Creative Writing alum shares rare poetry collection with students

Jett W. Whitehead Visits Advanced Poetry Workshop and is Honored for Gifts to CMU

| Author: Robert Fanning | Media Contact: Sarah Buckley

Students in Professor Robert Fanning’s Advanced Poetry Workshop received a surprise guest November 22 when Central Michigan University alumnus Jett W. Whitehead visited to show off his rare book treasures, including signed first edition books and broadsides by famous poets Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, Anne Sexton, Theodore Roethke and others.

Whitehead received a master's degree in English with a creative writing concentration from CMU in 1977. He is the owner of Jett W. Whitehead Rare Books.

Whitehead says he was inspired to become a rare poetry book collector after visiting a faculty member’s house during his time at CMU. Since opening his business in 1991, he’s kept busy touring the country’s book fairs—and the internet—and wheeling and dealing the rarest poetry book editions.

For several years, Whitehead has awarded a $250 prize to a CMU student for their poetry. Renamed the Jett W. Whitehead Poetry Award in 2022, he endowed the award and increased the prize amount to $500.

Whitehead says it’s a way to give back due to his deep passion for creative writing and poetry, coupled with his appreciation for CMU. He also wants to recognize student writing as being more than just a class assignment. He said, “My goal is to see the program grow and continue in longevity."

During Whitehead’s visit to CMU, Department of English, Language and Literature faculty and staff also made a surprise visit to the classroom to applaud Whitehead and thank him for his history of generous gifts to the department.

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