Cuttings Poem Analysis Essay

"Cuttings" and "Cuttings (Later)" by Theodore Roethke

Cuttings


Sticks-in-a-drowse droop over sugary loam,
Their intricate stem-fur dries;
But still the delicate slips keep coaxing up water;
The small cells bulge;

One nub of growth
Nudges a sand-crumb loose,
Pokes through a musty sheath
Its pale tendrilous horn.



Cuttings
(LATER)


This urge, wrestle, resurrection of dry sticks,
Cut stems struggling to put down feet,
What saint strained so much,
Rose on such lopped limbs to a new life?
I can hear, underground, that sucking and sobbing,
In my veins, in my bones I feel it,—
The small waters seeping upward,
The tight grains parting at last.
When sprouts break out,
Slippery as fish,
I quail, lean to beginnings, sheath-wet.


Source of the text - Theodore Roethke, The Lost Son and Other Poems.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1948, pp. 11-12.


Bourguignomicon: Birth as harrowing, Saxon rooting. Roethke deeply sympathizes with a sprout, like Jesus or Orpheus, striving to push through to the surface.

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MY PAPA’S WALTZ

The speaker recalls an incident from his childhood which makes the poem both a fond recollection of days gone by and a brutal memory of living with an alcoholic parent.

ORCHIDS

Descriptions of the titular flower sets the stage for contemplation of the substantiation of its very essence of existence.

WHAT CAN I TELL MY BONES?

A contemplation of approaching mortality and the fear engendered by the consciousness of its inevitability.

CUTTINGS

Combining the contemplation of plants and death through the observation that though the plant may be cut aboveground and appear to die, it lives through its rich root system below ground.

THE MINIMAL

The poet places himself into the text with commentary upon his habit for noticing things like orchids and cuttings as well as beetles and newts in which he sees the ineffability of existence among the smallest and least significant of God’s creatures.

THE WAKING

A villanelle about the sheer joy of taking a leisurely walk across an open field.

CUTTINGS, later

A sequel to the earlier poem with nearly the same title. In this one, the poet fully implicates his own existence into the cycle of nature creating life and death below and above the boundary of soil.

THE WRAITH

In which the act of copulation results in the melding and exchanging of identities between lovers.

ADAMANT

An abstract poem in which the title can refer to obstinacy as well as a stone of legend thought to be utterly impenetrable.

THE LIGHT COMES BRIGHTER

A meditative contemplation of what changes are wrought by the change of seasons.

BIG WIND

It’s not just the wind that is big; the rainstorm accompanying the titular gust wreaks havoc on the greenhouse owned by the poet’s parents.

ROOT CELLAR

The usually forgotten and overlooked title compartment comes alive almost through personification as the poet reminds the reader of how essential to life are those things so often overlooked that provide the sustenance necessary for living.

MEDITATIONS OF AN OLD WOMAN

The old woman of the title may be inspired totally or in part by the poet’s own mother, but whatever the case, she is nearing the end of her long life and is musing upon both the meaning of life and the approach of death.

THE LOST SON

One of the Roethke’s longest efforts and generally considered among his best if not consider his outright masterpiece. This epic meditation on existence is divided into five sections and introduces tragedy into way one makes it from childhood to death on the way to constructing meaning out of their life

WEED PULLER

The title character is a young boy who is tasked with the job of pulling the weeds under concrete benches in a formal garden. The boy personifies the weeds in a way by transforming them into threatening creatures.

ELEGY

The title is generic, to be sure, but it is precisely directed toward a distinct subject: the poet’s own Aunt Tilly.

FRAU BAUMAN, FRAU SCHMIDT, AND FRAU SCHWARTZE

Another honorarium in verse. The title subjects of this fond memorial are three women who worked in the greenhouse Roethke’s parents owned. The ode is not merely to the women, but to the value of the work they did.

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