Theodore Roethke was raised in Michigan, where cities and towns are woven with lakes, streams, and rivers. This atmosphere gave Roethke a "mystical reverence for nature," (McMichael, 1615) and allowed him to take a grotesque image and transform it into natural magnificence. A great example of this is Roethke's poem "Root Cellar." The poem describes a cellar, which most people would consider to be a death-baring, cold place. Instead, Roethke gives the dungeon life and enchantment. The first line gives the reader an idea that the cellar is awake. In the second line, there is a description of the plants left in numerous boxes that search for a bit of light to help them continue their existence. The plants' roots hanging from the crates that are packed into the small space are portrayed in the third, fourth and fifth lines. The odor of the cellar is acknowledged in the sixth line. The seventh line describes the aging of the roots. The eighth line describes the stems of the plants and gives them more dimensions. The ninth line depicts the floor's slipperiness. The tenth and eleventh lines describe how everything in the cellar was trying to hold on to their life for as long as possible. Roethke's ability of creating imagery in this poem lets the reader visualize every aspect of the cellar.
Roethke uses a few different literary modes to help create his imagery. Metaphor and similes are figures of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison. Metaphors and similes are intertwined throughout this poem. Plant roots are not frequently compared to snakes, but Roethke seems to successfully make the comparison using both a metaphor and simile in the same line:
Shoots dangled and drooped,
Lolling obscenely from mildewed crates,
Hung down long yellow evil necks, like tropical snakes. (1617)
Personification is a literary mode used when the...