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Naomi Long Madgett, awarded 2012 Kresge Eminent Artist

Detroit Poet Laureate Naomi Long Madgett.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Madgett.
Detroit Poet Laureate Naomi Long Madgett.

Listen to the interview.

The 2012 Kresge Eminent Artist Award goes to Naomi Long Madgett.

She’s an award winning poet, editor, and educator. She’s often called the godmother of African-American poetry.

Dr. Madgett says the award came as a complete surprise because she didn’t even know she was being considered for the award.

“So it means a great deal to me that I can be alive to realize that my life’s work has had some positive effect on other people’s lives,” she tell Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White.

According to Dr. Madgett, a lot people stay away from poetry because they don’t understand it.  She says, “the wonderful things about poetry that it is open to many interpretations….poetry is a universal expression.”

Dr. Madgett also thinks that there’s a misconception out there that poetry has to be beautiful or about beautiful things. “It can be about almost anything. It can be about things that have happened that are not beautiful at all, but very painful.”

One poem in particular was the very painful for Dr. Madgett to write.  Her daughters’ godmother was murdered, and Dr. Madgett felt compelled to write a poem about that tragedy.  

“That was such a traumatic experience for me. And I was trying to avoid the gory details of the murder but I was not satisfied with that, and I finally realized that I had to get it all in for it to be authentic.”


Listen to Naomi Long Madgett read a poem she wrote and dedicated to her mother titled 'Reluctant Light.'

Dr. Madgett is the author of ten books of poems. She is also the founder, publisher, and editor ofLotus Press, Inc., based in Detroit, Michigan.


Mercedes Mejia is a producer and director of Stateside.
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