Friday, August 29, 2008

The Waking by Theodore Roethke

This week, Roethke's beautiful and mysterious poem, The Waking. I'm interested to hear your thoughts on what it means. I don't believe there's one right answer.

Notice the poem's form--the villanelle. You may recognize it from Dylan Thomas's famous poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. The villanelle form enhances this poem's content brilliantly.

The Waking

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.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) was born in Saginaw, Michigan. Stylistically his work ranged from witty poems in strict meter and regular stanzas to free verse poems full of mystical and surrealistic imagery. At all times, however, the natural world in all its mystery, beauty, fierceness, and sensuality, is close by, and the poems are possessed of an intense lyricism.


Blogger Lynne said...

Dear Sarah,
How incredibly appropriate a poem for your big days now here and ahead....though you have lived some dashing days, and many of them, already.
As a an artist and a woman, I salute your love of the art of poetry and it is always a pleasure to read what you have chosen so very well.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel this poem and I will take my waking slow. I must not Can't not Loose myself in the artress. Ty

5:52 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

life is the big sleep, not death. when i die i will be fully awakened from the dream; so i will take my time and do what i need to do, where i need to do it, and i will take the wisdom that i may gain and hope it is of some use.

i agree, i don't think there can be one right answer to what this means because the journey, or waking, is very personal for each one of us.

it's a beautiful poem. thank you.

(your i.d. blurb made me giggle this week)

1:08 AM  
Blogger pasteques said...

Thank you for this! :)
PS: Hilarious little about me type thing you have going.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Doc Op said...

This poem is so fluid, ambient, and circular, that it’s hard to read certain meaning from it, however, the refrain “we learn by going, where we have to go” made real sense to me. It seems that we discover what it means to be alive, even as we live … and present effect is the seedbed of tomorrow’s cause.

Ps. Go Sarah!

11:24 PM  
Blogger Rachael said...

This is lovely! One of my personal top 10 you've posted yet. Just love the flow and feel to this piece.

PS - Go Sarah! The only person on the presidential tickets that has actual executive experience.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful poem and a model of the villanelle. I believe it was written shortly (like a day or so) one of those time when Roethke would have himself (or ask others to do it for him) admitted to the hospital. He was rather famous for the manic moments when he would communicate with nature. In those moments of clarity, of light--for all of us--there is nothing but paradox and wonder, and who wouldn't want to ask slowly. . . ?

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