Rogers's poetry links the intellectual rigors of the scientific method with the possibilities and suppositions inherent in a life based upon spiritual questioning. often compared with Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, and Theodore roethke, Rogers notes that for these writers landscape and environment are much more than "picturesque background" (Elliot "Interview" 24). In her work the natural world becomes a "source of self-knowledge and sustenance, a force, an actor, often a determining presence" (Elliott "Interview" 24). Although she takes plants, animals, and forces of nature as her subjects, Rogers is not merely a "nature" poet, nor can her work be identified with any particular American region. Her poems are characterized by an awareness of, and reverent curiosity about, the immensity of things unknowable.
Rogers was born in Joplin, Missouri. When she was 13, her parents joined a fundamentalist Christian sect that followed a literal interpretation of the Bible. Though the sect opposed advanced education, Rogers's parents allowed her to attend the University of Missouri, where she studied philosophy, astronomy, and zoology, which run counter to the restrictions of religious fundamentalism. Rogers studied creative
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writing at the University of Houston (M.A., 1981). Her first book, The Expectations of Light, was published that same year. Many other titles have followed, including a collection of essays on the art of writing, Dream of the Marsh Wren (1999). Rogers has received numerous awards, most notably the Theodore Roethke Prize (1981), five Pushcart Prizes (1984, 1985, 1989, 1991, and 1997) and a Lannan Foundation Award (1991).
Rogers, in a conversation with David Elliott, called scientific terminology "an evocative, musical, beautiful vocabulary," which she believes has been neglected by contemporary poets (19). For example, "The Verification of Vulnerability: Bog Turtle" (1986) contains a description of a turtle's body that combines zoological terminology with poetic simile: The turtle's carapace resembles "beveled wood," and the "hingeless / plastron" becomes a fortified chest, which shields the turtle's heart, or its "particle of vulnerability."
Rogers's poems express the wonder and exhilaration of scientific discovery, and she credits Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man (1973), an exploration of scientific thought, history, and art, as having been a tremendous influence on her life and work. Her poetry explores the way scientific study can affect our view of ourselves, our communities, and our world. In "Why Lost Divinity Remains Lost" (1993), the speaker describes her attempts to locate the divine—she searches for enlightenment but her "concentration / is broken by the pattern of leaf shadows" on "the wall." The physical world for Rogers is a sensuous, pleasurable, and, ultimately, life-affirming distraction. She intends for her unique and sometimes difficult material to bridge the gaps between science, literature, and spirit.
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