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Detroit poets celebrate Hayden, Randall


Naomi Long Madgett  COURTESY PHOTO

Naomi Long Madgett

By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Detroit’s Poet Laureate Naomi Long Madgett joined some of the city’s renowned poets April 3 at Wayne State University for the Centennial Celebration of Robert Hayden and Dudley Randall, two of Detroit’s most recognized historical poets and cultural influences of African American culture.

Robert Hayden (1913-1980) was the first African American named Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, and was elected to the American Academy of Poets in 1975. Dudley Randall (1914-2000) founded Broadside Press in 1965, publishing many of the nation’s leading African American poets, including three of his own books.

M.L. Leibler and the Coyote Monk Poetry Band were joined by jazz bassist Marion Hayden for a performance of poetry by Hayden and Randall, followed by a lineup that included Frederick Glaysher, Al Young, Melba Joyce Boyd, Terry Blackhawk, Bill Harris and jessica Care moore.

“If not for them, I personally wouldn’t of course be here,” said moore, who recited two poems to the Wayne State University audience.

The local historic publications Broadside Press and Lotus Press were cited as an inspiration to jessica Care moore to begin her own publishing company, Moore Black Press, which will publish its thirteenth book this year with the release of moore’s own book of poems “Sunlight through Bullet Holes.”

“I learned from Naomi Long Madgett a long time ago,” said moore. “Back when I was just a baby poet reading at Broadside Press workshops, I remember her telling me that if I’m going to publish a book, make it compete with the other books in the bookstore.”

Madgett’s legacy as a poet was possessing a gentle, reflective voice during the turbulent Civil Rights struggle. She founded Lotus Press in 1972, publishing over 20 books since.

“As I think of Dudley Randall, I am amazed at the similarities of our lives,” said Madgett. “Both of us founded poetry presses in Detroit, neither of us intended to be a publisher,” said Madgett. “Broadside Press published one of my poems as a broadside, Lotus Press published Dudley’s last and largest book. Both of us were appointed Poet Laureate of Detroit, he by Mayor Coleman Young and I (by) Mayor Dennis Archer.”

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