Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Take a trip back in time inside Michigan's one-room schoolhouses

Sanford Village one-room schoolhouse, 1897

by Janet I. Martineau
Surprise fact... today about a dozen one-room schoolhouses are still engaged in educating students  in Michigan.
Avid historian Kyle Bagnall will discuss them and their vanished or revamped cousins during the Wednesday, Sept. 7, Nurturing Nature series program on “Michigan’s One-Room Schoolhouses.”  His presentation begins at 7 p.m. at the Green Point Environmental Learning Center, 3010 Maple in Saginaw .
“The Michigan One-Room Schoolhouse Association has completed an inventory of more than 7,000 schoolhouses in our state,” says Bagnall, the historian at the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland.
“Thousands of them still dot the landscape, though many are gone and a great number them have fallen into disrepair. Today, some in our area are being used as churches and private homes, museums, township halls and more.”
Bagnall says  his program will provide a short overview of Michigan education history before focusing in on the one-room schools of mid-Michigan.
“When our State Constitution was drafted in 1835, Michigan quickly became a national leader in education. It’s good to remember where we’ve been as we consider the future of education in our state.”
Bagnall’s interest in historic schoolhouses began about 20 years ago when he was working on a college project about  inactive cemeteries with abandoned one-room schools next door. “The schoolhouse proved too interesting to let be and another project was born.”
In the course of presenting the program over the years, Bagnall says members of his audiences add to the one-room schoolhouse stories from their own personal histories.
Most stories from former one-room school kids (and teachers) recall subjects like recess, outhouses, and mischief that children (mostly boys) created over the years. Some things never change – kids will be kids!”
Admission to “Michigan’s One-Room Schoolhouses” is free to members of the Friends of the Shiawassee National Refuge and $2 to non-members. Support for the series is provided by the Jury Foundation, the Martineau Family Foundation and the Saginaw Branch of the Woman’s National Farm & Garden Association.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ohio resident David Baker winner of Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize

by Janet I. Martineau
Poet David Baker and his 2009 book “Never-Ending Birds” were announced today as the recipients of the 12th triennial Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize -- a $10,000 stipend awarded by the Saginaw Valley State University Board of Fellows.

It is a fitting selection for the prize named in honor of the Saginaw-born poet who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry capturing the natural world --  of the family greenhouses on Gratiot as well as mid-Michigan rivers and critters -- along with his childhood memories of Saginawians.

Wrote the Poetry Foundation of Baker, “He is often described as a poet of place, indebted to the American Romantic tradition of Emerson and Whitman, as well as Frost. His poems typically explore an individual’s sense of and engagement with their natural surroundings, and embrace complicated notions of history, home and memory. And Baker himself has delineated the importance of landscape and place to his poetry.”

Adds poet David Wagoner, one of two judges who chose  Baker as the winner of the Roethke Prize, “I think Theodore Roethke would have been especially pleased that the prize in his name is being given to David Baker because he believed that sound, rhythm and meaning were of nearly equal importance in the making of a poem, and (Baker’s)  beautiful and skillfully made book ‘Never-Ending Birds’ clearly demonstrates he believes so too.” 

Baker, who lives in Granville, Ohio, will receive the prize during a free public ceremony, starting at  7 p.m.  Tuesday, Nov. 15, in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall at SVSU. That event is  part of a five-day Theodore Roethke Poetry & Arts Festival taking place not only at SVSU but at venues in Saginaw, Midland and Bay City.
A professor of English and the Thomas B. Fordham Chair of Creative Writing at Denison University, 56-year-old Baker has written 10 books of poetry and is the poetry editor of the Kenyon Review. His poems and essays also have appeared in more than 100 magazines, including American Poetry Review, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker and the Yale Review, and countless anthologies. 
Although born in Maine, Baker was raised in Missouri and has spent more than 40 years of his life in the Midwest -- including teaching for a year, in 1996, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where Roethke received his bachelor and masters degrees.. 
In an online interview with Paul Holler, Baker said of his work, “I find a connection between my poetry and my place in the world. I am sure that my work would be different if I lived a long time somewhere else; of course it would, though I have no real way of estimating what that would be, how my poems would change. 
“As it is, I can't see how I could write without a devout attention to place — the language, ways of life, my neighbors and family, the rigor and leisure that grow here where I live.”
Among his other poetry books are “Midwest Eclogue,” “The Truth About Small Towns” and “Sweet Home, Saturday Night.”
The Roethke Poetry Prize, which began in 1968,  is unusual in that poets do not submit their works in hopes of winning it. Instead, the current U.S. poet laureate choses two or three published poets who then select a winner after reading poetry books published in the past three years. 
Serving as a judge with Wagoner  was  Rosanna Warren, who praised the sensory nature of Baker’s work.
“He understands the human story as part of a larger story of life on earth, but he never forces the analogy,” she said. “His rhythms are as alive to the roll and tang of syllables on the tongue as they are to the recurrences and interruptions of the circulation of blood and sap. His poems respond deeply to life, and enlarge our imaginative responses to it.”
What is interesting is that both judges have  links to Roethke and/or the prize.
Wagoner was a student of Roethke’s  and wrote a play about his teacher, “First Class.” He did a reading of the play at Saginaw’s First Presbyterian Church, Roethke’s church, when he was here in 2009 as a guest of the Friends of Theodore Roethke.
Friends of Theodore Roethke own and operate Roethke’s boyhood home at 1805 Gratiot.
Wagoner also selected and arranged the book “Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943-63.”
And Warren is the daughter of Robert Penn Warren, a former U.S. poet laureate who won the Roethke Prize in 1971.
Roethke was born in 1908 and died in 1963, and in 1954 won the Pulitzer for “The Waking.” Although he was teaching at the University of Washington in Seattle at the time of his death, he is buried in Saginaw.
For the title poem of Baker’s  winning book, log on to
To hear Baker reading his poetry, and an interview, log on to
And for more information on the five-day Roethke Festival, log on to

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's time to start training for the Wild Goose Chase at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

by Janet I. Martineau
Forget about running with the bulls in about running with the deer at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw, Michigan.
Or walking amid them and other wild critters.
The refuge and the Friends of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge volunteers are co-sponsoring the third Wild Goose Chase 5K run/walk, set for the morning of Saturday, Sept. 24. Registration is 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. with the competition starting at 9 a.m. -- runners first followed by walkers.
“Participants run on knee-friendly flat, natural surfaces --  gravel roads, and dirt and grass trails -- unlike many 5K events which are on hard paved surfaces,” says Becky Goche, the visitor services manager at the refuge.
“And the race route follows a part of the Wildlife Drive, goes into an area normally closed to visitors and then returns on the Ferguson Bayou Trail. Through wooded, tranquil areas rather than amid urban traffic. 
“Runners and walkers have a good chance of seeing or possibly almost running into refuge wildlife.”
The Wild Goose Chase had 112 participants in its inaugural year of 2008, says Goche, and 60 the following year. The event skipped last year because of the construction of the seven-mile wildlife drive route, which will be closed to vehicle traffic the morning of Sept. 24.
“Ages in the first two years ranged from 7 to just under 70 years old. Many people came from the Tri-City area, but we also had some folks from Lansing show up.” 
Trophies are awarded to first and second place overall male and female runners. First through third place winners in eight age groups receive medals. And medals are awarded to the top five overall male and female walkers. The event is open to people of all ages, children included.
Early registration (now through Sept. 16) is $20 with a T-shirt or $15 without a T-shirt. And late registration (Sept. 17 to the morning of the race) is $15, with no T-shirts available.
To register, print the registration form off the web site at and mail it  to Wild Goose Chase, 4941 Clunie, Saginaw 48638. Make the check out to Friends of Shiawassee NWR.
Restrooms are available on the race site, which begins at the end of Curtis Road west off of M-13. Water and snacks are available at the finish line.
For more information, contact Goche at (989) 759-1669 or email her at
Participants can pick up their packet and shirts ahead of time -- from 4-6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at the Green Point Environmental Center, 3010 Maple in Saginaw -- or during the registration time the day of the event.
Goche says at least one other national wildlife refuge hosts a 5K run/walk through its wilderness, but that they are not commonplace among the nation’s more than 540 refuges.
The Shiawassee refuge spans 9,501 acres of bottomland-hardwood forests, rivers, marshes, managed pools, fields and croplands. It is located on what is called the  MIssissippi Flyway for migrating birds, and thus hosts more than  270 species of birds each year. 
The American Birding Association has designated the refuge as a "U.S. Important Bird Area" because of that flyway location and the fact southern James Bay Canada geese  use the refuge -- hence the name of the 5K race which occurs during fall migration.