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National Poetry Month with Michigan’s Poet Laureate

Nandi Comer, Poet Laureate of Michigan and Detroit native, holds a B.A. in English and Spanish with a focus on Latin American Culture from the University of Michigan. Comer’s works have graced the pages of Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Sycamore Review, and Third Coast, among others. She’s the author of American Family: Syndrome and Tapping Out, which won the 2020 Society of Midland Authors Award and the 2020 Julie Suk Award.  As the poet laureate one of the major parts of her work is to visit schools and libraries in Michigan to share her and other poets and poetry. In January she was one of our featured authors.

Comer shared her excitement when she learned she would be Michigan’s first poet Laureate in 60 years. She knew she had a lot to do to reestablishing this role. When asked about her sources of inspiration, she mentioned drawing from personal experiences such as visits to museums and time spent with her family. Additionally, she emphasized the importance of her daily journaling practice, highlighting her belief that consistent writing fosters creativity and helps her capture fleeting moments that could evolve into meaningful poetry or prose. Comer humbly shared that “Everything you write is not sacred, so the practice of writing every day is paramount to being a writer.”

Research plays a significant role in Comer’s creative process as well. She expressed the need to understand diverse voices and experiences in her work and how research can transform how she writes. One instance she shared was her research and poem about Malice Green, a young man that lost his life to police brutality in 1992. After reciting this poem, she recognized that her audience, mostly under 35, didn’t know Malice Green, which led her to think more deeply about community memory and collective forgetting and how to share stories of the forgotten in her writing.

Regarding the importance of poetry, Comer asserted its enduring relevance, particularly within Black and Brown communities. Comer likened her poetry to a tool stating, “Poetry is the tool that I use most successfully to interpret the human spirit, emotions and expressions.” She continued by saying, “Poets are doing sacred work. For others, when words are not enough to express, they may turn to music. If music is not enough to express, they may turn to visual arts and so on and so on. We are all looking for ways to express ourselves.”

Themes of gender and race frequently emerged in Comer’s work, and so does the word and the metaphorical motif “river”. Comer considers herself a city girl, but did not realize until she was writing Tapping Out her deep connection to this beautiful river that runs through her city.

Comer recognized the talents of Michigan poets nationally and within local communities, expressing her enthusiasm for supporting the next poet laureate in 2024-2025. Before concluding our talk, she shared her admiration for the work of poet Lucille Clifton, particularly her poem Won’t You Celebrate with Me.

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into a kind of life?
i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me and has failed. 

For more information about Nandi Comer and her work, visit her website: You can also find Nandi’s books and more in our catalog.

books by author nandi comer

Published in 2018 by Finishing Line Press, presents a poignant exploration of the African American experience through poetry. Comer’s distinctive style employs a language that is simultaneously evocative and unsettling, effectively capturing the complexities and nuances of her themes. The collection features a series of poems that delve into a wide array of subjects, from personal and family life to broader societal issues like police violence. Comer brings a rich background to her writing, which adds depth to this exploration of American family life and its syndromes​ (Barnes & Noble)​​ (Home)​.

A collection of poems that uses the dynamic and colorful world of lucha libre, the Mexican freestyle wrestling, as a backdrop. This setting allows Comer to delve into themes such as violence, trauma, and identity. The book features poetic narratives that highlight the complex experiences of migrants, immigrants, and African Americans in various settings. The poems in this collection are notable for challenging traditional metaphors and cadences, providing a fresh and intricate exploration of the black experience and personal histories. ​ (Northwestern University Press)​.