Theodore Roethke was born in the town of Saginaw, Michigan, on the date of May 25, 1908, the son of Otto Theodore Roethke, a commercial flower grower and of Helen Marie Huebner. Wilhelm Roethke, the poet’s grandfather, was one chief forester on the East Prussian estate of Bismarck’s sister. Roethke was born into a family of GARDENERS who obviously had an appreciation for life and growth. (2) His family owned the largest greenhouses in all the state. He once called his childhood home “a wonderful place for a child to grow up in and around.” The greenhouses consisted of 25 acres of glass covered greenery and “the last stand of virgin timber in the Saginaw Valley.” (1) Roethke’s love for nature which he expresses in many of his works, most OBVIOUS/EVEDENT in his first book; The Lost Son and Other Poems (1948), stems from his NAUTRAL upbringing. Roethke spent his child hood in He played in the greenhouse and in the field behind it, and both places had a lasting impact on his poetic sensibility. In them he discovered literal themes and symbolic meanings, concrete and transcendental realities that are distinctive elements of his work.
Roethke was said to have hated high school but would still walk a mile and a half to school four times a day. He was a “shy and different” boy, making it hard for him to socialize and attain friends. (2)
Despite Roethke’s beautifully located childhood, he considered his youth--an unhappy one///unhappy--. This could be because of his alienation in high school or the few traumatic events that CASCADED into his family life as he entered his adolescent years. Otto Roethke and the poet’s brother Charles Roethke ran the family business together, but the two quarreled frequently making the business impossible to MAINTAIN. The two ended up selling the business in the October of 1922. The fallowing February the family suffered another but not the last disaster; Charles felt he had lost meaning in life and committed suicide. During all of this Otto the father had been struggling with cancer and endured great struggle before dying in April 1923. Roethke’s world seemed to dissipate in front of his very eyes in such a short time. But in place of all he had lost he must have gained his visionary and symbolic abilities (to write?).
In school doing his best to become apart of something and GIVE IN TO his DEVILS he joined an illegal fraturaty
1---theodore Roethke." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC
2----Theodore Huebner Roethke."Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 7: 1961-1965. American Council of Learned Societies, 1981.
Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC