Theodore Roethke


American Poet, Awarded Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Author Quotes

But still the delicate slips keep coaxing up water; the small cells bulge; one nub of growth

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils, neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper-weight, all the misery of manilla folders and mucilage, desolation in immaculate public places.

In a dark time, the eye begins to see, I meet my shadow in the deepening shade... Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.

Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley.

The self persists like a dying star, in sleep, afraid.

When I saw that clumsy crow flap from a wasted tree, a shape in the mind rose up:

But when I breath with the birds, The spirit of wrath becomes the spirit of blessings, And the dead begin from their dark to sing in my sleep.

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones, when small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them; ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one;

Is that dance slowing in the mind of man that made him think the universe could hum?

Over the low, barnacled, elephant-colored rocks, come the first tide-ripples, moving, almost without sound, toward me, running along the narrow furrows of the shore, the rows of dead clam shells.

The shape of a rat? It's bigger than that. It's less than a leg and more than a nose, just under the water it usually goes.

Who rise from flesh to spirit know the fall: the word outleaps the world, and light is all.

By daily dying I have come to be.

I know the purity of pure despair, my shadow pinned against a sweating wall.

It was beginning winter, an in-between time, the landscape still partly brown: the bones of weeds kept swinging in the wind, above the blue snow.

Pain wanders through my bones like a lost fire

The soul has many motions, body one.

With these I would be. And with water: the waves coming forward, without cessation, the waves, altered by sand-bars, beds of kelp, miscellaneous driftwood, topped by cross-winds, tugged at by sinuous undercurrents the tide rustling in, sliding between the ridges of stone, the tongues of water, creeping in, quietly.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire. My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly, keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I? A fallen man, I climb out of my fear. The mind enters itself, and God the mind, and one is One, free in the tearing wind.

I learn by going where I have to go.

Last night you lay a-sleeping? No! The room was thirty-five below; the sheets and blankets turned to snow. He'd got in: Dirty Dinky.

Reason? That dreary shed, that hutch for grubby schoolboys.

The stones were sharp, the wind came at my back; walking along the highway, mincing like a cat.

Death of the self in a long, tearless night, all natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

I long for the imperishable quiet at the heart of form.

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American Poet, Awarded Pulitzer Prize for Poetry