Apr 8, 2013

Roethke's "The Waking": Kinds of Travel


Still on the subject of travel, broadly and metaphorically defined, here is Theodore Roethke’s masterful villanelle, “The Waking,” which I’ve posted before, but not since I was a kid, three years ago. I paired it then with Edward Hirsch's "For the Sleepwalkers," which still makes a logical, nice, dreamy connection in my mind:




And here’s what readers and I said about the poem in April 2010:


I’ve always heard “The Waking” as a hymn or prayer, an anthem I usually fail to live up to, though I keep trying. If we cannot talk about—or even take time to think about—how “light takes the tree,” or to listen to our being “dance from ear to ear” (in our best moments), why are we arranging for gawking tours on perfume-y buses? Or cruises that fail?

Say, do those buses have restrooms these days?


12 comments:

Hannah Stephenson said...

What I like about this poem is the alienation (from his own actions/thoughts/being) of the speaker...that strangeness contributes to the dreamy feel of the poem, I think. This mesmerizing quality is what I often want from poems.

Banjo52 said...

Thanks, Hannah. I hadn't thought of it as alienation, but I think I see your point. It's as if he's standing outside himself, looking at himself, and maybe instructing himself. "Left foot, right foot, don't forget to look around . . ." Of course the heavy meter and conspicuous rhyming of the villanelle also contribute to the dreaminess.

Many dreamy, mesmerizing poems feel kind of insubstantial or downright phony to me. I wonder if Roethke and Hirsch transcend that (for me) because their images seem so concrete, specific, real, convincing, compelling--I BELIEVE both poets more than I usually do with dreamy or otherwise supra-rational writing.

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altadenahiker said...

I didn't waste words, did I? (Do they have those kind of buses these days?)

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Banjo52 said...

Visitors, I fear these Anonymous jerks might force me to go back to that reader screening gizmo we all hate. Any suggestions?

Brenda's Arizona said...

Two comments on Roethke - I think it is Greg Brown or Leo Kottke who has a song on Saginaw, MI? Cannot think of Saginaw NOR Roethke without playing the song in my head. I like the song better than this poem...
And I remember learning that this poem is a villanelle. I like most villanelles better than I like this poem.
Just saying...

Pasadena Adjacent said...

conspicuous rhyming of the villanelle

ya lost me there Banjo

Heavy meter I understood. Like trying to get cold honey to drip from a squeeze bottle

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