The Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize has been offered since 1968, generally on a triennial basis. The Prize is given for a book published in the previous three years that has made an important contribution to American poetry. Three active U.S. poets of high reputation are named as judges, usually chosen by the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. The recipient must be a living American poet. The prize is awarded without regard to number of publications, age, gender, place of residence, style or type of poetry, or choice of subject matter; this award is not for total achievement, but for an individual book. No nominations are solicited or accepted.
From 1968–2009, this triennial prize has been awarded in the amount of $3,000. In 2011, the SVSU Board of Fellows became the sponsor of the prize and elevated the award to $10,000.