Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943-63

Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943-63

by Theodore Roethke
     
 

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“There are only two passions in art; there are love and hate—with endless modifications.”—Theodore Roethke

At his death, Theodore Roethke left behind 277 spiral notebooks full of poetry fragments, aphorisms, jokes, memos, journal entries, random phrases, bits of dialogue, commentary, and fugitive miscellany. Within these notebooks,

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Overview

“There are only two passions in art; there are love and hate—with endless modifications.”—Theodore Roethke

At his death, Theodore Roethke left behind 277 spiral notebooks full of poetry fragments, aphorisms, jokes, memos, journal entries, random phrases, bits of dialogue, commentary, and fugitive miscellany. Within these notebooks, Roethke allowed his mind to rove freely, moment by moment, moving from the practical to the transcendental, from the halting to the sublime.

Fellow poet and colleague David Wagoner distilled these notebooks—twelve linear feet of bookshelf—into an energetic, wise, and rollicking collection that shows Roethke to be one of the truly phenomenal creative sources in American poetry.

From “A Psychic Janitor”:


I’m sick of fumbling, furtive, disorganized minds like bad lawyers trying to make too many points that this is an age of criticism: and these, mind you, tin-eared punks who couldn’t tell a poem from an old boot if a gun were put to their heads . . .
Cover art by United States Poet Laureate Ted Kooser.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
First published by Doubleday in 1972, this volume of arranged poems, prose fragments, memos, and aphorisms reminds readers of the pervasive power of Roethke (1908�63). Editor Wagoner, a former student and a longtime friend of the poet, has taken Roethke's 277 notebooks, dated between 1943 and 1963, and arranged these shards thematically according to his style of "writing poems inside out and/or backwards, frequently across [similar] spans of time." What the reader finds are meditations of a man fully committed to poetry and the processes of writing it. Roethke is sometimes humorous ("Sure I'm crazy/But it ain't easy"), sometimes prophetic ("Body drags soul into the changeable"), and often self-indulgent ("I don't know a thing except what I try to do"). Often suffering from fits of brilliance and terrible depression, he wrote ramblings that are frequently haunting and rich, filled with "a sense that from each image some profound truth might be grasped." There is the impression that even in his breaks from reality, Roethke seems to be on the precipice of something. Even though much of what is arranged here moves from despair to euphoria and assorted miseries between, he says, "There'll be plenty of room in eternity for us all." Highly recommended.
—Karla Huston

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385025065
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/01/1972

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