On Poetry & Craft

Theodore Roethke

Theodore Roethke was one of the most famous and outspoken poets and poetry teachers this country has ever known. In this volume of selected prose, Roethke articulates his commitments to imaginative possibilities, offers tender advice to young writers, and zings darts at stuffed shirts, lightweights and fools. Culled from volumes long out of print, On Poetry & Craft will be prized in the classroom—and outrageous Roethke quotes will once again pepper our conversations. Introduction by Carolyn Kizer.

ISBN: 9781556591563

Format: Paperback

excerpts from Roethke’s notebooks

Bring to poetry the passion that goes into politics or buying a piece of meat.

In poetry, there are no casual readers.

About the Author

Theodore Roethke was born in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1908. 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 attended the University of Michigan and took a few classes at Harvard, but was unhappy in school. His first book, Open House (1941), took ten years to write and was critically acclaimed upon its publication. …

Read more


“Superb. Thank you so much for reprinting.” —Tracy Sitterley, from a “Reader Comment” card

“This volume focuses on Roethke as a demanding yet introspective teacher who struggled with his personal life and taught his students the value of verbs and cadence. In his notebooks, Roethke dissected his own pieces and the works of other writers he valued, such as W.B. Yeats, Stanley Kunitz, Dylan Thomas, and James Joyce. A perfect work for students and aspiring writers; recommended for literature and creative writing collections.” —Library Journal

“American poetry could not have evolved as it did without Theodore Roethke… Essays such as ‘The Teaching Poet’ and ‘The Cat in the Classroom’ capture his wisdom and sheer love of writing. In the midst of dozens of books on the craft of poetry, this selection of an important poet’s rare prose is a gem.” —Bloomsbury Review

“These essays have a good deal to teach a teacher, from matters of technique to creed. They also offer hope to a student that the unfashionable zealotry of learning can not only justify itself but may even lead further. Perhaps because the essays don’t forcibly blend Roethke’s ethereal enthusiasm with his spitting rancor, but instead give each temperamental lobe the right to be, the book seems unusually and immoderately realistic in depth and span.” —Ruminator Review