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MSU Center for Poetry makes push despite deficit

The freshly furnished offices of the Michigan State University Center for Poetry are still awash with a new-carpet smell. Along the walls are flyers for poetry events, the poem of the day, quotes about poetry, and various artistic artifacts created by MSU students.

When Professor Anita Skeen, director of the program, exits her board meeting, she walks with the satisfaction of someone who enjoys what she does for a living.

Founded in 2007, the MSU Center for Poetry has made its mission to encourage the reading, writing, and place in power of poetry in every day lives. Skeen proposed its creation the same year that the Residential College for the Arts and Humanities opened, which was also the Year of the Arts, and so the Center for Poetry was born.

However, she admits that the recession has been a tough time for the arts and poetry. Yet, she says, “I think those of us who are involved in the arts are trying even harder to become more visible and assert that we have a place in people's lives. And we're trying to do this in ways that don't cost a lot of money.”

The staff of many of the upcoming programs facilitated by the MSU Center for Poetry will be working as volunteers.

On the Friday before Valentine's Day, February 12th, they will team up with RCAHppella, an a cappella group, to host a night of love poems and love songs, as well as anti-love poems and love songs, which will be hosted by an MSU professor for further savings. The event begins at 7 pm.

Skeen says, “It's nice to bring in a famous writer and have that writer do a few days in residency, and have him or her talk to the students and give a workshop and things like that,” but with a lack of money, the staff has had to use some of the creativity that the arts are famous for and create community events using mostly volunteers.

In January, the MSU Center for Poetry took a look at Michigan poet Theodore Roethke. Having grown up in Saginaw, there is a lot of local knowledge and vigor from which MSU is able to draw. The president of the Roethke House, the poet's museum in Saginaw, spoke about Roethke as a Michigan poet in MSU's Kresge Art Museum among the collection of Modernist paintings. After the event, a group journeyed to Saginaw to see the museum, and, in the famous greenhouses, discussed his book of poems The Lost Son.

Skeen doesn't complain about the situation. She is making the best of it, and doing a good job. She estimates that the attendance numbers of last semester's events were the highest they have had. Last semester saw a couple famous writers read at MSU, capping off the semester with Michigan essayist and poet Thomas Lynch, who read from his work and took questions, as well as a high school poetry contest that will be held annually.

The Valentine's event is free and open to the public, as is a poetry workshop the day prior, which runs from 7 until 8:15 pm . Find out more about the MSU Center for Poetry and events at


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