Skip to main content Skip to footer
The Write Like Roethke Poetry Contest

Writing Contest

Write Like Roethke Poetry Contest 2023

To celebrate high school writers from Saginaw, Bay, and Midland counties, we invite students in grades 9-12 to create a poem inspired by Saginaw’s native son, Theodore Roethke. Roethke (1908-1963) is one of the most highly regarded poets of the twentieth century and he remains the only Michigan writer to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Writers are asked to take one of the following excerpts from Roethke’s poetry, and use it to inspire their own original poem:

Prompt #1, from “Idyll”:

“As darkness creeps up on the well-groomed suburban town,
We grow indifferent to dog howls, to the nestlings last peep”

Prompt #2, from “Praise to the End!”:

“I hear, clearly, the heart of another singing,
Lighter than bells,
Softer than water.”

Prompt #3, from “The Rose”:

“There are those to whom place is unimportant,
But this place, where sea and fresh water meet,
Is important—”

Prompt #4, from “The Sloth”:

“Then off again to Sleep he goes,
Still swaying gently by his Toes,
And you just know he knows he knows.”

Winners will be featured in SVSU publications and/or on the University’s website.

Six prizes will be awarded:

  • First prize: $100 Amazon gift card
  • Second prize: $75 Amazon gift card
  • Third prize: $50 Amazon gift card
  • Three honorable mentions: $25 Amazon gift card each

Submission Guidelines:

  • Limit your entry to 40 lines
  • Only one entry per person
  • All entries are due by Wednesday, March 1, 2023.

Click here to submit your work

Entries will be judged by a panel of local teachers and SVSU representatives. Winners will be celebrated and receive their prizes at the award ceremony, Wednesday, March 22 at SVSU’s Riverfront Center.

Please direct questions to Dr. Kim Lacey (

Past Writing Contest Winners

"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.