Roethke, Theodore, 1908-1963

Alternative names
Birth 1908-05-25
Death 1963-08-01

Biographical notes:

Educator, poet.

From the description of Correspondence, with University of Michigan officials, 1962. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34370061

Theodore Roethke won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1954 for his volume of verse "The Waking." He was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1908 and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1929. He taught at Lafayette University, Penn State, Bennington College and finally at the University of Washington. His books include "The lost son", "Praise to the end", The waking", "I am! says the lamb" among others. He died in 1963.

From the description of The Roethke collection, 189?-2009. (Public Libraries of Saginaw). WorldCat record id: 61690886

American poet.

From the description of Notes [n.d.] (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34370063

Theodore Roethke was a professor of English at the University of Washington, Lafayette, Pennsylvania State and Bennington. As a poet he was awarded many fellowships and honours, such as two Guggenheim fellowships, the Eunice Tietjens prize (1947), and the Levinson award (1951). In 1954 Roethke won the Pullitzer Prize for poetry with The Waking.

From the description of Theodore Roethke fonds. 1933-1953. (University of British Columbia Library). WorldCat record id: 606463118

Remembered almost as much for his alcoholism and bouts with mental illness as for his substantial literary achievements, influential American poet and teacher Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) had a profound impact on the writing, studying and teaching of poetry in the Pacific Northwest.

Born in Saginaw, Michigan to a German American family who operated a greenhouse business, Roethke attended the University of Michigan and received an undergraduate degree in English literature. Although he briefly contemplated a career as a lawyer, Roethke began graduate studies in English at Michigan, before transferring to Harvard University. At Harvard he met the poet Robert Hillyer, who encouraged him to submit his poems to publications. Despite some initial successes, the financial pressures of the Depression led Roethke to leave Harvard after only one year to take a teaching position at Lafayette College. Roethke continued to write poetry and his work was widely published in magazines and literary journals during this period. By 1935, Roethke finally received a graduate degree from the University of Michigan, allowing him to obtain better teaching positions at Michigan State College (where he suffered the first of his mental breakdowns), Pennsylvania State College, Bennington College, and, finally, the University of Washington, where he would remain on the faculty from 1947 until his death. By the time of the Seattle appointment, Roethke had solidified his reputation, having published his first book of poems, Open House (1941) and having been awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship which enabled him to complete his second collection, The Lost Son and Other Poems (1948). Other notable works of Roethke's include the Pulitzer Prize-winning, The Waking: Poems, 1933-1953 (1954) and Words for the Wind (1958), which received the National Book Award and the Bollingen Prize. He died suddenly at the age of fifty-five after having a heart attack while visiting a friend on Bainbridge Island, Washington. In 1964, an annual series, Roethke Readings, was established in his honor at the University of Washington. This event has been held in the main auditorium of Kane Hall (named in the poet's memory in 1970) since 1972.

Minnesota-born poet, Richard Ghormley Eberhart (1905-2005), led a long and varied life, writing prolifically and in several genres, but he is often remembered primarily as a nature poet, as well as for his prescient championing of the newer generation of Beat poets.

Eberhart began his studies at the University of Minnesota, but turned to writing poetry after the death of his mother in 1921, switching to Dartmouth College. After receiving his undergraduate degreee in 1926, he studied in England with I.A. Richards at St. John's College, Cambridge (where he took a second B.A. and a M.A. in English literature), followed by time spent at the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He published his first book of poetry, A Bravery of Earth in 1930, but, while still managing to write and publish poetry regularly, he would hold a wide variety of teaching and other jobs over the next two decades. It was not until the early 1950s that he was able to concentrate more exclusively on writing poetry and teaching at the college level. Eberhart taught briefly at many institutions (including a stint at the University of Washington) before receiving an appointment as Professor of English and Poet-in-Residence at Dartmouth in 1956. He retired from the faculty in 1970, but continued to teach part-time well into the 1980s. Among his many books are: Undercliff (1953), Selected Poems, 1930-1965 (1965; Pulitzer Prize), Shifts of Being (1968), Collected Poems, 1930-1976 (1976; National Book Award) and Ways of Light (1980). In 2004, the poetry reading room at Dartmouth was renamed in his honor on the occasion of his 100th birthday.

From the description of Theodore Roethke letters to Richard Eberhart, 1952-1953. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 228170564

American poet and author Theodore Roethke was born on May 25, 1908, in Saginaw, Michigan. He received his A.B. from the University of Michigan in 1929 and his M.A. in 1936; he also was enrolled in the graduate program at Harvard University in 1930-1931. He married Beatrice Heath O'Connell on January 3, 1953. He died on August 1, 1963, on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, instructor in English, 1931-1935 Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, instructor in English, 1935 Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, instructor, 1936-1939, assistant professor of English, 1939-1943, 1947 Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, assistant professor of English, 1943-1946 University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, associate professor, 1947-1948, professor of English, 1948-1962, poet-in-residence, 1962-1963 Fulbright lecturer in Italy, 1955 Open House (New York: Knopf, 1941). The Lost Son and Other Poems (Garden City: Doubleday, 1948; London: Lehmann, 1949). Praise to the End!(Garden City: Doubleday, 1951). The Waking, Poems: 1933-1953 (Garden City: Doubleday, 1953). Words for the Wind (London: Secker & Warburg, 1957; Garden City: Doubleday, 1958). I Am! Says the Lamb (Garden City: Doubleday, 1961). Party at the Zoo (New York: Crowell-Collier, 1963). Sequence, Sometimes Metaphysical(Iowa City: Stonewall Press, 1963). The Far Field (Garden City: Doubleday, 1964; London: Faber & Faber, 1965). On the Poet and His Craft, editor Ralph J. Mills, Jr. (Seattle & London: University of Washington Press, 1965). The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (Garden City: Doubleday, 1966; London: Faber & Faber, 1968). Theodore Roethke: Selected Poems, editor Beatrice Roethke (London: Faber & Faber, 1969). Straw for the Fire. From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943-63, editor David Wagoner (Garden City: Doubleday, 1972). Dirty Dinkey and Other Creatures: Poems for Children, editor Beatrice Roethke and Stephen Lushington (Garden City: Doubleday, 1973). The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982).

From the guide to the Theodore Roethke papers and collected materials on Theodore Roethke, 1891-2002, 1930-1963, (University of Washington Libraries Special Collections)


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  • Poets, American
  • Poetry
  • College teachers--Recruiting
  • College teachers--20th century--Correspondence
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Poetry--Publishing--20th century
  • Manic-depressive illness
  • Literature
  • Poets, American--20th century--Correspondence
  • English literature--Study and teaching
  • Poetry--Study and teaching


  • Poets


  • United States (as recorded)
  • Saginaw (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Michigan--Saginaw (as recorded)
  • Washington (State)--Seattle (as recorded)
  • Edmonds (Wash.) (as recorded)