Friday, May 10, 2013

Roethke "birthday party" to include a poetry slam champion, poet who created 28 imaginary people

by janet i. martineau

It’s time to celebrate Theodore Roethke’s 105th birthday!

The Friends of Theodore Roethke, who own and operate the Pulitizer-winning poet’s boyhood home at 1805 Gratiot in Saginaw, annually celebrate his May 25 birth day with special events.

This year they take place on two days, Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18.

On May 17 the offerings, free except for the evening dinner, are: 

-- Afternoon school visits by invited poets to share their poetry with Saginaw students.

Arra Lynn Ross
-- 2-4pm, “Reading Roethke” at Roethke’s childhood home, 1805 Gratiot. Poet Rosie King, a Saginaw native now living in California, will oversee the reading of works from Roethke’s collected that deal with his childhood, nature, his struggles and the family’s greenhouse business.

-- 4:30-5:30pm, “Reading Roethke” continues at Roethke’s grave, Oakwood Cemetery, Gratiot at Midland Roads.

-- 6pm, Group dinner at Sullivan’s.  Individual checks.

On Saturday, May 18, Roethke poet-in-residence Arra Lynn Ross will offer a writing workshop from 10am-noon at the Roethke House. The cost is $12.  Reservations are required by calling  989-928-0430 or

Ross is a Saginaw Valley State University creative writing  professor and an author.

She grew up on a communal farm in Minnesota and received her doctorate degree in creative writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Her work has appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Hayden's Ferry, Beloit Poetry Journal and Alimentum. Ross's poems have also been featured on Verse Daily and the Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day. “Seedlip and Sweet Apple” is her first book. 

The rest of Saturday’s  events take place at the  Andersen Enrichment Center, 120 Ezra Rust in Saginaw, and are free unless otherwise noted.

Jamaal May
-- 2-4pm, invited poets Jamaal May, Cindy Morgan Hunter and Stephanie  M. Glazier read from their works, with Roethke poems read in between each poet  by members of the River Junction Poets. 

May, who lives in Detroit, has been a finalist at several national and international poetry slams,  is a three-time Rustbelt Regional Slam champion and has been a member of six national poetry slam teams.

His 2013 book “Hum” won the Beatrice Hawley Award and his poems have been published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Blackbird, Michigan Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, The Believer and New England Review.

Hunter lives in East Lansing and teaches creative writing at Michigan State University. Her chapbook “The Sultan, The Skater, The Bicycle Maker,” featuring  28 imaginary people, won The Ledge Press 2011 Poetry Chapbook Award. And her  “Apple Season,” dealing with her relationship with her grandmother and a place they shared,  won the Midwest Writing Center's 2012 Chapbook Contest.
Cindy Morgan Hunter

Other Hunter poems have appear in A cappella Zoo, Bateau, The Christian Science Monitor, Sugar House Review, Weave and West Branch. 

Glazier is the acting director for Michigan State University’s  Center for Poetry, where she coordinates poetry events on campus and in East Lansing schools.

May and Hunter will have their books and chapbooks on sale.

-- 2-5pm, display of student art illustrations of Roethke’s “Dirty Dinky and Other Creatures.”  Ice cream and cake on sale for $1.05 to match Roethke’s years.

-- 4:30pm, interpretations of Roethke’s “ Saginaw Song.” 

-- 5-5:30pm, cocktail party. Cash bar with limited beer and wine selections.

-- 5:30-5:45pm,  Friends of Theodore Roethke annual membership meeting (open to public).

-- 5:45-7pm, catered dinner from Jakes. Cost $30. Reservations required: 989-928-0430 or

-- 7-7:15pm,  music performance by violinist Nathan Bieber of Heritage High School and keyboard player Carson Waites of Frankenmuth High School. (They also will provide music during dinner.)

-- 7:15pm, poetry reading by 2013 Roethke poet-in-residence Arra Lynn Ross.

Roethke was born in 1906 and is a graduate of Arthur Hill High School and the University of Michigan. His father and uncle operated a massive greenhouse business in back of their homes at 1759 and 1805 Gratiot.

At the time of his death in 1963, at age 55, Roethke was teaching at the University of Washington in Seattle -- one of many colleges where he taught during his career.

He won the Pulitzer in 1953 for “The Waking,” one of nine books he authored. Today his poems are in virtually every student textbook in the world as well as in countless poetry anthologies. In 2012 he was one of 10 American poets honored by a U.S. Postal Service stamp.

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