Theodore Roethke: A Biography


Theodore Roethke was born in Saginaw, Michigan


His uncle, Charles commits suicide and his father passes away


Roethke enrolls in The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor


Roethke graduates from the U of M and enrolls in the Michigan Law School


Starts teaching at Lafayette

1930 - 1934

While at Lafayette Roethke meets his first lover, Mary Kunkel.
He also publishes three of his poems in The Harp.

Roethke drops out of law school to study literature in Harvard


Roethke begins teaching at Michigan State College


He has a series of mental breakdowns that gave him inspiration.

Takes a teaching position in Pennsylvania State University

1936 - 1943

He falls in love with the university librarian, Kitty Stokes.
She encourages him to publish a book.

Open House, his first book of poems is published


Starts teaching at Bennington College


He has a number of relationships there, one of which with a student.
When he was about to be dismissed, he decides to quit.
At his time there, he finishes most of his material for his second book.

Roethke is awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship


He takes time off to work on the material for his second book.
He had another bout of depression and received electroshock therapy.

Roethke accepts a position at the University of Washington

1947 - 1949

While in Seattle has a brief relationship with Jerry Lee Willis in the English department.

The Lost Son and Other Poems published


Roethke is admitted to a sanitarium in Seattle


Spent the summer in Saginaw to work on his third book.
Upon his return he gets admitted for the stress he placed on himself to complete his third book.

Receives his second Guggenheim Fellowship


His third book, Praise to the End! is published


Roethke marries Beatrice O’Connell


Beatrice was his former student in Bennington College.
They honeymoon in Europe.
They were reunited at a poetry reading in New York.

Roethke's third book, The Waking, Poems is published


He sufferd a minor mental breakdown and then three months later his mother dies.

Roethke is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Waking


The Exorcism is published


He also hospitalized for three months after having another breakdown.

Roethke receives the Bollingen Prize and the National Book Award


They are awarded for his book, Words for the Wind.

Words for the Wind is published


Roethke publishes his collection of children’s poems, I am! Says the Lamb


Roethke finishes the first manuscript of The Far Field


He was unable to revise it before his death.

Roethke is presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters


From the University of Michigan.

Theodore Roethke suffers a heart attack and dies


He suffered from it in a friend's swimming pool in Washington.
His body was buried with his mother and father in Saginaw, Michigan.