Roethke ‘Open House’ Set for August 12-13-14

Public’s First Opportunity to Tour Improvements of the Stone House & New Exhibits

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 917   By: Robert E Martin

05th August, 2021     0

My secrets cry aloud. I have no need for tongue. 
My heart keeps open house, My doors are widely swung. 
An epic of the eyes.    My love, with no disguise.

These opening lines from Pulitzer Prize winning poet and Saginaw native Theodore Roethke’s first book of published poems titled Open House poses a fitting context for The Friends of Theodore Roethke Foundation (FOTR) to invite the general public to their first live, in-person community event in 18 months, as they prepare to stage a series of guided tours and literary events Thursday through Saturday, August 12-13-14th.

In addition to featuring an all new Roethke House tour, replete with first time exhibitions of his sister June Roethke’s bedroom and bathroom, interactive multi-media exhibits, and a hands-on ‘Pop-Up Library’, along with several special events designed to engage the community and showcase the childhood home that informed much of this landmark poet’s greatest work, this will also represent a first-time opportunity to take a sneak-peek ate the considerable progress FOTR has made with restoration of the neighboring Stone House, which was the residence of the poet’s uncle Carl.

According to FOTR Executive Director Anne Ransford, “The community’s efforts to ‘Save the Stone House’ have been successful, and the Stone House is on its way to becoming a new community space dedicated to literacy, arts, and mental health programming. Construction is ongoing, and we are looking forward to using this space by the end of 2021. We can’t wait to share this singular community resource with the general public as the unique creative hub it was destined to be, which will inform and educate many generations to come.”

An itinerary of planned events consists of the following:

Thursday • August 12th. 

From 6:00 - 8:00 PM tours of the Roethke & Stone Houses will be conducted every half hour on the hour. 

At 8:00 PM a segment titled The Earth’s Still Breathing will feature a poetry reading from Michigan native Donny Winter, who will read from his new book Carbon Footprint.  Winter is an LGBTQ+ poet, educator, and activist residing in Saginaw.  In addition to writing, he teaches poetry at Delta College and composition at Saginaw Valley State University. His first full-length collection published by Alien Buddha Press, Ca, immediately debuted at #1 on Amazon's New Release List under the Gay & Lesbian Poetry category. Winter's poetry discusses LGBTQ+ topics inspired by his experiences living in rural Michigan. Additionally, he weaves together narratives about trauma survival and eco-awareness throughout his work.

According to professor English Sherrin Frances, who teaches at S.V.S.U. is deeply involved with coordinating this event, the tour will start in the Stone House with the living room and dining room open and tables set up to sign up for the tour or Roethke House, at which point student volunteers will take over to show patrons the first & second floors.

“Students from the English Dept. at SVSU developed the tour and trained high school students from the National Honor Society at Arthur Hill High, Heritage High, and the Frances Rey Academy to conduct the tours,” she explains.

“As for activities, we have an old typewriter from the 1920s that we will let people type upon, so they can take one of Ted’s own handwritten poems that we’ve printed out and use it to transcribe; plus we have a lot of first edition and signed books on display that have not bee revealed or signed before.”

“Additionally, June Roethke’s bedroom has never been included in a formal tour before and we were able to obtain a lot of her stuff such as bathrobes and book jackets that her English students designed for her, which have never been displayed before.”

Regarding the reading Thursday evening from poet Donny Winter, Sherrin notes that one of the reasons he was invited to stage the opening night reading is because “a lot of his poetry is about growing up gay in the community of West Branch; and it chronicles a lot of what that experience was like.  He is also a big Roethke fan and writes a lot about the natural world. He will be making explicit connections between his work and the inspiration that he got from Roethke.”

Friday, August 13th

Roethke and Stone House tours will continue from 6:00 - 8:00 PM every half hour on the hour; and then at 8:00 PM, a special Open House Poetry Slam will be hosted by Jared Morningstar.  The community is encouraged to participate and read some of their own original poetry. You may register to read or to reserve a seat, however, registration is not required and you may also simply show and have your name added to the list of readers. 

“Jared is a teacher at the Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy and works with composition,” relates Frances. “He’s a published author on his own and approached us about doing this Poetry Slam, which is open to the community and good for high school ages or older.  Anybody is welcome to sign up and read. Jared will be reading some of his own work as well, and if people do not have any of their own original material to read, he will also have poetry available for people to read if they so desire.”

Saturday, August 14th

From 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM tours of the Roethke & Stone Houses will continue every half hour on the hour. Additionally, kids activities will be scheduled and conducted in the backyard at Roethke House.   “We’ll have five picnic tables and little stations for kids to work from,” explains Sherrin. “Elementary education majors from SVSU are putting together games, crafts, and activities that are all literacy oriented that will be fun and focused on language and writing that kids can craft and then take home.  This was developed as part of a summer class they are taking, and we’ll also have a stage available so kids will have the opportunity to get up and read poems and do their own Open Mic.”

“I think both the Roethke & Stone Houses are important landmarks in Saginaw,” concludes Frances. “When people walk through this Open House they will see a lot of beauty, but more importantly, they can hopefully get a sense that anybody can write and find a therapeutic value in writing. You don’t know where it’s going to lead, but the Roethke House makes that kind of feeling more accessible and leaves you with a sense that greatness is waiting for any of us willing to step into language like that.”

“I find these houses fascinating.  Roethke’s archives went to the University of Washington and SVSU has the archives of Beatrice; but the Roethke House has an archive of all things that were left behind - things like the actual yard where the Roethke Greenhouse sat that cannot be archived.  If the house were ever moved, that would all be gone. It emphasizes how special a place can feel.”

All Open House events and activities are FREE and open to the public. Donations are more than welcome, as FOTR continue working on the Stone House and have many more poets and programs to fund in the coming year. The Roethke and Stone Houses are located side-by-side at 1759 & 1805 Gratiot Avenue. Street parking is allowed and masks are requested for indoor activities and tours.  

For more information, email info@friendsofroethke.org

 

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