Detroit poets offer optimism with new releases
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
Detroit poetry has two new offerings to the world this week with the release of a new album from Shaun Moore-Bey and Detroit Bleu, and a book by Joel “Fluent” Greene. These artists represent the optimism of the city’s culture and the determination of local independent artists. Both will hold release parties March 29.
Shaun Moore-Bey and Detroit Bleu’s album, “2 Generations of Poetic C.O.O.L.,” is a double CD featuring guest appearances by many Detroit artists. The release is free of charge and will take place at Truth Bookstore inside Northland Mall from 3-6 p.m. All ages are welcome.
Fluent’s book, “WAXING/waning,” is the debut book from the veteran poet, and his release will take place at The Jazz Cafe inside the Music Hall at 8 p.m., with music and poetry performances throughout the evening.
“(Poetry) can allow you an avenue where you can express yourself freely and artistically without holding things in,” says Shaun Moore-Bey, who has three previous albums to his credit. “Oftentimes, because we’re not taught how to communicate effectively, we hold things in.”
Moore-Bey explains that the purpose of writing poetry is “to be able to articulate your emotions, your feelings, your thoughts on paper, and to be able to express them in a way that is very free, very empowering and very healthy.”
Fluent was recently interviewed by Chris Campbell on WDET’s The Progressive Underground radio show, and he explains his new book is a reflection of the life he has lived and his experiences in Detroit.
“The book is about the ups and downs in life,” said Fluent on the air. “It’s pretty upbeat, fun (and) at the same time rhythmic. It’s real poetry, kind of a gritty, a hip hop feel to it.
“I tackle everything,” he says, “from moon cycles, love, to Detroit in general. There’s a lot of poetry about Detroit in there and the things we see as Detroiters and the things we experience on a daily basis. I think the mood, it’s kind of optimistic I want to say, even though I do tackle serious things like crime in the city, violence.”
Fluent gained notoriety in Detroit as the host of the now legendary Cafe Mahogany poetry night in the 90s, when many of the city’s most talented poets and musicians would come through for the open mic, like singer Dwele and award-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau. The experience helped him launch ventures teaching poetry to youth and hosting his own events through his production company, Ill Play Bill.
“So many people from Mahogany have done great things,” said Fluent. “I think we were just serious and wanted to get better, and we were learning from each other.“It shows by what people are doing now. A lot of people are in really good positions and having influence in the city and outside of the city.
“We’re deep people with thoughts and feelings, and I’m a Detroiter. I want to put that into the book, I feel like I’ve done that.”
Shaun Moore-Bey explained to The Michigan Citizen that this album, the third in his “Smile Alert” series, is a reflection of his positive and optimistic nature, for which many in the city have come to know him.
“I’ve studied a lot things in my short 30 years of history living here,” says Moore-Bey, “every great philosophy of this Earth revolves around optimism, looking for the best in people, always looking for the lesson in everything you go through and if you learn the lesson, everything you go through is a positive.
“Oftentimes as we get older we’ll have a defeatist attitude. We’ll be stuck in despair, be pessimistic, fear, hate, greed — we’ll see things through different eyes. That’s the whole thing about ‘Smile Alert,’ I focus on the optimism.”
He put together his latest album as a collaboration with Detroit Bleu, a veteran of the city’s poetry scene, as a statement of unity amongst different generations of local artists.
“It’s basically bridging the gaps between generations. There are people as young as 15 on the album, and people as old as 85 … and all ages in between.
“It’s a catalyst hopefully for what we should be doing daily, which is bridging the gap, understanding different generations coming together and art is one great way of doing that,” says Moore-Bey. “Unfortunately, different generations are not taking the time to understand the ones that come after them or the ones that came before.”