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 middle age) don't really communicate much about her personality so much as how he was hot for her. Personally, I would not be pleased if my husband described me as a "creaturely creature" or "my lizard, my lively writher."
Roethke reminds me just a little too much of those over-introspective, socially retarded guys in grad school and how I had to explain to them why so-and-so was mad at them or such-and-such action would get them in trouble. And then they'd start thinking I was their friend (by which they really meant a recipient of their speech) and I'd have to say things like "Theodore, dude! You really can't write a poem like that to your underage student! Huh? It's okay because she's dead
?! Um, I'm not sure that makes it better... I think her parents might be upset... It would really be better if you... What? No, I don't want to hear a poem about how you masturbated by the pond in the woods! No, really, don't tell me about it!"
But as I said, there are some great passages, and it is always interesting to how an individual's writing evolves over time.
This one reminds me of a slightly darker and dirtier Ogden Nash:The stethoscope tells what everyone fears:
You're likely to go on living for years,
With a nurse-maid waddle and shop-girl simper,
And the style of your prose growing limper and limper.
My favorite of the ones I hadn't encountered previously is the first poem in the collection, "Open House":My secrets cry aloud.
I have no need for tongue.
My heart keeps open house,
My doors are widely swung.
An epic of the eyes
My love, with no disguise.
My truths are all foreknown,
This anguish self-revealed.
I'm naked to the bone,
With nakedness my shield.
My self is what I wear:
I keep the spirit spare.