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Roethke Festival Events

SVSU is pleased to partner with various community organizations, along with past funding provided by the Michigan Humanities Council, to support the six-day triannual Roethke Poetry and Arts Festival. Our next Festival is scheduled for March 17-22, 2023.

Our past festivals have included a variety of arts-centered programming, particularly centered on the written and spoken word. Past events have included poetry readings, contests, and slams; choral and jazz concerts; interactive lectures and book discussions; and tours of the Roethke House in Saginaw.

Each triennial festival allows our region to celebrate Theodore Roethke, Saginaw’s native poet; the winners of the poetry prize; and all the people in the Great Lakes Bay region who value the power of the written word.

Theodore Roethke Poetry & Arts Festival - March 17-22, 2023

Poetry readings, musical performances, and prize ceremonies are just a taste of what is to come during the Theodore Roethke Poetry and Arts Festival, a triennial celebration of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning poet from Saginaw. Sponsored by Saginaw Valley State University, the festival activities will stretch across the Great Lakes Bay Region from March 17-22.

All events listed below are free of charge and open to the public, funded in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

We’re delighted to reinstate the Festival. We postponed it because of covid-19 but we’re back with a full range of activities celebrating the arts in our area and promoting the work of Theodore Roethke, Saginaw’s native son.

Carlos Ramet
2023 Festival Chair
Associate Dean of SVSU’s College of Arts & Behavioral Sciences

Poetry Slam - Friday, March 17, 6:30 - 9:00 PM

Join us at SVSU's Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum. This poetry slam is open to adults, college students and high school students. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three winners. Live music and refreshments will round out the evening.

Tours of the Roethke House / Poetry Reading - Saturday, March 18, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM

Join us at the Theodore Roethke Home Museum, 1805 Gratiot in Saginaw. This guided tour will take attendees through the childhood home of Theodore Roethke. Then, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., the River Junction Poets will read some of their original work and discuss the influence Roethke had on the region’s longest-standing poetry group.

Ted (Roethke) Talk and Brew - Sunday, March 19, 6:00 - 8:00 PM

Join us at the Oracle Brewing, 122 N. Michigan Avenue in Saginaw. Writer Jeff Vande Zande will speak on “Theodore Roethke: Facing the Dragon: How Roethke Epitomizes Nietzsche’s Journey of the Artist.” Three special craft beers related to Roethke’s poems will be available for purchase.

Musical Tribute to Roethke -  Monday, March 20, 7:30 PM

SVSU’s Concert Band and the Bay City Western Concert Band will perform a musical tribute to Roethke at First Presbyterian Church, 805 Center Avenue in Bay City. Roethke, a Presbyterian, was born only fifteen years after the construction of this historic church in 1893. The beautiful setting lends itself to quiet reflection, worship, and a musical tribute to Roethke.

Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize Award - Tuesday, March 21, 7:00 PM

The Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize will be awarded Tuesday, March 21 at 7:00 p.m. in SVSU’s Rhea Miller Recital Hall. This distinguished national prize has been awarded since 1968. Recipient Patricia Jabbeh Wesley will read selections from the collection of poems “Praise Song for My Children: New and Collected Poems,” which won her this award, as well as sign books following the event.

Jazz and Poetry Event - Wednesday, March 22, 7:00 - 9:00 PM

The SVSU Jazz Combo and creative writing students will perform a jazz and poetry event on Wednesday, March 22 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Live Oak Coffeehouse, 711 Ashman Street in Midland. Located in Midland’s Midtown, Live Oak Coffeehouse is a classic setting to listen to the beat of poetry and jazz.

More Events

Throughout the month of March, the Zahnow Library at SVSU will feature a Roethke Display in the Roberta Allen Reading Room, located on the fourth floor of the library.

In addition, the SVSU Writing Center is sponsoring a “Write Like Roethke” poetry contest for area high school students, with prizes to be presented at an event later in the month.

For more information about the Roethke Festival or any of the events listed here, contact Carlos Ramet (; 989-964-4042).

Musicians playing a guitar and a violin

The 2018 Roethke Festival

"Caseylane" at the Marshall Fredricks Museum

A young man snapping his fingers

The 2018 Roethke Festival

Poetry workshop participant at Dow High School

Tim Seibles at a podium

The 2014 Roethke Festival

Tim Seibles at Saginaw Valley State University

Several groups of people at a bar

The 2011 Roethke Festival

“Haunts of Roethke Tour” at the Perry's Schuch Bar & Nightclub