been trying to teach the young something about the nature of verse by writing it--and that with very little formal knowledge of the subject or previous instruction. So it's going to be lik

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This fresh look at the thoughts of Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning poet Roethke was created from two previous volumes of the writer's prose notebooks: On the Poet and His Craft (1965) and Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943-62 (1972). The introduction by Carolyn Kizer, who studied with the distinguished poet-teacher at the University of Washington, sets the tone of the work, which shows Roethke's thought processes as he set words to paper to create his masterpieces. This volume focuses on Roethke as a demanding yet introspective teacher who struggled with his personal life and taught his students the value of verbs and cadence. In his notebooks, Roethke dissected his own pieces and the works of other writers he valued, such as W.B. Yeats, Stanley Kunitz, Dylan Thomas, and James Joyce. A perfect work for students and aspiring writers; recommended for literature and creative writing collections. Joyce Sparrow, Juvenile Welfare Board Lib., Pinellas Park, FL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556591563
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2001
  • Series: Writing Re: Writing Series
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 598,525
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Theodore Roethke was born in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1908. As a child, he spent much time in the greenhouse owned by his father and uncle. His impressions of the natural world contained there would later profoundly influence the subjects and imagery of his verse. Roethke graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan in 1929. He later took a few graduate classes at Michigan and Harvard, but was unhappy in school. His first book, Open House (1941), took ten years to write and was critically acclaimed upon its publication. He went on to publish sparingly but his reputation grew with each new collection, including The Waking which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1954. He admired the writing of such poets as Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Blake, and Wordsworth, as well as Yeats and Dylan Thomas. Stylistically his work ranged from witty poems in strict meter and regular stanzas to free verse poems full of mystical and surrealistic imagery. At all times, however, the natural world in all its mystery, beauty, fierceness, and sensuality, is close by, and the poems are possessed of an intense lyricism. Roethke had close literary friendships with fellow poets W. H. Auden, Louise Bogan, Stanley Kunitz, and William Carlos Williams. He taught at various colleges and universities, including Lafayette, Pennsylvania State, and Bennington, and worked last at the University of Washington, where he was mentor to a generation of Northwest poets that included David Wagoner, Carolyn Kizer, and Richard Hugo. Theodore Roethke died in 1963.

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Table of Contents

Foreword 3
Some Self-Analysis 17
An American Poet Introduces Himself and His Poems 21
Theodore Roethke 27
Theodore Roethke Writes... 31
On "Identity" 35
Verse in Rehearsal 45
Open Letter 49
How to Write like Somebody Else 55
Some Remarks on Rhythm 63
The Poet's Business 75
Words for Young Writers 87
The Teaching Poet 101
A Word to the Instructor 107
The Cat in the Classroom 111
I Teach Out of Love 119
The Teaching of Poetry 131
First Class 135
Last Class 147
One Ring-Tailed Roarer to Another 155
Dylan Thomas: Elegy 157
Five American Poets 161
The Poetry of Louise Bogan 165
A Psychic Janitor 177
A Tirade Turning 189
The Beautiful Disorder 193
App Introduction to On the Poet and His Craft 207
About the Author 213
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First Chapter

I am overwhelmed by the beautiful disorder of poetry, the eternal virginity of words.

The poem, even a short time after being written, seems no miracle; unwritten, it seems something beyond the capacity of the gods.

We can't escape what we are, and I'm afraid many of my notions about verse (I haven't too many) have been conditioned by the fact that for nearly 25 years I've been trying to teach the young something about the nature of verse by writing it--and that with very little formal knowledge of the subject or previous instruction. So it's going to be like Harpo Marx teaching the harp.

Democracy: where the semi-literate make laws and the illiterate enforce them.

Bring to poetry the passion that goes into politics or buying a piece of meat.

In poetry, there are no casual readers.

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