Roethke Poetry & Arts Festival Honors Legacy of Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet

SVSU Sponsors Triennial Celebration March 17-22

    icon Mar 07, 2023
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Saginaw native and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Theodore Roethke will be celebrated during the Theodore Roethke Poetry and Arts Festival, a triennial celebration of one of the 20th century’s most influential poets. Sponsored by Saginaw Valley State University, the festival runs from Friday, March 17-Wednesday, March 22 and includes a variety of events and activities throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region. 

“We’re delighted to reinstate the Festival,” said Carlos Ramet, associate dean of SVSU’s College of Arts and Behavioral Sciences and chair of the 2023 Festival. “We postponed it because of COVID-19, but we’re back with a full range of activities celebrating the arts in our area and promoting the work of Theodore Roethke, Saginaw’s native son.” 

One of the highlights of the Festival is the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize award ceremony honoring Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, winner of the 2022 Roethke Memorial Prize for Poetry. This prestigious national prize has been awarded every three years since 1968. It is given for a book published in the previous three years that has made an important contribution to American poetry. The ceremony will be held on Tuesday, March 21 at 7 p.m. in SVSU’s Rhea Miller Recital Hall.  

SVSU is partnering with businesses and organizations in the region to bring a rich lineup of events, listed below. All are free of charge and open to the public, funded in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  

▪ Poetry Slam, Friday, March 17 from 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. at the Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum at SVSU – Open to adults, college students and high school students with cash prizes to the top three winners.  Live music and refreshments will round out the evening. 

▪ Roethke House Tours and Poetry Reading, Saturday, March 18 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Theodore Roethke Home Museum, 1805 Gratiot, Saginaw – Guided tours of Roethke’s childhood home, followed by the River Junction Poets reading original work and discussing Roethke’s influence on the region’s longest-standing poetry group. 

▪ “Ted (Roethke) Talk and Brew,” Sunday, March 19 from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at Oracle Brewing, 122 N. Michigan Avenue, Saginaw – Local writer Jeff Vande Zande will speak on “Theodore Roethke: Facing the Dragon: How Roethke Epitomizes Nietzsche’s Journey of the Artist.” Oracle Brewing will debut three special craft beers related to Roethke’s poems, which will be available for purchase. 

▪ Concert Band Tribute to Roethke, Monday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 805 Center Avenue, Bay City – SVSU’s Concert Band and the Bay City Western Concert Band will perform in this historic church, which was built in 1893.  

▪ Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize Ceremony, Tuesday, March 21 at 7 p.m. in SVSU’s Rhea Miller Recital Hall – Recipient Patricia Jabbeh Wesley will read selections from the collection of poems “Praise Song for My Children: New and Collected Poems,” which won her this award, as well as sign books following the event. 

▪ Jazz and Poetry at the Live Oak, Wednesday, March 22 from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. at Live Oak Coffeehouse, 711 Ashman Street, Midland – The SVSU Jazz Combo and creative writing students will perform. 

Throughout the month of March, the Zahnow Library at SVSU will feature a Roethke Display in the Roberta Allen Reading Room, located on the fourth floor of the library. In addition, the SVSU Writing Center will sponsor a “Write Like Roethke” poetry contest for area high school students, with prizes to be presented at an event later in the month. 

For more information about the Roethke Festival or any of the events listed here, visit or contact Carlos Ramet (; 989-964-4042). 

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