True Detective Mania

From Gothamist’s montage of visual clues:

Books in Rust Cohle's storage unit.

Books in Rust Cohle’s storage unit.

It would appear that Cohle is interested in the work of one of my favorite poets, Theodore Roethke.  As nothing in this show is not connected, I’ve taken the liberty of listing a few possible reasons why his collection is included (as opposed to, say, Whitman’s.)  None of these feels like THE answer, though, so if you come up with others, please do send along!  I’ll be happy to give you credit in my book-in-progress, The Complete Annotated True Detective.

1. Roethke’s breakthrough book was called The Lost Son.  A reference to Errol Childress?

2. From perhaps his most famous poem, “My Papa’s Waltz”:

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt

Perhaps a reference to the abuse Errol Childress’ father inflicted on him?

3. The similar eeriness of Roethke’s “Elegy for Jane”:

A wren, happy, tail into the wind,
Her song trembling the twigs and small branches.
The shade sang with her;
The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing,
And the mould sang in the bleached valleys under the rose.

… and the lyrics of The Handsome Family’s “Far From Any Road” (the theme song):

From the dusty May sun
Her looming shadow grows
Hidden in the branches of the poison creosote
She twines her spines up slowly
Towards the boiling sun
And when I touched her skin
My fingers ran with blood

4. Roethke’s major themes: the wildness of nature, and the perils of introspection

5. His obsessive work ethic resembles Cohle’s.  From the Poetry Foundation:

Along with these influences, the source of much of Roethke’s poetry was the notes he dutifully kept throughout his life. A measure of the devotion given to his craft can be found in his statement “I’m always working,” and indeed his pockets were seemingly always filled with jottings of striking thoughts and conversations. His less spontaneous reflections found a place in the workbench of his poetry—his notebooks.

6. Of Christ and crucifixion imagery, Roethke was quite familiar.  During one of his many nervous breakdowns, he “entered the first class of the 1957-58 University of Washington school year by flinging ‘himself against the blackboard in a kind of crucified pose, muttering incoherently.’

7. Uh, this:

Epidermal Macabre

Indelicate is he who loathes
The aspect of his fleshy clothes, —
The flying fabric stitched on bone,
The vesture of the skeleton,
The garment neither fur nor hair,
The cloak of evil and despair,
The veil long violated by
Caresses of the hand and eye.
Yet such is my unseemliness:
I hate my epidermal dress,
The savage blood’s obscenity,
The rags of my anatomy,
And willingly would I dispense
With false accouterments of sense,
To sleep immodestly, a most
Incarnadine and carnal ghost.

8. And finally, everyone’s favorite color (check out that last line––oo, wee!):

From “The Far Field”

The slightly trembling water
Dropping a fine yellow silt where the sun stays;
And the crabs bask near the edge,
The weedy edge, alive with small snakes and bloodsuckers, —
I have come to a still, but not a deep center,
A point outside the glittering current;
My eyes stare at the bottom of a river,
At the irregular stones, iridescent sandgrains,
My mind moves in more than one place,
In a country half-land, half-water.

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