The childhood home of Theodore Roethke was restored by the Friends of Theodore Roethke Foundation. The house is a National Literary Landmark. A Michigan Historic Marker stands in the front yard. The Friends of Theodore Roethke Foundation offer tours of the house and often host literature-related activities in the house and the surrounding community.
The house is filled with furniture and artifacts that were originally in the home. Dozens of photographs of Roethke and his family cover the walls and several of Roethke’s poems are posted appropriate places.
Those familiar with Roethke’s work can appreciate a recitation of “My Papa’s Waltz” in the kitchen, “Dirty Dinky” (a children’s poem) in Roethke’s bedroom, “The Bat” in the attic, and “Root Cellar” in … well in a place where
Shoots dangled and drooped,
Lolling obscenely from mildewed crates,
Hung down long yellow evil necks, like
And what a congress of stinks!–
Sadly, the family greenhouses that inspired so much of Roethke’s poetry no longer occupy several acres behind the house. Now it’s just more houses and more backyards.
I had the pleasure to stand in the foyer and recite one of my favorite poems by any poet, “In a Dark Time.” I won’t say I made some sort of connection with his spirit, but I did feel a deep sense of honor for the opportunity. Theodore Roethke was one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century, and I’m proud to share a hometown with him.