2013 Theodore Roethke
20th Century American Poet
Issue Date: April 21, 2012
City: Los Angeles, CA
Printed By: Ashton Potter
Printing Method: Offset
Perforations: Die cut 10 ¾ x 11
Constantly going “from exhaustion to exhaustion,” Theodore Roethke (1908-63) balanced the full-time jobs of teacher and poet as well as he could. Plagued by alcoholism and widely publicized mental breakdowns, Roethke resolved to remain fully committed to both endeavors, which only further diminished his poor mental and physical health.
When he was young, Roethke spent a great deal of time in his father’s greenhouse, the inspiration for most of his writing throughout his life. When Roethke was just 15, his father and uncle died, which left him scarred both mentally and creatively.
As a teenager, Roethke displayed an early talent for writing, composing a speech for the Junior Red Cross that was later published in 26 languages. In 1931, he began his more than 30-year teaching career as a popular professor with a unique enthusiasm that inspired several future famous poets.
Roethke described his greatest influence, the greenhouse, as his “symbol for the whole of life, a womb, a heaven-on-earth.” He had a talent for describing the natural world through surreal imagery. Roethke credited his numerous mental breakdowns for helping him “reach a new level of reality” that he might not have achieved without them.