City of Detroit seeks nominations for Detroit Poet Laureate and Detroit Composer Laureate

  • The historic two-year mayoral appointees will join the City’s First Official Historian to share the richness of the City’s culture, literary genius and musical excellence.
  • Both new positions are funded by the generosity of the Ford Foundation


The City of Detroit office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE) is seeking nominations for two new appointees – Detroit Poet Laureate and Detroit Composer Laureate.

The Detroit Poet and Composer Laureates will be appointed by Mayor Mike Duggan, whose administration has revived City support of Detroit’s creative workforce. The Ford Foundation is generously sponsoring these historic new positions. The Foundation also sponsors the first-ever City Historian position the Mayor created in 2021 when he appointed Jamon Jordan.

“As Detroit continues to come back, we are making it a priority to create beauty along the way,” said Mayor Duggan. “Beauty can take many forms, including the spoken word and musical compositions.  Establishing the roles of Poet Laurate and Composer Laureate is one way we can highlight, celebrate and develop the incredible talent we have in our city.”

The standard for Detroit’s poet laureate is a high bar. The previous Poet Laureate was the late, esteemed Naomi Madgett Long, who died at the age of 97 during the pandemic in November 2020. Her legacy will be celebrated at special event at 2 p.m. Sunday, February 11, at 1001 Woodward Avenue.

Unlike previous Poet Laureates, the new person will be expected to compose poems for special events and occasions as well as make poetry real for the residents, especially children, of Detroit. The first U.S. poet laureate was actually a consultant, whose position was established by Congress on December 20, 1985. The original duties were similar to that of a reference librarian, collection specialist and resident scholar in poetry and literature. Over the years, the position gradually placed less emphasis on developing the Library's collections and more on organizing local poetry readings, lectures, conferences, and outreach programs. The Detroit laureate role is in accordance with the later emphasis.

Specifically, the Detroit Poet Laureate will:

  • Plan and lead poetry-centered events across the city.
  • Give an annual address to the City at the Detroit Public Library
  • Participate in community-based and national poetry programs that reflect and honor the diversity of Detroit.
  • Write a singular poem for year-end presentation that represents a theme for their time in the role.

To qualify, applicants must:

  • Be Detroit residents;
  • Have a substantial body of published work, including at least one full-length book;
  • Have been an established, professional poet for at least 10 years.

The laureate will be selected by the mayor from a community judging panel and report to the Detroit Council of the Arts and the Director of Arts and Culture.

“We are so proud to be one of the cities in America with an official historian who is teaching the rich history of Detroit, history every American should know, and every Michigan child should be taught,” said Rochelle Riley, the city’s Director of Arts and Culture in whose office Jordan works. “This position- and the laureates – are some of the most important Mayor Mike Duggan has appointed and speaks to how much this administration values history and culture and the contributions of Detroiters to American history.”


The Detroit Composer Laureate is a new position that would 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.

With the city’s rich legacy of music, the initiative and its champion would be expected to teach Detroit’s musical legacy and inspire young people to continue that legacy by considering careers in music. This person would encourage our young talent to make their careers in Detroit rather than travel to New York, Atlanta or Austin to use Detroit skills to make those cities better.

The Composer Laureate will honor and challenge local composers to elevate Detroit’s past musical history and genius as well as create original music that defines our lives.

The laureate will have two major deliverables:

  • Create a legacy project, an original composition, that will be performed in celebration of Detroit’s musical excellence and continual commitment to musical greatness (place and time to be determined by the Composer Laureate and Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship).
  • To collaborate with a range of different residents, organizations and schools on programming and projects

To qualify, applicants must:

  • Be Detroit residents;
  • Have a substantial body of published composition;
  • Have at least 10 years of experience writing published music.

Applicant packets should include 1) name, address, email and phone number; 2) two reference letters; 3) a resume; 4) samples of work and 5) a letter explaining why the applicant wants the job and what the job would look like during their tenure.

Candidates may nominate themselves. Packets should be sent to [email protected].

Both laureates will be selected by the mayor from recommendations from a community judging panel and will report to the Director of Arts and Culture. The deadline for nominations is March 15, 2024.

For more information, contact Rose Khalifa at Metro Solutions.

For more information, contact Lacey Holmes in the ACE office at [email protected].