I’ve been reading Theodore Roethke's poems lately, specifically the The Storm (Forio d’Ischia) and The Long Waters. As a seventeen year old, I made the decision to attend Lawrence after sitting in on a class that covered one of his poems, so I don’t take this lightly. Or maybe, I take it lightly in a serious manner. Who knows. That was over thirteen years ago now.
Born May 25, 1908, in Saginaw, Michigan, Roethke wrote plenty, and also taught, but wasn’t recognized in an overly public manner until the publishing of The Waking in 1953, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954 (this was the work covered in the lit class that partially shaped my collegiate trajectory). He traveled, as a Fulbright lecturer and Ford Foundation grant recipient, to Italy, England and Ireland, won a handful of other poetry awards, and died in 1963. The Far Field: Last Poems, from which I’ve been reading, was published posthumously in 1964.
My focus this spring has been on studies, mostly works on paper, and these paintings reflect my attempt to strip down my process to its essentials - color, water, pigment, brushstrokes, the movement of my body and arms (motion, rhythm, muscles, etc.). These works, Into Darkness, Of the Storm and The Waves, also have names and origins loosely derived from The Storm, which follows at the bottom of this post.
A second group of works (the first four of which will debut on Sunday in Chairish’s open studio on Instagram) found their origins in my readings of The Long Waters. I’ll share images of those works, and the poem, after the sale.
12.25 x 16.25 x 1.5", acrylic on canvas, 2015 | more information
OF THE STORM
10.25 x 10.25 x 1.5", acrylic on canvas, 2015 | more information
28 x 30.75 x 2.25", acrylic on canvas, 2015 | more information
Theodore Roethke, 1908 - 1963
Against the stone breakwater,
Only an ominous lapping,
While the wind whines overhead,
Coming down from the mountain,
Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces;
A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves,
And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming against the lamp pole.
Where have the people gone?
There is one light on the mountain.
Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell,
The waves not yet high, but even,
Coming closer and closer upon each other;
A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea,
Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot,
The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending,
Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness.
A time to go home!--
And a child’s dirty shift billows upward out of an alley,
A cat runs from the wind as we do,
Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia,
Where the heavy door unlocks,
And our breath comes more easy,--
Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over
The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating
The walls, the slatted windows, driving
The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer
To their cards, their anisette.
We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress.
We wait; we listen.
The storm lulls off, then redoubles,
Bending the trees half-way down to the ground,
Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard,
Flattening the limber carnations.
A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb,
Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead.
The bulb goes on and off, weakly.
Water roars into the cistern.
We lie closer on the gritty pillow,
Breathing heavily, hoping--
For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater,
The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell,
The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses,
And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.