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Detroit Witness highlights urban poetry

Detroit Witness                       PUAKEA OLAISHA ANDERSON PHOTOS


By Puakea Olaisha Anderson
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — In honor of National Poetry month, poets from Detroit Witness — a “melting pot” of Detroit poets and artist — sat down with the Michigan Citizen to highlight the dynamics of poetry today.

Ajanae Dawkins, 17, has been writing poetry since the second grade.

“It was the only time my voice was important. I recently did a show about sexual assault and the feedback from the audience was great,” Dawkins told the Michigan Citizen. “People were hugging me and crying with me. It was one of those phenomenal experiences that other people don’t get.”

Over the years,  poetry has evolved from spoken word to slam. Poets are finding new and different outlets for their work. Spoken word is word-based performance art. Slam is a competition between poets.

“Slam started in Chicago,” Justin Rogers, 21, tells the Michigan Citizen.

Kevin Koval hosts a two-month poetry slam in Chicago that is geared toward young people and has also influenecd some adults. “Chicago is the hub for spoken word,” says Koval.

Rogers says he loves and supports Michigan poetry but believes that Michigan poets could be more organized.

“The Detroit poetry scene needs to devolve in order to evolve,” says Rogers. “We need to evaluate what is important and what works.”

Detroit Witness hopes to highlight the importance of  poetry by discussing current urban issues and the significance of poetry in today’s society.

“Poetry is a way of storytelling. When I tell kids (what I do), they expect me to pull out a pad from the 18th century. (Yet,) I talk about urban issues and it catches people’s attention and this is why it is significant,” says Joseph Verg, 18. “You don’t have to be concrete about it. You can be abstract and it’s a form of therapy.”

Last week, Detroit Witness performed at Wayne State University’s Diversity Night. Detroit Witness performs to share their thoughts and stories. Many of its members hope to teach creative writing and poetry.

For more information about Detroit Witness, you can visit or 

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