Saturday, April 26, 2014

Posted by Laurel Garver on Saturday, April 26, 2014 6 comments
by Theodore Rothke (1908-1963)

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Photo by Alvimann, morguefile.com
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.

Source: The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (Doubleday, 1961)


This piece, unlike many I've presented during the A-Z challenge, is in a very rigid form. You might have noticed that beyond the strict rhyme scheme, some of the lines are repeated verbatim.

The form of Rothke's poem is a villanelle. Poets.org describes the form like this:

The highly structured villanelle is a nineteen-line poem with two repeating rhymes and two refrains. The form is made up of five tercets [three line stanzas] followed by a quatrain [four line stanza]. The first and third lines of the opening tercet are repeated alternately in the last lines of the succeeding stanzas; then in the final stanza, the refrain serves as the poem's two concluding lines.
Complicated, right? I've honestly never attempted to write one, but I can see the puzzle-like appeal of trying to compose to such a formula and somehow have it not only make sense, but also speak truth or beauty into the world. Quite a tall order.

What ideas or images strike you?

6 comments:

  1. I've tried villanelle's a few times, but I haven't been able to get it yet. I might try one again. :) Thanks for sharing all this wonderful poetry, Laurel!

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    1. This form intimidates more far more than, say, the sonnet form. I've written a few of those, but they always end up being satirical. I can't play serious well in formal poetry. Brings out my rebellious side. :-)

      Good luck trying this out!

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  2. You have shared great treasures here

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    1. Thanks so much. Glad to brighten your National Poetry Month.

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  3. I also taking my waking slow.... I wish I was a morning person. I stopped by for the reflection post but I did end up visiting during the A to Z challenge. Very cool idea for a poetry theme.

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    1. I hear you. I'm neither a morning nor a night person--I'm a middle of the day in my zone kind of gal. :-) Glad you liked the theme. I figured why not combine National Poetry Month with the A-Z--two birds with one stone.

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