by Justin Engel
Poetry readings, musical performances, and prize ceremonies are just a taste of what is to come during the Theodore Roethke Poetry and Arts Festival, a triennial celebration of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning poet from Saginaw. Sponsored by Saginaw Valley State University, the festival venues will stretch across the Great Lakes Bay Region from March 23-28.
"We're very excited to offer a range of rich events to celebrate the arts in our area and to promote the work of Theodore Roethke, Saginaw's native son," said Helen Raica-Klotz, director of the Writing Center at SVSU and chair of the 2018 Festival.
All events listed below are free 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.
• A poetry slam will take place Friday, March 23 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum at SVSU. This event is open to all ages. Guitar and violin duo, CaseyLane, will perform live. The poetry slam's top three winners will receive cash prizes. Light refreshments will be provided.
• Tours of the Roethke House will be held Saturday, March 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Theodore Roethke Home Museum, 1805 Gratiot in Saginaw. This guided tour will take attendees through the childhood home of Theodore Roethke. Then, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., the River Junction Poets will reader some of their original work and discuss the influence Roethke had on the region's longest standing poetry group.
• The "Ted (Roethke) Talk and Tasting" will take place on Saturday, March 24 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Creative 306, 1517 Bayliss in Midland. Mike Kolleth, vice-president of Friends of Theodore Roethke, will offer a brief history of the late poet. Writer Jeff VandeZande will read from his novel, "American Poet," which features scenes from Saginaw and the Roethke home. Wine tasting will accompany both presentations.
• SVSU's Cardinal Singers will perform "The Waking: Vocal Settings of Theodore Roethke" on Sunday, March 25 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the St. Lorenz Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1030 Tuscola in Frankenmuth and again on Monday, March 26 from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Rhea Miller Recital Hall at SVSU. The choir will present the poems of Roethke set to music. Kevin Simons, associate professor of music at SVSU, composed the music and will direct the choir.
• The Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize will be awarded Tuesday, March 27 at 7 p.m. in SVSU’s Rhea Miller Recital Hall. This distinguished prize has been awarded since 1968. Recipient Douglas Kearney will read selections from the collection of poems, "Buck Studies," which won him this award, as well as sign books following the event. Kearney will also perform selections of his poetry on Monday, March 26 from 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at Counter Culture, 620 Gratiot in Saginaw and again on Tuesday, March 27 from 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Wirt Library, 500 Center in Bay City.
• The Michigan Jazz Trail Big Band will perform jazz music from Roethke's time period - the mid-20th century - on Wednesday, March 28 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the State Theatre, 913 Washington Ave. in Bay City. The 19-piece jazz orchestra will be led by local jazz musician, Jeff Hall. Shorts Brewery of Bellaire, Michigan will be 'on tap' to serve a selection of their beers at this event.
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, both the Saginaw Community Writing Center and the Bay Community Writing Center will hold a "Write Like Roethke" poetry contest inspired by lines from Roethke's poems during the month of March.
For more information about the Roethke Festival or any of the events listed here, visit www.svsu.edu/roethke, or contact Raica-Klotz at 989-964-6062.
16th November, 2023