Theodore Roethke: A Biography

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Theodore Roethke was born in Saginaw, Michigan

1908

His uncle, Charles commits suicide and his father passes away

1923

Roethke enrolls in The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

1925

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

1929

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

1930

Roethke begins teaching at Michigan State College

1935

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

1941

Starts teaching at Bennington College

1943

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

1945

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

1948

Roethke is admitted to a sanitarium in Seattle

1949

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

1950

His third book, Praise to the End! is published

1951

Roethke marries Beatrice O’Connell

1952

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

1953

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

Roethke is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Waking

1953

The Exorcism is published

1957

He also hospitalized for three months after having another breakdown.

Roethke receives the Bollingen Prize and the National Book Award

1958

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

Words for the Wind is published

1958

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

1961

Roethke finishes the first manuscript of The Far Field

1962

He was unable to revise it before his death.

Roethke is presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters

1962

From the University of Michigan.

Theodore Roethke suffers a heart attack and dies

1963

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