Theodore Roethke

(1908 - 1963 / Michigan / United States)

Journey Into The Interior

Poem by Theodore Roethke

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
-- Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.

Comments about Journey Into The Interior by Theodore Roethke

  • Anil Kumar PandaAnil Kumar Panda (7/11/2018 11:26:00 AM)

    Very nice poem. Enjoyed very much. Thanks for sharing.(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • Khairul AhsanKhairul Ahsan (7/11/2018 9:50:00 AM)

    Frankly speaking, I did not understand the poem fully until I read some of the enlightening comments, particularly those of Lantz Pierre and Robert Murray Smith. Thanks to both.(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Lungelo S MbuyaziLungelo S Mbuyazi (7/11/2018 7:28:00 AM)

    Nice write here... I enjoyed reading it(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Harley WhiteHarley White (7/11/2018 6:01:00 AM)

    Powerful poem! Theodore Roethke is one of my favorites. I especially love The Waking...(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
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  • Robert Murray SmithRobert Murray Smith (7/11/2018 12:56:00 AM)

    The poet leads us on a journey out of self. This means in our self-actualisation there are interiorities we recognise and those we cannot. The mind has no hope of pinpointing self for it is a moveable feast resting on the physical nature of the brain/ mind. The poet leads us through many metaphorical settings that seems to recognise this.(Report)Reply

    Khairul AhsanKhairul Ahsan(7/11/2018 9:41:00 AM)

    Thank you @Robert Murray Smith, for this wonderful explanation. Your elaboration helped me understand the poem.

    6 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • chasbo (3/21/2018 4:52:00 AM)

    Uh, where's the rest of this poem? It's five times this length. A great, great poem, here bastardized.(Report)Reply

    7 person liked.
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  • Edward Kofi LouisEdward Kofi Louis (7/11/2017 1:31:00 PM)

    The long journey! Thanks for sharing this poem with us.(Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
    14 person did not like.
  • Pranab K ChakrabortyPranab K Chakraborty (7/11/2017 8:02:00 AM)

    And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
    At the sudden veering, the moment of turning........................................... Terrible imagery but metaphor is unique.(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
    14 person did not like.
  • Lantz PierreLantz Pierre (7/11/2017 2:59:00 AM)

    There are a lot of well-worked-out images in this poem, touching on all the senses. It is visual and muscular and tactile and also very emotional for adroit choices and positioning. It is a visceral poem that goes to the gut, the gut we often refer to as basis to our instincts. And still I'm left feeling, in my head, my thoughts, that I don't fully comprehend the journey that's started in the first line. Out of the self. The movement out of the self is one the implies rejection and repudiation, an attempt to escape what is ultimately inescapable. We can change and evolve, seek therapy or anesthetize ourselves with intoxicants, but we remain ourselves, no one else. But Roethke already foresaw that contradiction in the title. He front-loaded the abstract, intellectual argument of the poem in the title and first line, then took us on a wild ride through the real world where we forget that heady stuff and deal with the real journey. It's a really risky stratagem of balance that, for me at least, gives the poem its ultimate impact. The need at the end to circle around and realize that journey, where ever it takes you, in or out, ultimately always leads back to the self.(Report)Reply

    Khairul AhsanKhairul Ahsan(7/11/2018 9:48:00 AM)

    I have never seen anyone earlier who writes a comment after delving so much deep into the poem. Your comment is an ornament that has adorned the poem so beautifully! Thank you.

    Glen KappyGlen Kappy(7/11/2018 6:58:00 AM)

    lantz, what i relate this poem to are my mountain bike excursions where i was forced from introspection to give my full attention to the immediacy of the trail—large stones that made the bike frame bounce wildly, cactus on one side, steep drop-offs on the other... i wonder if roethke meant nothing more than this. but this is not a long journey—not for me. perhaps he was a lot more introvert than me? -glen

    Robert Murray SmithRobert Murray Smith(7/11/2018 12:50:00 AM)

    An unparalleled comment.

    Seamus O BrianSeamus O Brian(7/11/2017 11:38:00 AM)

    It is obvious that you invest time and careful thought into both your reading and your commentary of works posted on this site. I would like to thank you and express that your insights are valued additions to this forum.
    All the best

    5 person liked.
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  • Bernard F. AsuncionBernard F. Asuncion (7/11/2017 2:03:00 AM)

    In the long journey.... Thanks for posting...(Report)Reply

    6 person liked.
    13 person did not like.
  • Michael Cayley (7/1/2011 6:32:00 AM)

    A powerful use of specific details to convey mood and feelings.(Report)Reply

    7 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
Read all 16 comments »

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Read poems about / on: journey, wind, winter, summer, tree, rain

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

Poem Edited: Monday, July 4, 2011

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