Theodore Roethke’s poetry is distinguished by its inherent rhythm and natural imagery. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1954 for his book, The Waking, named after the prescribed poem. “The Waking” is a villanelle , a poem of five tercets and a final quatrain with two rhymes The title is a very eloquent one. It at once symbolizes enlightenment, illumination and self-discovery. One ponders on why the poet has chosen the leaf as the speaker of the poem. “The Waking” is essentially a poem about self-knowledge, through various mediums of learning as echoed in the different stanzas. Perhaps the poet opts for a leaf as the mouthpiece, as it a passive spectator to the phenomenon of life .Furthermore, it is universal for subsistence. Roethke has been hailed as one of those who showed reverence for “everything that lived.”
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
The beginning stanza takes the experience of life itself as a source of knowledge. We awaken to fall asleep. Here, Life is the waking and Death is the sleep. We all take birth in this world only to ultimately cross the threshold of death.…