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Detroit Poet Laureate Shares Recommendations (Sept. 01)

Poetry to Share with Students

Naomi Long Madgett, who has been appointed poet laureate of Detroit, has been a pioneer in helping to place African American literature into the curriculum at the high school and college levels.

She taught high school in Detroit for many years in the 1950s and 60s, and is English professor emeritus at Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti.

She also is co-founder and president/editor/publisher of Lotus Press, Inc., which publishes "poetry of high literary quality" by African Americans and others.

Her dedication to sharing the written word is illustrated in a story she tells: At a time when she was working pasting up pages for early works by Toi Derricotte and James Emanuel, she broke her neck in an accident, yet still managed to finish both books in time to meet their publication deadlines.

Madgett says that watching so many of the poets succeed is her reward.

She considers the poetry published by Lotus Press to be some of the finest in the country and is happy to share it.

In the following list, Madgett recommends African American poetry for sharing with high school and college students.

The recommended poems are ones she knows through her work with Lotus Press and with Michigan State University Press, where she served as poetry editor from 1993 to 1998.


  • Samuel Allen, "The Apple Trees in Sussex" from Every Round and Other Poems (Lotus Press, 1987)
  • Monifa Atungaye, "Geography" from Provisions (Lotus Press, 1989)
  • Jill Witherspoon Boyer, "Mine" from Breaking Camp (Lotus Press, 1984)
  • Beth Brown, "To a Fetus in the Wistar Museum," "An Evening Song," and "Children in the Fountain," from Satin Tunnels (Lotus Press, 1989)
  • Lucille Clifton, "What the Mirror Said" from Two-Headed Woman (University of Massachusetts Press, 1980); "Rust," "Memory," and "My Sanctified Grandmother" from The Terrible Stories (BOA Editions, Ltd., 1996)
  • Ray Fleming, "Roses in Cleveland" from Diplomatic Relations (Lotus Press, 1982)
  • Nubia Kai, "Harriet Tubman" from Solos (Lotus Press, 1988)
  • Ruth Ellen Kocher, "The Girl Gymnast" from Desdemona's Fire (Lotus Press, 1999)
  • Oliver LaGrone, "Cocoon of Images" from Dawnfire and Other Poems (Lotus Press, 1989)
  • Raymond Patterson, "To a Weathercock" from Trouble the Water, ed. by Jerry W. Ward, Jr. (Mentor, 1997)


  • Toi Derricotte, Natural Birth (Firebrand Books, 2000)
  • James A. Emanuel, Deadly James and Other Poems (Lotus Press, 1987)
  • Nikki Finney, Rice (Sister Vision: Black Women and Women of Color Press, 1995)
  • Beverly V. Head, Walking North (Michigan State University Press, 1995)
  • Bruce Jacobs, Speaking Through My Skin (Michigan State University Press, 1996)
  • Naomi Long Madgett, ed., Adam of IfĂ©: Black Women in Praise of Black Men (Lotus Press, 1992)
  • Naomi Long Madgett, Octavia and Other Poems (Third World Press, 1988; now copies must be ordered from Lotus Press). A teachers' guide by Madgett is also available from Lotus Press. A Poet's Voice (Vander Films) documentary film is based on the book.
  • Jerry Wemple, You Can See It from Here (Lotus Press, 2000)
  • Paulette Childress White, The Watermelon Dress: Portrait of a Woman (Lotus Press, 1984)
  • Claude Wilkinson, Reading the Earth (Michigan State University Press, 1998)

Award and Catalog

The Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award, established by Lotus Press in 1993, recognizes an outstanding volume of poetry by an African American.

The prize is $500 and publication of the book of poetry. The application period opens April 1 each year and the deadline is June 1.

You can request guidelines after the first of the year; send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) to Lotus Press, P.O. Box 21607, Detroit, MI 48221.

You also can request that a Lotus Press catalog be mailed to you. (Please send an SASE.) For more information, contact Lotus Press at 313-861-1280 or

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