The Early Love Poetry of Theodore Roethke
Sharp, Ronald Alan
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What I purport to do in this thesis, is to examine Roethke's attitude towards love as it variously appears and emerges in a selected group of his love poems in Words for the Wind. The five poems I have selected seem to me representative of the central issues involved. "The Dream" establishes the birth of a particular kind of love and inaugurates many of the themes that will reappear in the other love poetry. I shall examine it only briefly as a way of getting into the spirit of the poetry. The bulk of my attention will be given to "Words for the Wind" and "I Knew a Woman," probably the two most widely anthologized love poems, and in my opinion, probably the two best. My explications of these two poems, in which Roethke reaches the height of his affirmation, will have an extra concern for the poems as art, and at times, in their attempt to emphasize depth, may even verge on the philological. In "The Renewal" I will consider the occurrence of one of many special kinds of problems that arise in the love poetry, in this case the return of the ego and the resolution of the problem by a sudden semi-mystical illumination. Finally, in "Love's Progress," I shall examine the apparent disintegration of love's affirmation, and the nature of "the light / Beyond the look of love," Roethke's need that goes beyond self-fulfillment.