Despite the dark times, isolation, and societal fragmentation that has been engendered over the past year because of the Pandemic, the Friends of Theodore Roethke Foundation has made impressive progress at furthering their mission of not only preserving the physical structures that were the birthplace of Saginaw’s Pulitzer Prize winning poet, but equally important - advancing their goal of bringing world class poets and speakers into the Great Lakes Bay Region that nourish the literary landscape of the people who inhabit it.
Currently engaged in their Virtual Spring Reading Series, the Foundation is celebrating National Poet’s Month by showcasing an impressive roster of notable poets throughout the months of April & May. On Tuesday, April 6th, at 7:00 PM, featured poets Patricia Hooper and Keith Taylor will be present to give readings from their impressive body of work.
A Saginaw native, Hooper graduated from Arthur Hill High School and the University of Michigan, where she won five Hopwood Awards and actually met Theodore Roethke at a Hopwood ceremony. She is the author of five poetry books, Other Lives, At the Corner of the Eye, Aristotle’s Garden, Separate Flights, and Wild Persistence; and her poems have appeared in numerous national publications such as The Atlantic and The Yale Review. She is also the author of four children’s books and her work has received numerous awards and accolades, including the Norma Farber First Book Award and the 2019 Brockman Campbell Book Award.
According to FOTR Director Anne Ransford, Hooper is the only poet to have won five Hopwood Awards. “Hooper grew up on Malzahn Street in Saginaw, right around the corner from Roethke House and attended the University of Michigan, where Roethke was also a student. Roethke took classes at Harvard as an undergraduate and wanted to stay there, but it was expensive, his family was here, the Great Depression was going on, so he attended the U of M instead. Roethke claimed he won a Hopwood Award, which is given out by the University of Michigan, but he never did because they weren’t giving those awards out when he was a student there. His thinking was probably along the lines of, ‘If they were giving them out I probably would have won it because I was good enough’,” she laughs, ‘What a guy!” Hooper was fortunate to meet Roethke at Rackham School at a lecture so we are very fortunate to be featuring her. She is incredibly good!”
Also featured at the April 6th presentation will be poet Keith Taylor. Originally from Western Canada, Taylor has lived for the past 45 years in Michigan and has authored or edited 18 books and chapbooks. His last full-length collection, The Bird-while (Wayne State University Press, 2017) won the Bronze medal for the Foreword/Indies Poetry Book of the Year; and his poems, stories, reviews, essays, and translations have appeared widely in North America and Europe. More than two years ago, he retired from the University of Michigan, where he taught Creative Writing for 20 years. Before that he was a bookseller in Ann Arbor for 20 years. He has also received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and been a Writer/Artist in Residence at Isle Royale National Park twice.
“When we asked Patricia who she would like to read with, she expressed how fond she was of Keith Taylor’s work,” notes Ransford. “Keith is well-known and in addition to running a Writers Camp at the University of Michigan, he also ran a workshop at Walloon Lake, as he is a very focused Nature Poet.”
The following week on Tuesday, April 13th at 7:00 PM, the Spring Reading Series will feature a recorded presentation titled Take a Stand: Art Against Hate, which will feature poetry, artwork, essays, and fiction that confront past and ongoing injustices, while offering visions of positive change. This presentation will be free to the public and will feature poet Tess Gallagher and others. It is being supported by The Seattle Public Library Foundation and promises to be a timely presentation.
Gallagher was born in Washington to a logging family and her early years were marked by the rhythms of seasonal work, as well as the landscape of both the Northwest and the Ozarks, where her family lived. Her many honors were a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts award, and Maxine Cushing Gray Foundation Award.
Then on Tuesday, April 20th, this impressive series continues with a presentation by Printmaker Laura DeLind and poet Anita Skeen who will present their latest collaboration, Even the Lest of These: Poems and Prints from the Pandemic.
“We are very excited about this presentation,” notes Ransford, “because Laura DeLind is an anthropologist and print maker and professor and Anita Skeen is a retired professor from Michigan State University who is the founder and director of the Center for Poetry. She ran two huge dorms of people deeply involved in the liberal arts and is going to present a 10-line poem that Laura has created prints to go along with the poetry, all dealing with the emotive turbulence of the Pandemic.”
Since this Virtual Spring Reading Series began on March 16th, Ransford says the response has been impressive and encouraging. “Usually when we conduct these as physical events held in the backyard at Roethke House we might a couple dozen people; but with this first virtual presentation we nearly 50 people attending, so if we can do a little of both and keep everyone safe this summer I believe we are on the right track.”
All of these Tuesday Virtual Spring Reading Series Presentations begin at 7:00 PM and people can make a $5.00 reservation online by registering at https://friendsofroethke.org/event-registration.
You can also respond to firstname.lastname@example.org to make a reservation and send a check to FOTR, PO Box 6001, Saginaw, MI 48608.
A Zoom address will be sent to you and proceeds will help save the Stone House.
9th February, 2024