e-mail: pauletteroeske@aol.com
web site: www.usi.edu/libarts/english/proeske

Paulette Roeske

7525 Syls Drive
Evansville, IN 47712

Paulette Roeske's career in the arts includes roles as poet, fiction writer, essayist, editor, workshop leader, lecturer, and teacher. Among her collections of poetry are Anvil, Clock & Last (Louisiana State University Press, 2001) and Divine Attention (LSU, 1995), which won the Carl Sandburg Book Award for Poetry and was a finalist for both the Society of Midland Authors' Poetry Book Award and the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award. Her collection, Bridge of Sighs: A Novella and Stories, won the Three oaks Prize in Fiction and was published by Story Line Press in 2002. She is a frequent contributor to journals such as Poetry, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Threepenny Review, The Georgia Review, and Glimmer Train, and her work appears in over a dozen anthologies.

As a poet, Roeske addresses such themes as mortality and the human bond in tributes to her father, husband, and daughter, but personal poems of loss and hope are balanced by poems of social conscience as individuals take on responsibility for the war in Vietnam, child labor in China, and the bombing of Hiroshima. Her award-winning poem, "Divine Attention," a narrative set on Chicago's south side, encouraged Alice Fulton to remark, "Whether she writes of teaching remedial English to street gangs, of working in a hospital's 'shock ward,' or of 'preparing the dead,' Roeske's vision is courageous and profound." The stories in Bridge of Sighs, her recently released collection, are unified through their exploration of Chekhov's favorite subject, "he and she." Stuart Dybek commended the stories, by saying, "This is a rich, subtle, ambitious collection, and, as I have read the stories in magazines over the years, I can attest to their staying power."

Born and raised in the Midwest, Roeske has traveled frequently in Asia and Europe, including terms as visiting poet at Christ Church College in Canterbury and at Harlaxton College near Grantham. She lived for many years in the Chicago area where she served on the board of The Poetry Center of Chicago at the School of the Art Institute. A professor emerita of English at the College of Lake County in Illinois and founding editor of Willow Review, she currently teaches creative writing at the University of Southern Indiana. She lives in Evansville with her husband, an historian, and returns frequently to Chicago to visit her family.

Paulette Roeske will facilitate workshops for The Writers of Glencoe on December 6 and 13, and again on April 11. The sessions are held from 10-12 on Wednesdays. Roeske frequently has appeared at this venue over the years.

1982: MFA (Creative Writing), Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa, North Carolina
1968: MA (English), Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
1967: BA (English), University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

2002 Professor of Creative Writing, University of Southern Indiana
     Poetry Editor, Willow Review

1969-2001: Professor of English, College of Lake County
     Editor, Willow Review
     Director, College of Lake County Reading Series


        B o o k s
Anvil, Clock & Last (Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 2001).
Divine Attention (Louisiana State University Press: Baton Rouge, 1995).
The Body Can Ascend No Higher (Illinois Writers, Inc: Normal, 1992). (Chapbook)
Breathing Under Water (Stormline Press: Urbana, 1988).
Bridge of Sighs: A Novella and Stories (Story Line Press: Ashland, 2002).

        A n t h o l o g i e s
40 poems in over a dozen anthologies including publications by University of Illinois Press, Grayson Books, and Louisiana State University Press. Recent titles include The Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of Contemporary American Poetry; Proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge: Poems About Marriage; Vespers: Religion & Spirituality in Twenty-first Century America; Essential Love: Poems About Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons; Illinois Voices: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry from Illinois; and The Yellow Shoe Poets: Selected Poems 1964-1999.

        J o u r n a l s
Poems: Over 100 poems in periodicals such as Poetry, The Georgia Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Chariton Review, The Threepenny Review, Poetry Northwest, Indiana Review, Chicago Review, Hawaii Review, and JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Stories: Glimmer Train, Louisiana Literature, The Short Fiction Review, The Short Story Review, Other Voices, and others.

        E s s a y s   I n   B o o k s
Masterplots II: Poetry: Elizabeth Bishop's "Filling Station" (2002)

The Great Ideas Today, (Encyclopedia Britannica): "In the Absence of Heroines: A
Response to Gerda Lerner's Why History Matters" (1998), and "Unmasked: Responding to the Photographs of Diane Arbus" (1997).

Three Oaks Prize in Fiction from Story Line Press for Bridge of Sighs: A Novella and Stories

Carl Sandburg Book Award for Poetry for Divine Attention; Society of Midland Authors' Book Award for Poetry (finalist);

The Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award for a Manuscript in Progress (finalist, selected by Linda Pastan)

Illinois Writers Poetry Chapbook Award for The Body Can Ascend No Higher, selected by Maura Stanton

Fellowship, Illinois Arts Council

Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards in three different years

Chester H. Jones Foundation National Poetry Competition, selected by Diane Wakoski

South Coast Poetry Journal Award, selected by William Stafford

New Poetry Broadsides Award, selected by John Knoepfle

Hirschfield Memorial Poetry Award, selected by Lisel Mueller

Over 100 readings at venues such as University of New Orleans, California Polytechnic University, DePaul University, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, Eastern Illinois University, East-West Center, Ball State University, University of Louisville, Wakefield College (Sheffield, England), Harlaxton College (Grantham, England), also libraries, writers' organizations, arts councils, galleries, bookstores, radio, and cable

Workshops for venues such as The Poetry Center of Chicago at the Art Institute, Ragdale
Foundation (Lake Forest), University of New Orleans, Ropewalk Writers Conference (New
Harmony), PEN Women, Off-Campus Writers' Workshop (Winnetka)

Founder and editor of Willow Review, a nationally distributed annual, 1983-present. Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards to recognize excellence in editorial selection. Published Lisel Mueller, Lucien Stryk, Garrett Hongo, Richard Jones, David Ray, Stuart Friebert, Floyd Skloot, and many others; interviews with Gloria Naylor, Li-Young Lee, Diane Ackerman, Gregory Orr
Founder and director of the College of Lake County Reading Series, 1983 to 2001. Hosted over 100 poets and writers, including novelists Isabel Allende and Gloria Naylor; Pulitzer Prize winners Donald Justice, Charles Simic, Lisel Mueller, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Galway Kinnell; National Book Award winners Gerald Stern, Larry Heinemann, Ha Jin

Board of Directors, The Poetry Center of Chicago at the Art Institute: vice-president,
1987-1992; program committee chair, 1992-1998. Hosted events by such luminaries as Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz, Rita Dove, Thom Gunn, Gwendolyn Brooks, W. S. Merwin, Charles Wright, and David Mamet, Grace Paley, Maxine Hong Kingston, J.M. Coetzee, Mark Strand, and Doris Lessing, among over 200 others.

Advisory Committee, Chicago Chapter of the American Composers Forum, 1999-present.

The Academy of American Poets, Associated Writing Programs, Modern Language
Association, Modern Poetry Association, PEN International, Poetry Society of America,
Poets & Writers


On Anvil, Clock & Last
Louisiana State University Press, 2001

         Paulette Roeske's poetry is both rich in sound and unadorned – an enviable combination because it increases the precision of her language and allows her strong metaphors to stand at the center of her work. There is no chaff here, nothing is wasted. These well-crafted, deeply moving poems are a pleasure to read.

Stephen Dobyns

         Paulette Roeske is a marvelous poet.

Carolyn Kizer

         If a maker of clocks were to make poems, they would be like these, with every word, phrase, figure, and line break thoughtfully weighed, precisely placed, and essential to a movement that, once put together, can run on its own steady energy forever in the heart.

Ted Kooser

         These are very appealing poems, accessible not because they are simple but because their emotions are rendered with great clarity and a kind of calm authority. Paulette Roeske takes us through pain and loss to joyous rebirth and delight in the connectedness of all things, inner and outer. When – speaking of the stacking of logs for a fire – she celebrates 'the ceremony of finding the perfect fit,' she could be describing the way her words come together with lucidity, music, and finally, a palpable generosity of spirit."

Rosellen Brown

On Divine Attention
Louisiana State University Press, 1995

        In these richly surprising, beautifully structured narratives, Paulette Roeske looks fearlessly into the hard recesses of experience. Whether she writes of teaching remedial English to street gangs, of working in a hospital's "shock ward," or of "preparing the Dead," Roeske's vision is courageous and profound. The latter poem is one of the most intensely powerful poems of personal witness that I have ever read. Mortality and the human bond are her great subjects, and she brings a rare depth and poignancy to this classic terrain. Divine Attention will be cherished by poetry connoisseurs, but it also should be read by those who think they don't like poetry. Riveting, urgent, uncompromising — this is a book to change their minds.

Alice Fulton

        Among the pleasures I especially cherish from the years when I was editor of Poetry is that of coming on the poems of Paulette Roeske. Ever since, I have followed her work with increasing interest and admiration. Divine Attention dares to confront even more directly the troubles of our age and the sufferings time itself can bring us, but in its loving evocation of family warmth and shared experience, it also rises to new heights of human sympathy and triumph.

John Frederick Nims

         Texture, density, grit and gravity — I feel in Paulette Roeske's Divine Attention the force of experience fully absorbed and the power of poetry to organize our attention. Divine Attention is tethered to human events. It welcomes feelings without fussing. It records the story of a woman who moves outward from biography, wide-awake to the weight of the world, looking for buoyancy and finding it.

Marvin Bell

        It is invigorating to read a book of poems so inhabited by real people with their very real problems. Yet the ordinary world Roeske writes about is also transformed by language and her sympathetic imagination into something new, complex, and charged with feeling.

Linda Pastan

On The Body Can Ascend No Higher
Illinois Writers, Inc., 1992

        I admire the powerful dramatic situations in these poems, the fresh imaginative details that create a sense of real life in all its ugliness and beauty, and the strong personal voice that gives force and passion to the vigorous prosody.

Maura Stanton
from the judge's citation

On Breathing Under Water
Stormline Press, 1988

        Paulette Roeske's poems keep us suspended between light and darkness in their insistent probing of the 'underwater' aspect of our lives, the depths that fascinate and terrify. Over and over, the speaker is poised on a dangerous edge, confronting the possibility of ultimate escape. Many poems take us from a realistic setting into a world of dream and fantasy before we know what has happened to us. This is a beautiful, haunting collection.

Lisel Mueller

        These luminous poems reveal and articulate the world with a fierce yet tender clarity, courage, and a sure and graceful sense of craft. Breathing Under Water is an excellent first book.

Thomas Lux

Winner of The Three Oaks Prize for Fiction

Bridge of Sighs is written in a sensual, haunting prose that perfectly conveys stories whose characters are haunted by the past. The short stories are wonderfully counterpointed by the novella, which is a credible account of the longing for transcendent experience. This is a rich, subtle, ambitious collection, and, as I have read the stories in magazines over the years, I can attest to the staying power of Paulette Roeske's work.


Paulette Roeske is able to clearly communicate the complicated and intimate workings of close relationship. Her characters and their struggles are real, their interactions believable, and her word choices transform the letters on the page into involving story almost immediately.

Editor, Glimmer Train

The novella that anchors Bridge of Sighs is a timely spiritual adventure, a harrowing, redemptive tale.

Three Oaks Prize in Fiction

In this astonishingly beautiful collection the novella functions as the centerpiece, with the shorter stories surrounding it like satellites. The stories echo each other and the novella in a number of ways; as a result the book is a satisfying, unified whole.
         Magda Brummel, the protagonist of the novella, who is devastated and hollowed by loss, has decided to take a trip to Italy. She is accompanied by a man whom she knows only casually, and their relationship is initially platonic. As the author takes Magda and Harry through stunningly evoked sacred and secular sites throughout Italy, we realize that, for Magda, the trip has become an increasingly urgent pilgrimage, a search for renewal, if not grace.
         Like Magda, most of the characters in the short stories long to escape from the past. The stories typically spring from quite ordinary events—a visit to a swimming pool, a move to a new house, a long bus ride—which trigger unexpected memories and associations. We move back and forth between the present and the remembered past with the fluidity of real life memory, but because this is fiction in the hands of a virtuoso writer, the process is anything but random. Beautifully nuanced, each revelation generates another. At the end, almost surprisingly, a life has been changed.
         Paulette Roeske is also a poet, and her writing is luminous. Each sentence is linked to the next, subtly advancing the stories; they unfold like overlapping petals. Even her many brilliant similes serve as perceived transitions.
         Bridge of Sighs is a wonderfully intelligent, touching book.