A Roethke Chronology
- 1908: Theodore Huebner Roethke born to Otto and Helen in Saginaw, Michigan.
- 1923: In February, his uncle, Charles commits suicide and in April his father, Otto,
dies of cancer.
- 1925: Roethke goes to The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the first of his family
to attend a University. During college among his other activities Roethke takes summer job
at the Heinz pickle factory.
- 1929: Roethke graduates from the UofM and enters the Michigan Law School.
- 1930: Roethke drops out of law school to pursue masters in literature. In the fall
he enters the Harvard Graduate School. The financial strain of the Depression forces him
to drop out of school and take on a teaching position at Lafayette for four years. While
at Lafayette Roethke meets Mary Kunkel and they contemplate marriage but never marry.
Three of his poems are published in The Harp, a small magazine.
- 1935: Roethke goes to Michigan State College. In November he has a the first in a series
of mental breakdowns
- 1936: Takes a teaching job at Pennsylvania State. While at Penn State falls in love with
a librarian, Kitty Stokes. She encourages him to publish a book of his poetry.
- 1941: Open House published
- 1943: Leaves Penn State to teach at Bennington College where he has a number of
relationships, one of which with a student. He is nearly dismissed and decides to leave.
While at Bennington Roethke works to complete poems for a second book.
- 1945: Has another bout of depression and is admitted for shock treatment in Albany.
Receives a Guggenheim Fellowship which allows him to relax while he continues work on his
- 1947: Returns to Penn State briefly in the spring but over the summer accepts a position
at the University of Washington. While in Seattle has a brief relationship with Jerry Lee
Willis in the English department.
- 1948: The Lost Son and Other Poems published.
- 1949: Returns to Saginaw to devote his time to his poetry. Upon his return to Seattle
after his summer in Saginaw Roethke is admitted to a sanitarium due to the stress he
placed on himself to complete his third book.
- 1950: Applies for and receives a second Guggenheim Fellowship.
- 1951: Praise to the End! published
- 1952: While in New York giving a poetry reading Roethke runs into former Bennington
student Beatrice OConnell. Within a Month they are married. For their honeymoon the
couple travels in Europe. In September they return to Washington.
- 1953: The Waking, Poems is published which he worked on mainly while in Europe.
In November Roethke suffers a minor mental breakdown and then three months later his
mother dies. Weeks after his mothers death Roethke is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for
- 1956: resumes teaching at UofW after traveling in Europe again.
- 1957: Is hospitalized for three months after showing signs of another breakdown. The
Exorcism is published
- 1958: Returns to teaching after his recovery and in the fall publishes Words for the
Wind which receives the Bollingen Prize and the National Book Award.
- 1959: Suffers another breakdown and is admitted to a sanitarium in Seattle.
- 1960: Roethke and his wife go to New York so he can give readings and then they continue
on to Europe.
- 1961: Roethke returns to the US for the publication of his collection of childrens
poems, I am! Says the Lamb.
- 1962: Roethke is presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of
Michigan. Gives a reading at the Seattle Worlds Fair. Roethke finishes the first
manuscript of The Far Field but never is able to revise it because of his death.
On August 1 1963 he dies of a coronary occlusion while swimming in a friends pool.
Roethke is buried with his mother and father in Oakwood Cemetery in Saginaw.
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