“This ingeniously structured ‘field guide’ to Roethke’s poetry reintroduces us to a body of work that changed the sound and sense of twentieth-century poetry. Timely, engaging, and stylistically diverse essays consider Roethke’s poems from new angles, and situate him as an early practitioner of ecopoetry. These reappraisals remind us of the power of Roethke’s ‘weird word-music,’ his mastery of the greenhouse’s ‘alien textures,’ and the reach of his ‘defamiliarizing’ poetic language, which influenced Sylvia Plath, Robert Bly, James Wright, Seamus Heaney, and so many others. This is an indispensable collection for a new generation of Roethke’s readers.”
Heather Clark, author of Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath
“What a lovely model this book sets: a gathering of short essays by skilled readers on a great poet whose work is ripe for rediscovery. William Barillas has devised an elegant format that allows many voices to sound in a variety of registers, while keeping the poems themselves constantly in the foreground. This book offers scholars, poets, teachers, and students a wide array of paths through the inexhaustibly rich terrain of Roethke’s poems, traversing their vibrant renderings of both inner and outer landscapes, their sustained dialogue with poetic tradition, and their prescient engagement with environmental concerns.”
Roger Gilbert, author of Walks in the World: Representation and Experience in Modern American Poetry
“These essays, written from multiple perspectives, make a welcome and accessible companion to Roethke’s Collected Poems, while making the case for exploring the full range of the poet’s work.”
Christopher MacGowan, author of Twentieth-Century American Poetry
“A long overdue re-examination and celebration of the incandescent work of poet Theodore Roethke, bringing his work to a whole new generation of readers. Highly recommended.”
Nicholas O’Connell, author of On Sacred Ground: The Spirit of Place in Pacific Northwest Literature
A constellation of essays that reanimates the work of this pivotal twentieth-century American poet for a new century.
This volume is the first to reconsider Roethke’s work in terms of the expanded critical approaches to literature that have emerged since his death in 1963. Editor William Barillas and over forty contributors, including highly respected literary scholars, critics, and writers such as Peter Balakian, Camille Paglia, Jay Parini, and David Wojahn, collectively make a case for Roethke’s poetry as a complete, unified, and evolving body of work. The accessible essays employ a number of approaches, including formalism, ecocriticism, reader-response, and feminist critique to explicate the poetics, themes, and the biographical, historical, cultural, and literary contexts of Roethke’s work.
William Barillas is the author of The Midwestern Pastoral: Place and Landscape in Literature of the American Heartland, also from Ohio University Press, as well as many essays in scholarly and literary journals. His areas of focus include American literature, particularly literature of the Midwest, with special concern for poetry, environmental literature, and Latinx literature. More info →
Review in American Studies, Vol. 60, No. 1 (2021)Download
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The midwestern pastoral is a literary tradition of place and rural experience that celebrates an attachment to land that is mystical as well as practical. It is exemplified in the poetry, fiction, and essays of writers who express an informed love of the nature and regional landscapes of the Midwest.
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