Sunday, August 07, 2011

Roethke and Kunitz

This week I've been reading what I can of Theodore Roethke and Stanley Kunitz online. I don't own any of either poets' poetry collections and this is where I really miss access to a uni library. However there's no shortage of stuff on both poets online. I've glanced at Roethke's poems before but not really read them properly. Reading the poems of his that are available online I can't help but see the influence of his work on Plath's poems.
It's a well known fact that Plath was greatly influenced by Roethke, especially his 'Greenhouse Poems' on which she based her sequence 'Poem for a Birthday', a pivotal turning point poem in her writing. I'm enjoying them and particularly interested in how he explores his personal themes, in part, through a kind of surreal personification of nature, something I've always enjoyed in Plath's writing. You can see this in Roethke's poem The Geranium and Plath's poem Poppies in July.

I was intrigued by this review of Stanley Kunitz's book The Wild Braid  which mentions the influence of nature and Jungian symbolism in his writing. I love this quote from the book:
'The poem has to be saturated with impulse and that means getting down to the very tissue of experience. How can this element be absent from poetry without thinning out the poem? That is certainly one of the problems when making a poem is thought to be a rational production. The dominance of reason, as in eighteenth-century poetry, diminished the power of poetry. Reason certainly has its place, but it cannot be dominant. Feeling is far more important in the making of the poem. And the language itself has to be a sensuous instrument; it cannot be a completely rational one. In rhythm and sound, for example, language has the capacity to transcend reason; it’s all like erotic play.'
Another book to add to the list of desirables!

6 comments:

Danish dog said...

I've just got hold of Robert Bly's "Leaping Poetry". His argument is that rationality and fear of the unconscious has been destructive for poetry, and he hails the Spanish poets, Lorca and the Surrealists. To me it seems a bit like out of the frying pan and into the fire. Extreme approaches both. I tend to the happy medium. But I guess there's nothing very sensational in being a happy medium.

Marion McCready said...

duncan, the Bly book sounds right up my street. I did a search on it and came across this enlightening (to me) article on the concept of 'parataxis' and Bly's 'leap' -
http://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/parataxis/ward.htm

in my recent poems I've been playing about with this kind of associative leaping

Elizabeth Rimmer said...

Really useful pointer here Marion - thanks!

Marion McCready said...

glad you find it so :)

James Owens said...

I think I hear more of Roethke than Lowell in Plath. And they talk similarly about their German fathers (though perhaps unfairly in both cases). He was truly a wonderful poet who isn't read much anymore, I think, except for a few anthology pieces. Did you happen to come across the sequence called "The Lost Son"? Very Plath-like to my ears....

http://www.humanitiesweb.org/human.php?s=l&p=c&a=p&ID=369&c=230

Marion McCready said...

wow, the best writers really do steal, can see so many bits of Plath's poems in this! I really am going to have to pick up a Roethke collection at some point!