May 1, 2024 - Culture

Detroit names jessica Care moore poet laureate

jessica Care moore smiles during a press conference.

jessica Care moore, Detroit's new poet laureate. Photo: Joe Guillen/Axios

Internationally recognized poet and activist jessica Care moore was named Detroit's poet laureate Tuesday, the first such honor given in more than 20 years.

The big picture: The title is a full-circle moment for moore, 52, a Detroit native and Cody High School graduate who grew up reading Nikki Giovanni, Larry Neal and others at the library off Joy Road.

What they're saying: "Once that light was turned on, it could only become brighter," says moore, whose first and last names are lowercased as an homage to the late author bell hooks.

  • "I only hope with this new position, I'll be able to help turn on some lights inside our schools filled with promise and untapped young genius."

State of play: moore is an award-winning poet, filmmaker and founder of Black Women Rock!, a concert series to empower women.

  • A committee of literary leaders picked her from applicants who were required to show Detroit residency and that they've been a professional poet for at least 10 years.
  • As poet laureate, moore will host poetry events, give an annual address at the Detroit Public Library and write poetry representing her time in the role.

Between the lines: The new poet laureate is part of the city's broader recognition of Detroiters' contributions to American history and its efforts to support the creative workforce.

Flashback: moore is the city's first poet laureate since Naomi Long Madgett, who died in 2020 at the age of 97.

  • She had the position since 2001, according to her New York Times obituary, which highlighted themes of social justice and romantic love in her work.
  • moore recognized her predecessor Tuesday, recalling how she learned about publishing poetry from Madgett.

The bottom line: "We must build curriculum, teach, write and publish poetry books and record our works so that our legacy is passed down to the next generation," moore told those gathered at Newlab for her announcement Tuesday.

  • "Our young people must know that their imagination is a revolutionary tool, that they can write themselves into existence."

Go deeper: moore closed Tuesday's event with a reading of "A Poem Saved My Life."

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