Poetry slam at Marshall Fredericks Museum honors Roethke


The Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum hosted the Roethke Festival Poetry Slam on the evening of Friday, March 23.

The Poetry Slam kicked off the series of week-long events of the 2018 Theodore Roethke Poetry & Arts Festival.
The Roethke Poetry Slam has been held at the Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum since 2008.

Geoffe Haney, the collection manager at the museum, said he was expecting a bigger turnout than in years’ past.

“We get a lot of community people that come in,” Haney said. “This is advertised to high schools in the area (Bay City, Saginaw, Midland), libraries, groups, river junction poets, different poetry societies in the area, people that just are armchair poets at home that we never know about until they hear about this and they come out. So we get to bring these people together in a forum here at this beautiful museum and hope they have a positive experience and come back.”

The poetry slam started off with readings from the winners of the “Write Like Roethke” poetry contest. Contestants used quotes from one of Roethke’s poems to inspire poems of their own.

Many of the poems ranged widely in style and tone, with some that employed rhyme schemes to others that abounded in alliteration. From the humorous and buoyant to the somber and reflective, there truly was something for everyone.

Thematically, the poems covered a broad swath of subject matter. Whether about the loss of a sibling and the importance of self-love, or the subjective experience of playing Super Mario Brothers and the joys of pizza, the array of topics was impressive.

While all the performers got to engage in the art of self-expression during the course of the event, only the top three took home cash prizes.

Three judges determined who would win the prizes. The prizes of $100, $75 and $50 were awarded to Cbxtn Fig, Evan Waddell and Serena Pittman, respectively.

All three of the winning poets exhibited an unmistakable liveliness in their performances.

Fig’s poem titled “Sex” was striking and rhapsodic.

The poem contrasted sharply with Waddell’s “Saint Antoine,” an intense and solemn poetic retelling of a scene from Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.”

“What’s most fun is to see some of these people in their element,” said Peter Brian Rose-Barry, the Finkbeiner Endowed Professor of Ethics and one of the event’s judges. “There’s some people who are very comfortable just writing on a page and leaving the words there. There are some people who are really comfortable giving those words voice, and in that latter case when you have both someone who can compose and articulate language but also deliver (it), … it really, really comes together.”

This was communications junior Bree Siegrist’s first time attending a poetry slam.

“I really like the idea of supporting the promotion of a deeper culture, especially a deeper, local artistic culture,” Siegrist said. “It’s not something that you often get to see as much as people in the local community might like.”

Haney anticipates that the creativity on display during the slam pushes people to continue developing their own poetry.

“One of the best ways we learn is from one another,” Haney said. “I hope that there are many future poets that were inspired by those that read.”