Theodore roethke
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  • 1. Theodore Roethke (1908–1963 ) Theodore Roethke was an American poet, who published several volumes of poetry characterized by its rhythm, rhyming, and natural imagery. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1954 for his book, The Waking. Biography Roethke was born in Saginaw, Michigan and grew up on the west side of the Saginaw River. His father, Otto, was a German immigrant, a market-gardener who owned a large local greenhouse, along with his brother (Theodore's uncle). Much of Theodore's childhood was spent in this greenhouse, as reflected by the use of natural images in his poetry. The poet's adolescent years were jarred, however, by his uncle's suicide and by the death of his father from cancer, both in early 1923, when Theodore (Ted) was only 15. These deaths shaped Roethke's psyche and creative life. He attended the University of Michigan, earning A.B. and M.A. degrees. He briefly attended law school before entering Harvard University, where he studied under the poet Robert Hillyer. Abandoning graduate study because of the Great Depression, he taught English at several universities, including Lafayette College, Pennsylvania State University, and Bennington College. In 1940, he was expelled from his position at Lafayette and he returned to Michigan. Just prior to his return, he had an affair with established poet and critic Louise Bogan, who later became one of his strongest early supporters. While teaching at Michigan State University in East Lansing, he began to suffer from manic depression, which fueled his poetic impetus. His last teaching position was at the University of Washington, leading to an association with the poets of the American Northwest. 1
  • 2. In 1953, Roethke married Beatrice O'Connell, a former student. Like many other American poets of his generation, Roethke was a heavy drinker and susceptible, as mentioned, to bouts of mental illness. He did not inform O'Connell of his repeated episodes of depression, yet she remained dedicated to him and his work. She ensured the posthumous publication of his final volume of poetry, The Far Field, which includes the poem "Meditation at Oyster River." In 1961, "The Return" was featured on George Abbe's album Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry on Folkways Records. The following year, Roethke released his own album on the label entitled, Words for the Wind: Poems of Theodore Roethke. He suffered a heart attack in his friend S. Rasnics' swimming pool in 1963 and died on Bainbridge Island, Washington, aged 55. The pool was later filled in and is now a zen rock garden, which can be viewed by the public at the Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre (60 hectare) former private estate. There is no sign to indicate that the rock garden was the site of Roethke's death. There is a sign that commemorates his boyhood home and burial in Saginaw, Michigan. The historical marker notes in part: Theodore Roethke (1908–1963) wrote of his poetry: The greenhouse "is my symbol for the whole of life, a womb, a heaven-on-earth." Roethke drew inspiration from his childhood experiences of working in his family's Saginaw floral company. Beginning is 1941 with Open House, the distinguished poet and teacher published extensively, receiving a Pulitzer Prize for poetry and two National Book Awards among an array of honors. In 1959 Pennsylvania University awarded him the Bollingen Prize. Roethke taught at Michigan State College, (presentday Michigan State University) and at colleges in Pennsylvania and Vermont, before joining the faculty of the University of Washington at Seattle in 1947. Roethke died in Washington in 1963. His remains are interred in Saginaw's Oakwood Cemetery. The Friends of Theodore Roethke Foundation maintains his birthplace at 1805 Gratiot in Saginaw as a museum. Critical responses In Against Oblivion, an examination of forty-five twentieth century poets, the critic Ian Hamilton wrote: Roethke's best gift as a poet was for touching, small-scale lyricism (see Elegy for Jane, My Papa's Waltz). More and more though he was drawn towards what he believed to be the 'major' themes: man and God, Eternity, the Universe, and so on. Spiritual afflatus took over from direct experience; inspiration was supplanted by ambition. In this sense, Roethke was a typical midcentury case study. Early on, the chief influence was W. H. Auden. Later, Roethke turned to Walt Whitman - who ... seems to have directed Roethke back to the intent scrutiny of nature that marked his early, socalled "greenhouse" poems. In Roethke's second book, The Lost Son, there are several of these 2
  • 3. greenhouse poems and they are among the best things he wrote; convincing and exact, and rich in loamy detail. Poems of Theodore Roethke 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 / ordered by HIT / Selections from I Am! Said the Lamb Pickle Belt Epidermal Macabre Infirmity Once More, the Round Root Cellar Journey Into The Interior She Open House Elegy For Jane Cuttings (later) Snake In A Dark Time I Knew a Woman Big Wind Night Journey Child on Top of a Greenhouse The Bat Dolor My Papa's Waltz The Waking (1953) The Waking (1948) The Voice The Visitant The Storm The Sloth The Shape Of The Fire The Saginaw Song The Right Thing The Reckoning The Minimal The Meadow Mouse The Geranium The Far Field Quotations  ''The self persists like a dying star, In sleep, afraid.'' Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), U.S. poet. Meditation at Oyster River (l. 24-25). . . 3
  • 4. Modern American Poetry. Louis Untermeyer, ed. (8th rev. ed., 1...  ''The whisky on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy; But I hung on like death; Such waltzing was not easy.'' Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), U.S. poet. My Papa's Waltz (l. 1-4). . . Norton Anthology of Poetry, The. Alexander W. Allison and others, eds. (3d ...  ''When I saw that clumsy crow Flap from a wasted tree, A shape in the mind rose up:'' Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), U.S. poet. Night Crow (l. 1-3). . . Oxford Book of Short Poems, The. P. J. Kavanagh and James Michie, eds. Oxford Un...  ''Wheels shake the roadbed stone, The pistons jerk and shove, I stay up half the night To see the land I love.'' Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), U.S. poet. Night Journey (l. 24-27). . . New Yorker Book of Poems, The. (1969) The Viking Press. (Paperback edition ...  ''Nothing would give up life; Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.'' Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), U.S. poet. Root Cellar (l. 10-11). . . Norton Anthology of Poetry, The. Alexander W. Allison and others, eds. (3d ed...  ''Nothing would sleep in that cellar, dank as a ditch, Bulbs broke out of boxes hunting for chinks in the dark,'' Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), U.S. poet. Root Cellar (l. 1-2). . . Norton Anthology of Poetry, The. Alexander W. Allison and others, eds. (3d ed.,...  ''But still the delicate slips keep coaxing up water; The small cells bulge; 4
  • 5. One nub of growth Nudges a sand-crumb loose,'' Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), U.S. poet. "Sticks-in-a-drowse droop over sugary loam," (l. 3-6). . . Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, The. Richar...  ''For something is amiss or out of place When mice with wings can wear a human face.'' Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), U.S. poet. The Bat (l. 9-10). . . Oxford Book of Children's Verse in America, The. Donald Hall, ed. (1985) Oxford Un...  ''Is that dance slowing in the mind of man That made him think the universe could hum?'' Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), U.S. poet. The Dance (l. 1-2). . . Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, The. Richard Ellmann and Robert O'Clair, eds. ...  ''Love is not love until love's vulnerable. She slowed to sigh, in that long interval.'' Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), U.S. poet. The Dream (l. 17-18). . . Norton Anthology of Poetry, The. Alexander W. Allison and others, eds. (3d ed.,... Pictures of Theodore Roethke 5
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