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Michigan poets Roethke, Hayden featured on new U.S. stamp

Photo courtesy of U.S.P.S.

The U.S. Postal Service is paying homage to the world of poetry with ten new commemorative stamps.

Two Michigan poets will be featured on the new Forever stamps: Theodore Roethke, a Saginaw native and Pulitzer Prize winning poet; and Robert Hayden, a Detroit poet, and the first black poet laureate of the United States.

Roethke's poems often dealt with the "mystic apprehension of nature," says Laurence Goldstein, English professor at the University of Michigan. Hayden, on the other hand, wrote poems about Detroit, his childhood, and the African American experience.

Goldstein, who edited the Michigan Quarterly Review for more than 30 years, says both Roethke and Hayden shared a dazzling ability to write poetry that is witty and beautiful and accessible. Goldstein hopes people will "look at that stamp and say 'I'll give it a try; I'll pick up a book.'"

He says the stamps are not only a wonderful honor for the poets, they're also provide a great learning opportunity.

"When poets or writers in general are put on postage stamps," explains Goldstein, "there’s more interest in them. In the schools their work is more likely to be taught, publishers are more likely to do reprints of their work."

The other poets featured in the new poetry stamp series include Elizabeth Bishop, Joseph Brodsky, Gwendolyn Brooks, E.E. Cummings, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams.

All the poets featured in the U.S. Postal Service's commemorative stamp series are deceased.

The First-Day-of-Issue ceremony for the Forever poetry stamps took place last week at the 17th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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