Long Poems Biography
Detroit Poet Laureate Naomi Long Madgett has been well recognized for her contributions as poet, publisher/editor, educator, and most recently the 2012 Kresge Eminent Artist Award. She is author of ten books of poems, the first published when she was only seventeen years old. Her early out-of-print books are now available from Michigan State University Press under the title, Remembrances of Spring: Collected Early Poems. Among her most recent books of poems, all available from Lotus Press, Inc., are Octavia: Guthrie and Beyond and Connected Islands: New and Selected Poems. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and 185 anthologies, both here and in Europe. Octavia and Other Poems (Third World Press) was co-winner of the Creative Achievement Award (College Language Association) and was made required reading in all the public high schools in Detroit. It was also the basis of a documentary film, A Poet's Voice (Vander Films), which won the Gold Apple Award of Excellence from the National Educational Media Network. Naomi published her autobiography, Pilgrim Journey, in 2006. She is editor of two anthologies, including the groundbreaking Adam of Ife: Black Women in Praise of Black Men, to which 55 African American women contributed positive poems. She also wrote the insightful introduction which puts into historical perspective the problems of many contemporary black men.
In 2011, an 81-minute documentary film about her life and work, entitled "StarbyStar: Naomi Long Madgett, Poet and Publisher," premiered at the main Detroit Public Library. The film is now available on DVD. (For more information and to order, visit www.starbystar.net.)
Dr. Madgett founded Lotus Press, Inc. in 1972 and continues to serve as publisher and editor. Lotus has published more than 90 collections of poetry of high literary quality. Lotus Press authors include Toi Derricotte, Gay1 Jones, Haki R. Madhubuti, Dudley Randall, Dolores Kendrick, Houston A. Baker, Jr., E. Ethelbert Miller, Pinkie Gordon Lane, and Claude Wilkinson.
Dr. Madgett has earned degrees at Virginia State University, Wayne State University, and the Institute for Advanced Studies (Greenwich University). She taught high school English in Detroit for twelve years. During that time she was a national pioneer in the fight for better representation of literature by African Americans in textbooks. While at Northwestern High School, she introduced the first course in African American literature, as well as the first accredited course in creative writing, in Detroit public schools. She was a research associate at Oakland University in 1965-66 and visiting professor at The University of Michigan in 1970. In 1968 she became an associate professor of English at Eastern Michigan University, later promoted to full professor. While there she wrote a college level textbook in creative writing. She retired in 1984 as Professor of English Emeritus.
In 1993, Lotus Press established an annual Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award to recognize an outstanding book-length manuscript by an African American poet.
The board of directors of Lotus Press commissioned Artis Lane to create a life-size bronze sculpture of Madgett; it was unveiled in 2005 and is now a part of the permanent collection at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the largest facility of its kind in the world.
The University of Michigan Special Collections Library in Ann Arbor acquired the Naomi Long Madgett/Lotus Press Archive in 2002. Some earlier Madgett papers are in the Special Collections Library at Fisk University. Among other recent honors and recognition are: an American Book Award (publisher/editor category); Michigan Artist Award; induction into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame and the National Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent; A Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Siena Heights University and from Loyola University-Chicago; a Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Michigan State University; Enterprising Women Award (Detroit Historical Society); and a Lifetime Achievement Award (Furious Flower Poetry Center). Madgett has recorded some of her poems for the archives at the Library of Congress, and two of her poems have been set to music and publicly performed.
Next to Pilgrim Journey, the most accurate biographical information on Dr. Madgett appears in Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series (Volume 23, Gale Research). Biographical information also appears in Oxford Companion to African American Literature, Who 's Who in America; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Black Women in America, and Notable Black American Women, among others. Scholars should be aware that not all of these resources are equally accurate.