Nominations sought for Detroit’s poet laureate and composer laureate

The deadline to apply for Detroit’s poet laureate and composer laureate is March 15.

The city of Detroit is currently seeking nominations for a new poet laureate, and — for the first time — a composer laureate.

The city has appointed two poet laureates throughout its history — Dudley Randall, who served as the city’s first poet laureate and was appointed by Mayor Coleman Young in 1981; and Naomi Long Madgett, who served in the role for nearly two decades, from 2001 until her death in 2020 at the age of 97.

“When Detroit’s longtime Poet Laureate Naomi Long Madgett died, she was a towering figure, her New York Times obituary was legendary,” Rochelle Riley, director of Detroit’s office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship, told WDET. “And we knew that we would have to have someone in that post because of the rich history of poetic excellence in Detroit.”

Riley says the positions will work like Detroit’s city historian to ensure that people inside and outside of Detroit understand the rich cultural and artistic heritage the city has to offer — and that includes our musical legacy.

“It was Detroiters who created the sound of young America, techno, our symphonic offerings are stellar,” she said. “So I also wanted to do a composer laureate.”

Unlike previous poet laureates, the new appointee will be expected to compose poems for special events and occasions as well as make poetry real for the residents, especially children, of Detroit, according to the city. To qualify, applicants must be a Detroit resident, have a substantial body of published work — including at least one full-length book — and must be an established, professional poet for at least 10 years.

The Detroit composer laureate must advocate for and represent Detroit’s diverse musical community, promote Detroit’s rich musical history and build upon Detroit’s history of musical innovation and excellence. To qualify, applicants must be a Detroit resident, have a substantial body of published composition, and have at least 10 years experience writing published music.

“What we want is someone who’s going to advocate for and represent Detroit’s musical experience and community and history,” Riley said. “…They’re also going to collaborate with residents and organizations and programming on schools and projects, because I want any child in the city of Detroit who wants to grow up to be a poet or a composer or a performer to know that they are wanting to do something where there’s a rich history of that already being done, and that they can do it in Detroit.”

The deadline for nominations for Detroit’s poet laureate and composer laureate is March 15. For more information about how to apply, visit

Use the media play above for the full interview with Detroit ACE Director Rochelle Riley.


  • Amanda LeClaire
    Amanda LeClaire is an award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. She’s a founding producer of WDET’s flagship news talk show Detroit Today, and a former host/reporter for Arizona Public Media. Amanda is also an artist, certified intuitive and energy healer, and professional tarot reader.
  • Jenny Sherman
    Jenny Sherman is 101.9 WDET's Digital Editor. She received her bachelor’s in journalism from Michigan State University and has worked for more than a decade as a reporter and editor for various media outlets throughout metro Detroit.