Theodore Roethke Biography, Life, Interesting Facts
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Early Life And Education
Theodore Roethke was born 25th May 1908, in Michigan, United States. He was born in a town called Saginaw River. His father and his uncle owned a 25 acre greenhouse, which they ran as a market garden.
Theodore Roethke spent much of his time in the greenhouse as a boy. When he was 14, his father died, and his uncle committed suicide. The two deaths had a profound effect on Roethke, and would have an influence on his writing in years to come.
Theodore Roethke studied at the University of Michigan, graduation with both his Bachelor of Arts Degree, and Master’s Degree. He then went to Harvard University and began study under the poet, Robert Hillyer, but left school due to the Great Depression.
Theodore Roethke taught English over the next few years at several universities. These included Pennsylvania State University, Lafayette College, Bennington College, and Michigan State University.
He was let go from Lafayette College in 1940, and returned to Michigan State University after this. During his period at Michigan State, Theodore Roethke developed manic depression. This was when his poetry career took off.
Theodore Roethke had students who became successful, well-known poets in their own right. These included, Jack Gilbert, James Wright, Richard Hugo, Carolyn Kizer, and David Wagoner.
Theodore Roethke received a Ford Foundation grant in 1952, with the purpose of him expanding his knowledge of philosophy and theology. Over the next year, Roethke spent his time reading works of some of the greats, such as Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, Paul Tillich, and Martin Buber.
In 1955, Theodore Roethke was awarded a scholarship from the U.S. – Italy Fulbright Commission, which allowed him to spend a year in Italy.
Theodore Roethke wrote eleven works, some of the more notable being: The Waking (1953), Words For The Wind (1958), and The Far Field (1964).
He was also held in high esteem as a poetry teacher. Theodore Roethke taught for 15 years at the University of Washington. During that time, he had two students win Pulitzer Prizes, and two more who were nominated for the award.
Awards And Honors
During his years of writing, Roethke won a Pulitzer Prize, and also, a National Book Award.
Theodore Roethke married Beatrice O’Connell in 1953. She had been one of his former students. Roethke hadn’t told O’Connell about his bouts of depression, but she stayed with him and remained dedicated.
Two of his works, The Far Field, and Dirty Dinky and Other Creatures, were actually published posthumously by O’Connell.
Theodore Roethke’s main legacy is, of course, his poetry, which is in print for humanity to enjoy for years to come.
The house in Saginaw in which he was born, is being maintained by the Friends of Theodore Roethke Foundation.
He has Theodore Roethke Auditorium at the University of Washington named in his honor, and there is also an alley between Seventh and Eighth Avenues in Seattle, which has been named Roethke Mews. It adjoins one of the pubs that Roethke used to visit, called, Blue Moon Tavern.