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The Write Like Roethke Poetry Contest

Writing Contest

In 2018, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize, we invited the writers in the state to create a poem inspired by Saginaw’s native son and one of the most highly regarded poets of the twentieth century, Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), who remains the only Michigan writer to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Three $100 cash prizes were awarded. Writers were asked to take one of the following quotes from Roethke’s poetry, and use it to inspire their own poem:

• “I have learned not to fear infinity / The far field, the windy cliffs of forever / The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow.”

• “Deep in their roots, all flowers keep their light.”

• “Love’s not love until love’s vulnerable.”

• “What is madness but nobility of the soul, at odds with circumstance?”

Stay tuned for the upcoming 2021 “Write Like Roethke” Poetry Contest guidelines.

"Late-Winter Walk Around the Pond"

My dog paws at the worn leaves
beneath the melting snow.
Each tromp through this muck
speckles her belly with tiny flecks of mud.

Unstable temps have blessed us with change,
but the dog, so fully alive,
with nose to the ground, doesn't care
about the seasons. I am the one who feels
the ebb and flow, and sometime rush,
of it all.

Suddenly, we catch a flash
of something over there, in the field
beside the pond: deer moving quickly.
No lounging in the dusk tonight—
their leaps are purposeful; they spring
across the field and into the wooded fringe.

Meanwhile, back at the pond,
the lead goose is strutting on his barge of ice,
urging his team back into the open water
for a last frigid splash.

Soon, leisure time is over
and the squadron is off into the greying sky,
flapping and honking, leaving
their pond to the two quiet interlopers.

Deer gone, geese gone...

Even the icy crust on the water is moving
away from itself, ice crystals tinkling
like a swaying chandelier.

Everything changes; all is in transition.

Whether we know it or not,
we are all on our way


I'd not been back home
in the time between funerals.

There were no voices but the priest's
in his porkpie hat and summer frock.

I said goodbye again,
touched the grass
with palms and kneecaps
in shadow segregating out party from vernal filigree.

I heard flowers left by families:
sighing lilies, preening marigolds, demurring violets.
They fed upon the sun's seed
in their prized perches.