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Video: Theodore Roethke — In a Dark Time


In this 1964 portrait directed by David Myers, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet recites a few of his poems and talks about the sources of poetry and his approach to writing.

Email subscribers may click on the title of this post to watch the video.


Theodore Roethke (1908 – 1963) is generally regarded as one of the most accomplished and influential American poets of the twentieth century.

Roethke’s work is characterized by its introspection, rhythm and natural imagery. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1954 for his book The Waking, and he won the National Book Award for Poetry twice, in 1959 for Words for the Wind and posthumously in 1965 for The Far Field.

Roethke was also highly regarded as a poetry teacher. His students at the University of Washington included such luminaries as James Wright, Carolyn Kizer, David Waggoner, and Richard Hugo.


Quotations from the poems of Theodore Roethke:

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.

Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.

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

What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible.

What is madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance?

A lively understandable spirit
Once entertained you.
It will come again. Be still. Wait.

A mind too active is no mind at all.

Love is not love until love’s vulnerable.

By daily dying I have come to be.

The soul has many motions, body one.


2 comments on “Video: Theodore Roethke — In a Dark Time

  1. charliebrice2017
    January 29, 2018

    Dear Michael, Thanks for posting this. Roethke is one of my most favorite poets. I read everything this summer and want to read it again and again. This is a terrific video. I know some of his students. Evidently, he was a marvelous teacher. Thanks, Charlie

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      January 29, 2018

      Thanks, Charlie. I read Roethke for the first time in college, and his poems changed my life. His book The Far Field remains one of my favorites. So I was glad to come across this old documentary, filmed shortly before his death in 1963.

      Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on January 28, 2018 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry and tagged .

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