Essay on Self-Expression in Theodore Roethke's Elegy for Jane

Essay on Self-Expression in Theodore Roethke's Elegy for Jane

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Self-Expression in Theodore Roethke's Elegy for Jane


Theodore Roethke demonstrates an abiding honesty toward the facts of his experience. Roethke, who was one of America's teaching poets before his death, was self-absorbed, and his poetry derives much of its imaginative strength from his quest for that communion joining self and creation (Mills 527-28). In "Elegy for Jane," one of his most successful poems, he blends his grief for his student Jane Bannick with his childhood memories, his students' experiences, and his role as teacher.

Childhood memories of his father's greenhouse, field, and stand of virgin timber in Michigan's Saginaw Valley characterize Roethke's poetry. The poet's memories provide a fund to draw from for the creation of energized images. In The Glass House, Allan Seager, the poet's biographer, suggests that Jane's tendrils recall the tendrils of the sweet peas running down the center of the greenhouse's carnation beds (11). The comparisons of Jane to a wren, a sparrow, a pigeon, and a fern originate in Otto Roethke's woods. Through these association...

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