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Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize

We are pleased to announce the current Roethke Memorial Prize winner is Douglas Kearney for his poetry collection, Buck A graphic of the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize logo and Douglas KearneyStudies.

Born in 1974, Douglas earned his undergraduate degree at Howard University and his MFA from the California Institute of Arts, where he currently teaches. Not only contained to the world of poetry, Kearney also works as a performer and librettist, extending his artistic voice into mediums as varied as the written work he produces. Kearney often lends his work to identify issues related to socioeconomic and racial tensions, especially within the current political landscape of the United States. His poetic style is aimed at capturing the attention of readers through dynamic typography and clear, powerful imagery.

Kearney has been recognized with several awards, including a Whiting Writers Award, a Pushcart nomination, and fellowships from Cave Canem and the Idyllwild Summer Arts Poetry Workshop. Kearney was named a Notable New American Poet in 2007 and won the Theodore Roethke Poetry Prize in 2017 for his latest collection, Buck Studies (2016).

Previous Winners:

  • Tim Seibles (2014, for Fast Animal)
  • David Baker (2011, for Never Ending Birds)
  • Robert Pinsky (2008, for Gulf Music)
  • Carl Phillips (2005, for The Rest of Love)
  • Sherod Santos (2002, for The Pilot Star Elegies)
  • Frank Bidart (1998, for Desire)
  • Kimiko Hahn (1995, for Earshot)
  • Carolyn Kizer (1988, for The Nearness of You)
  • Richard Hugo (1976, for What Thou Lovest Well, Remains American)
  • John Ciardi (1986, for The Birds of Pompeii)
  • Donald Finkel (1974, for Adequate Earth)
  • Robert Penn Warren (1971, for Incarnations: Poems, 1966-1968)
  • Howard Nemerov (1968, for The Blue Swallows)

History of the Prize:

The Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize has been offered since 1968, generally on a triennial basis. The Prize is given for a book published in the previous three years that has made an important contribution to American poetry. Three active U.S. poets of high reputation are named as judges, usually chosen by the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. The recipient must be a living American poet.  The prize is awarded without regard to number of publications, age, gender, place of residence, style or type of poetry, or choice of subject matter; this award is not for total achievement, but for an individual book. No nominations are solicited or accepted.

From 1968–2009, this triennial prize was awarded in the amount of $3,000.  In 2011, the SVSU Board of Fellows became the sponsor of the prize and elevated the award to $10,000.

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Festival Chair

Helen Raica-Klotz


Zahnow Library, 250