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160 Western American Literature Words for the Wind: The Collected Verse of Theodore Roethke. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1981. 212 pages, $6.95.) The University of Washington has reprinted Doubleday’s 1958 Col­ lected Verse of Theodore Roethke, even though all of these poems, and a hundred and ten more, are included in the 1975 Doubleday/Anchor Col­ lected Poems of Theodore Roethke. The reprint is photographically repro­ duced from the 1958 edition, and bound in a cover featuring a photograph of Roethke holding a rose on the front, and excerpts from reviews of the original edition on the back cover. This is presented as a living work; there is no indication anywhere that the poet departed this earth in 1963. Why should a reader purchase the earlier collection from the University of Washington when it does not contain Roethke’s distinctive later work from The Far Field — poems like “The Rose” and “In a Dark Time”? As it turns out, there seem to be good reasons for a first reading of Roethke to rely on the reprint, and for scholarly considerations of Roethke’s work to supplement the more complete Collected Poems with reference to this earlier text. For one thing, Words for the Wind is typographically the more hand­ some presentation of Roethke’s poetry. Titles in this collection are letter­ spaced, and the poems are given ample leading between lines. This gener­ osity of spacing is crucial for Roethke’s work because many of his poems rely so much on the impact of single images and short phrases. The reader needs to linger here, to pause in the mossy hollows of individual syllables. When Doubleday put together the Collected Poems in 1975, the line-count was increased from thirty-two to forty-three lines per page; and to save space quite a number of the poems had to begin at mid-page. For a first reading of Roethke’s work, the cramped layout that resulted for both short poems like “Dolor” and longer sequences like “Four for Sir John Davies” will take the edge off pleasure. Words for the Wind, as reprinted by the University of Washington, is also worth owning for what is left out. This is the only edition of Roethke’s work in print that bears his stamp of selection and order. For a first intro­ duction to Roethke, and for a critical consideration of his own developing taste, it will be better to read the seventeen poems from Open House that Roethke chose to include in 1958, rather than plow through the forty-five poems from that first book which appear in the Collected Poems. In some readings, I trust implicitly Roethke’s instinct here for pruning and trans­ planting; Words for the Wind includes only the stronger of his two poems titled “The Waking,” and “Frau Bauman, Frau Schmidt, and Frau Schwartze” here follows “Old Florist” rather than the chilled natural world of “Carnations.” There is a maturing idea in this sequence quite different from the historic finality of the Collected Poems. KIM R. STAFFORD, Idaho State University ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
p. 160
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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