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Groundbreaking Book: The Waking by Theodore Roethke (1953)
Life Studies: American Poetry from T. S. Eliot to Allen Ginsberg
Poetry Landmark: Theodore Roethke's House in Saginaw, MI
Transcript: James Wright on the Poetic Prose of H. L. Mencken, Mark Twain, E. M. Forster, and Leo Tolstoy
by James Wright
Poets of the Midwest
Albert Goldbarth
David Baker
David Young
Gwendolyn Brooks
James Wright
Lorine Niedecker
Mona Van Duyn
Philip Levine
Robert Hayden
Ted Kooser
Weldon Kees
Related Poets
David Wagoner
James Wright
External Links
Salvaged Poems of Theodore Roethke, recollected by an old friend
By Scott Ruescher, from ArtsEditor, January 2000.
Text & RealVideo: "My Papa's Waltz"
William Van Fields discusses and recites Roethke's poem, at the Favorite Poem Project site.
Theodore Huebner Roethke (1908-1963)
By Ted Tapia.
Theodore Roethke (1878-1967)
A collection of critical, historical, and biographical information at the Modern American Poetry site.
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Theodore Roethke

Theodore Roethke

In 1908, Theodore Roethke was born in Saginaw, Michigan. As a child, he spent much time in the greenhouse owned by his father and uncle. His impressions of the natural world contained there would later profoundly influence the subjects and imagery of his verse. Roethke graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan in 1929. He later took a few graduate classes at Michigan and Harvard, but was unhappy in school. His first book, Open House (1941), took ten years to write and was critically acclaimed upon its publication. He went on to publish sparingly but his reputation grew with each new collection, including The Waking which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1954.

He admired the writing of such poets as Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Blake, and Wordsworth, as well as Yeats and Dylan Thomas. Stylistically his work ranged from witty poems in strict meter and regular stanzas to free verse poems full of mystical and surrealistic imagery. At all times, however, the natural world in all its mystery, beauty, fierceness, and sensuality, is close by, and the poems are possessed of an intense lyricism. Roethke had close literary friendships with fellow poets W. H. Auden, Louise Bogan, Stanley Kunitz, and William Carlos Williams. He taught at various colleges and universities, including Lafayette, Pennsylvania State, and Bennington, and worked last at the University of Washington, where he was mentor to a generation of Northwest poets that included David Wagoner, Carolyn Kizer, and Richard Hugo. Theodore Roethke died in 1963.

A Selected Bibliography


Collected Poems (1966)
I Am! Says the Lamb (1961)
Open House (1941)
Party at the Zoo (1963)
Praise to the End! (1951)
Sequence, Sometimes Metaphysical (1964)
The Far Field (1964)
The Lost Son (1948)
The Waking: Poems 1933-1953 (1953)
Words for the Wind: The Collected Verse (1958)


On the Poet and His Craft: Selected Prose (1966)
Selected Letters (1968)
Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of TR, 1943-1963 (1972)

Poems by
Theodore Roethke

I Am! Said the Lamb [excerpt]
My Papa's Waltz
Pickle Belt
The Storm

Prose by
Theodore Roethke

On Poetry and Craft [excerpt]

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