Roeske, Paulette 1945-

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ROESKE, Paulette 1945-

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "Res-key"; born September 30, 1945, in Bloomington, IL; daughter of Paul Henry Rudolph (a pharmacist and store manager) and Helen Virginia (Reise) Roeske; married John Terrence Becker, June 17, 1967 (divorced, 1978); married Robert L. Reid, June 14, 1999; children: Adrienne Lee. Education: University of Iowa, B.A., 1967; Northwestern University, M.A., 1968; Warren Wilson College, M.F.A., 1982. Hobbies and other interests: Tae kwondo (first-degree black belt), dressage.

ADDRESSES: Home—7525 Syls Dr., Evansville, IN 47712. Office—University of Southern Indiana, School of Liberal Arts, Department of English, 8600 University Blvd., Evansville, IN 47712-3596. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]

CAREER: Educator, author, and editor. Harper High School, Chicago, IL, English teacher, 1968-69; College of Lake County, Grayslake, IL, professor of English, 1969-2001, Reading Series founder and director, 1983-2001; Willow Review, founder and editor, 1983—; Christ Church College, Canterbury, England, teacher, 1995; University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, professor of creative writing, 2002-2003. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, member of board of directors of Poetry Center of Chicago (vice president, 1987-92; program committee chair, 1992-98); Ragdale Foundation, member of selection committee, 1989-2002; Chicago Chapter of the American Composers Forum, member of advisory committee, 1999—; Harlaxton College, Grantham, England, poet-in-residence, 2003; judge of poetry competitions; workshop leader; gives readings from her works.

MEMBER: Academy of American Poets, Associated Writing Programs, Modern Language Association, Modern Poetry Association, Poetry Society of America, Poets and Writers, PEN Midwest Associates, PEN International, Society of Midland Authors, Illinois Writers, Inc.

AWARDS, HONORS: Poets and Patrons Award for Free Verse, 1978; Jo-Anne Hirschfield Memorial Poetry Award, Evanston Library, 1979, for "Dream of Trains"; Illinois Arts Council, Literary Awards, 1981, 1989, 1990, fellowship, 1989; winner of Chicago Cultural Center Poetry Competitions, 1983, for "Shortcut through the Park" and "Waiting for This," and 1989, for "Sestina: Her Life with Chopin"; New Poetry Broadsides Award, 1983, for "Waiting for This"; Pushcart Prize nominations, 1986, for poems in Indiana Review, and 1988; award from South Coast Poetry Journal, 1988; Goodman Award, Thorntree Press, 1989; resident, Ragdale Foundation, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995; first place award, Chester H. Jones Foundation National Poetry Competition, 1990; Teaching Excellence Award, National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development, 1991; first place award, poetry chapbook competition, Illinois Writers, Inc., 1992, for The Body Can Ascend No Higher; fellow of National Endowment for the Humanities at the Chinese Culture and Civilization Institute, 1993; Fulbright fellow, 1994; Japan Foundation fellow, 1995; Carl Sandburg Award, 1996, for Divine Attention; Three Oaks Prize in Fiction, Story Line Press, 2002, for Bridge of Sighs: A Novella and Stories.


Breathing under Water (poems), Stormline Press (Urbana, IL), 1988.

The Body Can Ascend No Higher (poetry chapbook), Illinois Writers (Normal, IL), 1992.

Divine Attention (poems), Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1995.

Anvil, Clock & Last (poems), Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2001.

Bridge of Sighs: A Novella and Stories (fiction), Story Line Press (Ashland, OR), 2002.

Work represented in anthologies, including The Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of Contemporary American Poetry, edited by Alan F. Pater, Monitor (Beverly Hills, CA), 1983; Woman Poet: The Midwest, edited by Elaine Dallman, Women-in-Literature, Inc. (Reno, NV), 1985; Benchmark: Anthology of Contemporary Poetry in Illinois, edited by James McGowan and Lynn DeVore, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1988; The Yellow Shoe Poets: Selected Poems 1964-1999, edited by George Garrett, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1999; Essential Love: Poems about Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons, edited by Ginny Lowe Connors, Poetworks/Grayson Books (West Hartford, CT), 2000; Illinois Voices: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Poetry, edited by Kevin Stein and G. E. Murray, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2001; Vespers: Contemporary Poems of Religion and Spirituality, edited by Virgil Suárez and Ryan G. Van Cleave, University of Iowa Press (Iowa City, IA), 2003; and Proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge: Poems about Marriage, edited by Ginny Lowe Connors, Poetworks/Grayson Books (West Hartford, CT), 2003. Contributor of dozens of poems to periodicals, including Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Ascent, Georgia Review, Virginia Quarterly, Chariton Review, Threepenny Review, Indiana Review, Chicago Review, Hawaii Review, JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, Short Fiction Review, and Other Voices. Contributor of stories to periodicals, such as Glimmer Train, Louisiana Literature, Short Fiction Review, Short Story Review, Other Voices, and others. Work represented in numerous anthologies, including Sarajevo Anthology, edited by John Babbitt, Carolyn Feucht, and Andie Stabler, Elgin College (Elgin, IL), 1993; Crossing Boundaries, edited by Susan J. Bandy and Anne S. Darden, Human Kinetics (Champaign, IL), 1999; The Yellow Shoe Poets: Selected Poems 1964-1999, edited by George Garrett, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge), 1999; Knowing Stones: Poems of Exotic Places edited by Maureen Tolman Flannery, JOhn Gordon Blake Publisher, Inc., 2000; Essential Love, edited by Ginny Connors, Poetworks (West Hartford, CT), 2000; Illinois Voices: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry from Illinois, edited by G. E. Murray and Kevin Stein, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2001; Vespers: Religion & Spirituality in Twenty-first Century America, edited by Virgil Suarez and Ryan G. Van Cleave, University of Iowa Press (Iowa City, Iowa), 2003; Proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge: Poems about Marriage, edited by Ginny Lowe Connors, Poetworks (West Hartford, CT), 2003; Where We Live: Illinois Poets (e-book) edited by Kathleen Kirk,, 2003; Crude: Poems at the End of the Age of Oil, edited by Jennifer Bosveld, Pudding House Press (Johnstown, OH) in press.

SIDELIGHTS: Paulette Roeske once told CA: "I settled on the notion of writing poems in 1978, at age thirty-three, when it occurred to me, as the divorced mother of a five-year-old daughter, that I could improve my lot by completing graduate work that would permit advancement on the salary scale at the College of Lake County, where I had been teaching freshman composition to dazed Vietnam veterans. My less than 'anything-for-art's-sake' motive catapulted me from column A to column E, disproving Robert Frost's maxim, 'Never write a poem to pay a bill, because you won't.'

"The following year, "Dream of Trains," one of my first poems, was selected by Lisel Mueller to tie for first place in the Evanston Library's first annual Jo-Anne Hirschfield Memorial Poetry Competition. Lisel would later become my first teacher and a lifelong friend, who would continue to offer her sure hand, her cool wisdom and clarity in all matters, both on and off the page. These many years later, she is the one I imagine looking over my shoulder as I write.

"Frost, of course, was right, but by the time I learned that, I was already being paid in spiritual currency, and it was too late to turn back.

"I came to writing through reading, a habit cultivated in childhood as an escape from the noise of the family. The only closed door ever respected was the bathroom door, so it was there my life as a reader began. After childhood's typical fare, I turned to autobiography—these even before Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, those stalwart young women who never learned the extent of their limitations, and long before Gone with the Wind, which I read at an age young enough to believe it was pornographic, although that was not a word I knew.

"On the bottom shelf in the grade school library, the autobiographies, arranged alphabetically, occupied several running feet. The books were all the same length, about a hundred pages, I should imagine, with large, uniform print that gave the impression of reading one multivolume story with a large cast of characters. I began with Clara Barton and, even before I reached Benjamin Franklin, the end of the shelf reared up like a spooked horse, and beyond it, what? The end.

"Always an unhappy child, I had finally found something I liked. The tight fist of panic clenched in my stomach at the thought of reading the last word in the last book at the end of that shelf. Looking back, I think my fear that the story would end was my childhood apprehension of mortality.

"My fascination with stories directed me through undergraduate and graduate school as an English major whose blissful task it was to read a book a week for each of five literature courses that comprised my schedule by the time I was a junior. I loved everything I read, but preferred the Russian novels—for their length, still hoping, I suppose, to stave off the end.

"When I began to write, my poems, in contrast, were short lyrics with no story at all. Only at Goddard College in my work with Stephen Dobyns did I come to study his poems and realize the narrative potential in my own subjects. This was the first development in my writing. The result was the long narratives in Divine Attention, which Li-Young Lee referred to as 'an autobiographical novel.'"

Divine Attention won the Carl Sandburg Award and much praise from critics. Each poem relates very human characters with real experiences. Roeske writes about ordinary struggles and problems, but transcends the ordinary to a world of imagination and art. Anvil, Clock, & Last features poems that focus on the ways pieces of life fit together. Much like the precise fittings of a clock, Roeske's poetry shows how all things in life are somehow connected. Whether she is writing about pain, loss, or love, Roeske is said to capture human emotions clearly and gracefully.

In Roeske's next work, Bridge of Sighs: A Novella and Stories, the author moves from poetry to prose. The central story in the collection is the novella titled The Ecstasy of Magda Brummel. Looking to escape from a past filled with sadness and loss, Magda embarks on a trip through Italy with her friend Harry. As the story progresses, Magda tries to revive herself and begin anew. Each of the short stories supports a running theme of "relationships and the way conflagrations in the past can scorch the present," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Though the Kirkus Reviews critic initially found Bridge of Sighs "filled with emotional cripples," upon further reflection the critic claimed, "but when all is done, her people don't seem a whole lot different from the rest of us." Most critics thought that Roeske deftly captures the thoughts, emotions, and struggles in her characters' relationships while maintaining the precision of her writing. Booklist's Whitney Scott praised, "Roeske's writing is strong throughout, easily keeping one's interest."



Booklist, October 15, 2002, Whitney Scott, review of Bridge of Sighs: A Novella and Stories, p. 389.

Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1995.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2002, review of Bridge of Sighs, p. 1349.


Paulette Roeske Web site, (April 14, 2004).

Society of Midland Authors Web site, (April 14, 2004), "Paulette Roeske," biography and comments.