Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Muse: Naomi Long Madgett

Poetry is a universal means of expression and is open
to so many interpretations. It makes me very happy
to leave a legacy of words that other people can relate to.
~ Poet Naomi Long Madgett*

An award-winning 82-minute documentary about the life and work of Detroit Poet Laureate Naomi Long Madgett (b. 1923), STARbySTAR: Naomi Long Madgett, Poet & Publisher introduces us to an extraordinary woman: the "Godmother of African American poetry".

Madgett, professor  emeritus of English at Eastern Michigan University, has published 10 poetry collections, including One and the Many (1956), Star by Star (Harlo Press, 1965), Pink Ladies in the Afternoon (1972), Exits and Entrances (Lotus Press, 1978; via resellers), Remembrances of Spring: Collected Early Poems (Michigan State University Press, 1993), Octavia: Guthrie and Beyond (1988; Lotus Press, 2002; also available through Wayne State University Press), and Connected Islands: New and Selected Poems (Lotus Press, 2004). In addition, she has published several textbooks, including A Student's Guide to Creative Writing (Michigan State University Press, 1980), and an autobiography, Pilgrim Journey (Lotus Press, 2006).

The founder of Lotus Press, Madgett also is the editor of two anthologies, one of which, Adam of Ife: Poetry in Praise of Black Men (Lotus Press, 1992), presents the poetry of 55 African-American women. Earlier this year, Madgett became the recipient of the Kresge Foundation's $50,000 2012 Eminent Artist Award. That prize follows a long list of citations, including an American Book Award, a Governor of Michigan Artist Award, a College Language Association Creative Achievement Award, a Black Scholar Magazine Award of Excellence, induction in The Michigan Women's Hall of Fame, and several honorary degrees. A national competition open to African-American poets is named for her. Widely published, the Virginia-born Madgett was just 13 when her first poem appeared in a local newspaper, 15 when she met Langston Hughes, who autographed one of his poetry books for her, and 17 when her first collection, Songs to a Phantom Nightingale, debuted. 

Using historical photographs and documents, interviews, and footage of poetry readings, filmmaker David B. Schock traces Madgett's cultivation of her poetic voice, her years as a teacher, and her commitment to Detroit, where she has been a tireless activist, arts supporter, and literary influence.

Here's the trailer for STARbySTAR:

The film is available as a DVD.

This 15:12-minute interview also is worth your listening time:



* Quoted from "Detroit's Poet Laureate Naomi Long Madgett Named 2012 Kresge Eminent Artist", Press Release, January 27, 2012

"Congratulations, Naomi Long Madgett", Huffington Post, January 30, 2012 

Interviews with Naomi Long Madgett Online: KGB Bar Lit MagazineBlogTalkRadio (2011); Art on Air, Cave Canem Legacy Conversation Series (2006); CastTV Videos

Poems of Naomi Long Madgett Online: "On Corcovado Mountain", "Packrat", and "Renewal" at Naomi Long Madgett; "Alabama Centennial" and "Midway" at Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement; "Phillis" at  Wheatley Biography; "Morality" and "Quest" at African American Registry; "Woman with Flower" at The Writer's Almanac; "Alabama Centennial", Video, at Poets&Writers; "Black Woman" at Bookaddict4real; "Woman with Flower" at defining parent (same poem is also at Painted Path); "New Day", Video, at DetNews; "Midway" at We Can Fly; "Life"

2011 Outstanding Documentary Award (Media), Historical Society of Michigan

A Poet's Voice at Vander Films (The 27-minute short includes a reading by Madgett. An excerpt is available at the link.)

Four Sisters (x2, +1) (This is a 12:53-minute excerpt from a documentary about a 2010 event featuring appearances by Madgett and poets Melba Joyce Boyd, Marilynn Rashid, and Hilda Vest at the Virgil Carr Center, Michigan Arts League.)

Naomi Long Madgett/Lotus Press Papers:  University of Michigan Special Collections Library and Fisk University Special Collections Library; Library of Congress Catalog Record (Correspondence, James A. Emanuel Papers, 1922-1995)


Louise Gallagher said...

What a wonderful tribute!

What an amazing woman.

Anonymous said...

speaking of universal expression, there are other good ones as well. i think that most everyone makes similar animal sounds, close enough to understand anyway.

S. Etole said...

what a remarkable woman ...

Jerry said...

Thanks for this. The interview was wonderful. No time to watch the documentary now. But being from Michigan I must make time to look at that.