Monday, September 29, 2008

Roethke & Wright

Reading Roethke's magnificant Journey to the Interior in his North American Sequence, I think I have spotted an affinity between Roethke and his student at the University of Seattle, Washington, James Wright, a great ability to convey ecstatic or perhaps more precisely, mystical experience convincingly. The presentation of the irrational in both defies, so far as my reading can penetrate, explication. In fact, Roethke, might be one of the unacknowledged models behind Bly's call for Leaping Poetry in his magazine The Sixties.  "Journey to the Interior,"  begins, 'In the long journey out of the self,'-- what does the ecstatic do, but leap out of the self or as Wright has it in  one of his most famous poems "A Blessing,"  'Suddenly, I realize that if I stepped out of my body/I would break into blossom"? Both poems use the literal vehicle of a car ride to arrive at transcendent experience. Roethke's ride is a dangerous one that risks death to reach the blessing bestowed by his dead:

I rehearse myself for this: 
The stand at the stretch in the face of death,
Beyond my own echo,
On one side of silence there is no smile;
But when I breathe with the birds,
The spirit of wrath becomes the spirit of blessing,
And the dead begin from their dark to sing in my sleep.

Compare this two passages  in Wright (There are others). The end of the despairing 'Inscription for the Tank:'

Let the dead bury their own dead.
What is their pity to me?

And to lines from "Names in Monterchi: To Rachel," which includes another dangerous ride:

We mounted the true frightening
Mountains, and there
The slim us driver, the messenger
Set us down and said,
Go find her.
In the little graveyard there,
We are buried, Rachel, Anie, Leopoldo, Marxhall,
The spider, the dust, the brilliant, the wind.

In both, there is adrive to meet the dead and a meeting with them.

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