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The Collected Poems

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  4,334 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
This paperback edition contains the complete text of Roethke's seven published volumes plus sixteen previously uncollected poems. Included are his Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners The Walking, Words for the Wind, and The Far Field.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published 1974 by Anchor (first published 1961)
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Community Reviews

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Feb 21, 2011 Miriam rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
There a several poems by Roethke that I quite like. Once in a while I think he is brilliant. But I've decided I can't read collections of his work. There is too much I don't care for, and too much repetition -- primarily repetition of a mood of self-absorption that gets old fast. Lust, guilt, poor you, whatever. Maybe if you tried actually talking to a woman instead of talking about their bodies and animality and desirability you'd have more luck. Even the poems about his wife (he married in mid ...more
Peycho Kanev
Oct 15, 2010 Peycho Kanev rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Roethke's historical significance rests both on his established place in the American canon and on his influence over a subsequent generation of award-winning poets that includes Robert Bly, James Dickey, Carolyn Kizer, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, William Stafford, David Wagoner, and James Wright. The other difference between Roethke and other poets of his time is his technique. Roethke is never obscure; he always writes in fresh language, avoiding cliches, although his symbols are indeed persona ...more
J.M. Hushour
Mar 10, 2017 J.M. Hushour rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Dickey called him our best American poet, and he was the teacher of who I consider our best American poet (or one of them), Jack Gilbert.
It'd be hard to find fault with Roethke, then, though I struggled a bit with the first quarter of this collection (I'm not a fine of outright rhyming sonance). The rest of his stuff is great, subdued and often weird, not to the point of strangulated cacophony but a drifting sense of unease.
May 16, 2014 Bonnie rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Fans of Walt Whitman
Shelves: poetry
I need to find out what poems I read in Premier Book of Major Poets: An Anthology that made me want this book so bad, because it was so tedious and disappointing. Maybe I'm not sophisticated enough to get it, but this guy rambles about leaves almost as much as Walt Whitman. Maybe that's not my genre. I think I need more structure. Like if you're going to talk about a river, finish the thought. If you're going to talk about love, don't cut yourself off mid-way to start talking about dirt on a roc ...more
Jul 24, 2013 Cary rated it it was amazing
A wordless silence between words. An underrated poet in my mind, wouldn't doubt that he'd all but been forgotten had he been any less than brilliantly innovative. You want deep image? His stick runs deep. The river is wide. The way home for Roethke is back through the womb, back into blood. Additionally, if you've read My Papa's Waltz only, you have no idea, alright?
Jun 27, 2010 Heather rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of my "desert island" books. I once had three copies because I kept loaning it out to friends who took too long to return it. The whole book is wonderful, but the poems from "The Lost Son" collection are my favorites.
Feb 17, 2007 Xio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adore him. Interesting ? info: he was bipolar and a piece of an unpublished poem of his is tattooed on my right forearm cuz I is curazy too.
The Master
Apr 13, 2015 The Master rated it it was amazing
I suppose the time is right to admit that I had a secret, blazing love affair with Theodore Roethke when I was a student.

He showed me bird's tongue orchids, gave dreams of death, and taught me the inexorable sadness of pencils.

Theo's been dead since 1963, and my lit profs will be of too advanced an age to be much bothered by my admission.

After all these years, his voice jars me like the shattering of a clay flower pot.

Our worst moment was when I discovered the phonetic spelling of his surname. I
Dec 17, 2007 Andy rated it liked it
Some of it is mind-boggling--those swampy and phlegmy poems. Then there's crap like the much-anthologized "My Papa's Waltz." I'm glad to have rediscovered him--what's good here is unlike anything else, puts me in touch with something long-forgotten.
Mar 21, 2012 Kit rated it it was amazing
My favorite poet, hands down. His way with words is stunning. Personal favorite poems include Reply to a Lady Editor, Elegy for Jane, My Papa’s Waltz, The Geranium and The Saginaw Song. I'm obsessed.
Gary McDowell
Jul 02, 2007 Gary McDowell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-ones
For me, it's all about the "North American Sequence" and the last book, The Far Field. Screw "My Papa's Waltz." ;)
Joshua Mark
Sep 10, 2011 Joshua Mark rated it it was amazing
Like any great poet, Roethke gives words to experiences you forgot you ever had. Wonderful collection. Just the poem `What Can I Tell My Bones' can be mind altering. ...more
Nov 03, 2013 kimyunalesca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
One of my new favorite poet.The Waking poem started all this for me I'm glad I found and bought a copy.I had loads of fun reading this I really enjoyed it!
Jun 25, 2013 Jacquelyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I love Roethke, and I love poems in classical forms, but a book of them is overwhelming. Read only a few at a time to really appreciate them.
Mar 02, 2017 Eric rated it it was amazing
The Awakening is a dream come true. Love this piece.
Dayna Smith
Jul 11, 2017 Dayna Smith rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
A wonderful collection of Roethke's beautiful poetry. Some of his poems are funny, some are serious, all are worth reading. Some of his poems about nature are exquisite.
Erik Akre
Aug 10, 2016 Erik Akre rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: nature poets/readers
Shelves: poetry
I was so surprised at how much I enjoyed Roethke. I picked up the book at a used store, and then picked it up again on a whim from my bookshelf of poems, and I sunk into his work over the course of a long March. Spring slowly crept up from the frozen ground, and Roethke's brilliant treatment of season and nature accompanied the process unexpectedly well. I will forever respect and admire his work.

The poet writes almost completely in metered verse, which lends a unique structure to his poems. I f
Nov 07, 2008 Mari rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Mari by: Robert McArthur
Shelves: poetry
I almost love this book too much to write a review of it. I keep thinking my time might be better spent reading it again. I can sway to Roethke's poems as if they were songs - as if they were meant to be danced to. It's not so much in the meter of his writing, but more in the words that he chooses to convey movement, breathing, laughing, feeling.

From The Waking:

We think by feeling.
What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

and this, Fro
Jun 02, 2009 Terry rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
First off I have to say this is a terrible edition, I mean physically. The print is smeary and minuscule. There are no "supplemental" materials that one might expect of a "collected works" -- no biography, no introduction, no critical essays. Also I'm confused why some of the works are preceded by the title of the book, and other works are preceded with "from...", which implies to me the entire book is not presented. Perhaps he repeated poems in various editions? I don't know.

I do enjoy/apprecia
Jan 23, 2009 Jesse rated it really liked it
so far i have read "open house" and "the lost son and other poems". i really hate how publishers don't publish individual books of poems the way the author originally published them. imagine never being able to buy "nevermind" by nirvana, but only being able to buy their greatest hits, or their complete works. pretty ridiculous if you ask me. anyway i like "open house" the most out of the two. you can see what made roathke such a special american poet, his best tendencies are on full diplay in h ...more
Nov 19, 2015 Edward rated it liked it
I first came across Roethke's name while reading the Dune books--apparently Frank Herbert was a fan of this once better known poet. Reading his work I can see why; Roethke definitely has a mystical bent. What I like about his poetry: heavy reference toward nature, and beautiful rhythm. There were lines that felt like they had no syntax, yet still pleased the ear. You can tell this man delighted in words, and the power of their sound.

What I liked less: A little bit too much repetition. I know th
Merritt K
Jun 06, 2012 Merritt K rated it really liked it
I love Roethke's earlier naturalistic work. It took me a while to get into, but I think The Open House is some of his best material. He's also got these really fantastic observational lines in his later work that are more about social dynamics and growth, in a way that feels almost like he's applying the same kind of lens to human behavior: "so much of adolescence is an ill-defined dying / an intolerable waiting."

Some of the smaller nature poems blurred together for me but that probably has some
Bob Clark
Oct 26, 2016 Bob Clark rated it it was amazing
In elementary school, I bought a seven inch Scholastic record of scary stories and poem, and one of the poems was The Bat by Roethke, although I didn't know his name at the time. I memorized the poem and would recite it with little provocation. When the internet came along, I Googled it and discovered who the author was. Recently I discovered that the Kurt Elling song The Waking, which I've always liked, was also based on a Roethke poem. So I had to read this. I discovered that a third poem whic ...more
Dec 11, 2015 John rated it it was amazing
I was familiar with only few of Theodore Roethke's poems, "The Waking," and "My Papa's Waltz." After reading his collected works, some two hundred poems, I am impressed with his body of work. I know that the late Jim Harrison, a great poet himself, thought much of Roethke. Maybe because they shared a love of the natural world.
It took me a long while to finish this collection because I wanted to savor these poems. I was also taken by the maturity in skill from reading his first collection, pub
Thomas Moore
Jun 11, 2014 Thomas Moore rated it really liked it
Roethke has a unique voice and one that swings between the beautiful and subtle to the abstract. But, through it all, his play with words and form does a great job of capturing his world in verse. Roethke spent a lot of time in his garden, and his love of cultivated nature comes through in his poems. I think the best thing about his work is that it is both immediate in its vision yet removed enough to allow some of the world's mysteries to trickle through.
Clarence Cromwell
Oct 12, 2012 Clarence Cromwell rated it it was amazing
The poem "Elegy for Jane" is absolutely immortal and deserve to be in every anthology of English verse (along with Dylan Thomas's "Do not go gentle" and Archibald Macleish's "Ars Poetica).

This collection is stuffed with poems that are a pleasure to read and that don't become tiresome after many visits.
Feb 20, 2011 Robin rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
There are several poems by Roethke that I quite enjoyed. When I first started reading it, I was expecting a lot of poems to be like the papa's waltz...

I was kind of surprised by the variety and the different kinds of poetry in this collection that I never would have associated with Roethke. It was a pleasant (and sometimes unpleasant) surprise.
May 12, 2015 Kate added it
Shelves: 2015
Perpetual beginner,
The soul knows not what to believe,
In its small folds, stirring sluggishly,
In the least place of its life,
A pulse beyond nothingness,
A fearful ignorance.

(From "What Can I Tell My Bones")
Nov 09, 2008 Emily rated it really liked it
"How graceful the small before danger..." One of the loveliest Roethke lines. I forget which poem -- one about a mouse I think. I haven't read this edition, but I have read all of Roethke in bits and pieces along the way. He is a good poet to read in the cold. If you are ever stuck in an ice storm in Montreal with no power for three weeks, this is the book to grope in the dark for.
Jan 01, 2012 Brian rated it liked it
Roethke's voice is hit-and-miss for me. At times it connects deeply, as with:
"... Desolation in immaculate public places,/ Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,/ The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,/..." from "Dolor", in 1948's collection, "The Lost Son and Other Poems." A Sylvia Plath-like penetration of the surface; a conjuring of deep American iconography.
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Theodore Huebner Roethke was an American poet, who published several volumes of poetry characterized by its rhythm and natural imagery. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1954 for his book, The Waking. Roethke wrote of his poetry: The greenhouse "is my symbol for the whole of life, a womb, a heaven-on-earth." Roethke drew inspiration from his childhood experiences of working in his fa ...more
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The Waking

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 ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.”
“By daily dying, I have come to be.” 80 likes
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