Karl Malkoff: On "Cuttings" and "Cuttings [Later]"

This, then, is the esthetic of the greenhouse poems: the rooting of poetry in sensuous experience, the search for naive, even prerational, modes of expression, and a more dynamic concept of the correspondence between the vegetable and the human.

The greenhouse land of Roethke's father and uncle provided a setting particularly suitable to the development of these esthetic ends. But the most important reason Roethke chose to write a sequence of poems about this vegetable realm is probably far less complex: as the scene of his childhood, it was a world highly charged with experience and significance. It was, as we have seen, both fertile womb and rigid principle of order imposed upon chaos, both heaven and hell; it was nature and society, mother and father. It was all of life.

The first five poems, for example, are explicitly concerned with the struggle to be born. In "Cuttings," "small cells bulge" until a single "nub of growth" nudges and pokes its way through the sand. The second "Cuttings" poem picks up this strain toward becoming at a later point, at the "urge, wrestle, resurrection of dry sticks."


Title Karl Malkoff: On "Cuttings" and "Cuttings [Later]" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Karl Malkoff Criticism Target Theodore Roethke
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 22 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Theodore Roethke: An Introduction to the Poetry
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