Theodore Roethke on Receiving a Poem

“I was in the particular hell of the poet: a longish dry period. It was 1952, I was forty-four, and I thought I was done. I had been teaching the five-beat line for weeks—I knew quite a bit about it, but write it myself–no: So I felt myself a fraud. Suddenly, in the early evening, the poem ‘The Dance’ started, and finished itself in a very short time—say thirty minutes it was all done. I felt, I knew, I had hit it. I walked around and I wept; and I knelt down–I always do after I’ve written what I know is a good piece. But at the same time I had, as God is my witness, the actual sense of a Presence–as if Yeats himself were in that room. The house was charged with a psychic presence: the very walls seemed to shimmer. I wept for joy.””

Theodore Roethke

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