The History of Detroit Poetry & Literature

Join two of Detroit’s finest literary minds, Melba Joyce Boyd and M.L. Liebler, at the historic Scarab Club for a dynamic presentation on the unique, daring and diverse world of Motor City poetry and literature over the past century.

From the 1940s to the 1960s, industrial wealth embellished the city’s educational and cultural institutions, while a great migration of working class people from all over flooded the city with new creative energy. This blending of cultures, in tandem with the city’s industrial identity, birthed artistic voices from a myriad of ethnicities. The poetry community grew as emerging educational programs provided intellectual and creative space for these new artists.

Detroit was home to the most impressive collection of independent poetry presses in the nation, including Broadside Press, Lotus Press, and the Alternative Press that provided a voice for the poetic revolution in the city. Throughout the years, Detroit laid claim to legendary poets and artists that were dynamic and unpretentious, creating timeless works that spoke as much to blue collar laborers as they did the intellectual elite.

Boyd and Liebler will discuss several of the key figures in Detroit’s modern literary history, including (l to r) Philip Levine, Robert Hayden, Dudley Randall, and Naomi Long Madgett.

$5 suggested donation at the door
(to support the Scarab Club and Book Club of Detroit)
Complimentary Beverages

Our Venue:The Scarab Club
The Scarab Club was founded in 1907 by a group of artists and art lovers who enjoyed meeting regularly to discuss art and socialize. Many of the original founding members of the Scarab Club consisted of automotive designers, advertising illustrators, graphic artists, photographers, architects, and automobile company owners. Besides hosting various events, such as the costumed Scarab Club balls for members and others to attract the general public, the Scarab Club managed working artist studios that still continue today. The Scarab Club continues to be a driving force in the artistic community and is proud to serve Michigan as a cultural stimulant for artistic diversity in the 21st century.

Co-Presenter: The Book Club of Detroit 
Founded in 1957, The Book Club of Detroit is a non-profit association of Detroit-area bibliophiles who assemble periodically for the purpose of stimulating a mutual interest in books, manuscripts, and prints, specifically those aspects concerned with collecting, bibliography, design, production, conservation, and preparation. Our chief aims are to further the interests of book collectors and to promote an understanding and appreciation of fine books and printing.


Melba Joyce Boyd is the author of Wrestling with the Muse: Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press and Discarded Legacy: Politics and Poetics in the Life of Frances E. W. Harper, 1825–1911 (2004 American Library Association, Black Caucus Honor Award for Nonfiction), editor of Roses and Revolutions: The Selected Writings of Dudley Randall (2010 Michigan Notable Book Award, Independent Publishers Gold Award), co-editor of Abandon Automobile: Detroit City Poetry 2001, and author of nine books of poetry, including Death Dance of a Butterfly, which received the 2013 Michigan Notable Book Award for Poetry. She is a distinguished university professor and chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Wayne State University and adjunct professor at the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

M.L. Liebler is on the faculty of the department of English at Wayne State University and is the author of several books of poetry, including Wide Awake in Someone Else’s Dream, The Moon a Box, Written in Rain: New and Selected Poems, 1985–2000, and Stripping the Adult Century Bare: New and Selected Writings. He is the director of Springfed Arts: Metro Detroit Writers Literary Arts Organization, and co-editor of the Made in Michigan Writers Series.

This event is part of Lit in the Mitt Month this May - Free and low cost literary events in the D all month long.  More info at

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  • Marsha M.

    Really lovely event. I was glad that Melba was able to present black poets as a part of the literary tradition in the city. I could have listened to ML longer, and had hoped to hear about Detroit literary history before the mid-Twentieth Century. Wish there could have been a Q&A downstairs. Those things being said, it was a very nice event.

    May 5

  • Rhonda

    was great, would have liked to hear more of ML

    May 5

  • Troy

    Wonderful overview of the poetry from Detroit. A quick overview. Didn't go on too long at all.

    May 4

  • Frank C.

    As president of the Book Club of Detroit, co-sponsor of the event, I would like to thank all who attended, and especially thank Gabe for his hard work putting this all together. Please check out for more information on our club. We'd love to see you at our future events and look forward to our next joint effort with DDHS.

    1 · May 3

  • nadia c.

    went to bed--head full of words and images-woke up to my morning coffee and listening to philip levine's they feed they lion and robert hay den's those winter sundays...what more to say...much gratitude

    1 · May 3

  • Linda

    Great job, Gab. Every experience with DDHS bring new revelations about the city and an appreciation of the riches to explore further. Loved the speakers and visuals. It was a treat to explore the Scarab Club building.

    May 3

  • Frank C.

    I learned much about Detroit poets last night. I knew very little about the poets that were mentioned and am looking forward to acquiring and reading their work.

    1 · May 3

  • Emily B.

    The best events are the ones that I leave with a long reading list & a feeling that I know the city just a little bit better. This was one of them. Awesome. Thanks for putting it together.

    1 · May 3

  • Diane D.

    Extremely interesting,I learned a lot about Detroit poets.

    May 2

  • Patty

    I am very sorry for the late cancelation - I'm still at the office and am not able to come this evening. I was SO looking forward to this all week. I hope to meet you all soon.

    May 2

  • Elissa Z.

    I will have a plus one!

    1 · April 28

  • Alice L.

    I'm on the waiting list. When will I know I may attend?

    April 27, 2014

    • Gabe G.

      Hi Alice, I'm going to add everyone on the waitlist to the YES list. Glad you'll be able to attend!

      April 28

  • John

    Three questions;

    1. Is there an 'official' answer on folks wanting +1?
    2. "Complimentary beverages" is noted in the even post, what about 'adult beverages', will it be similar to last week's even at the Det Historical Museum (BYOB)?
    3. What is the suggested logistics on parking? Thank you in advance.


    1 · April 15, 2014

    • Gabe G.

      Hi John. 1) Stay tuned for more info on guests as the date approaches. You'll be able to bring guests, but it will involve another step, as venous capacity is limited. 2) the complimentary beverages are of the Adult variety (most likely beer and wine), 3) there is limited complimentary parking in the Scarab Club lot on Farnsworth, other paid parking in the DIA lot on John R.

      April 15, 2014

    • Nick K.

      Ample street parking nearby: free on Brush, 1 block away, and meters on Farnsworth, John R, etc.

      April 27, 2014

  • Paula G.

    Can I also put my boyfriend on waiting list?

    April 26, 2014

    • Gabe G.

      You will be able to this coming week.

      April 27, 2014

  • Troy

    Another vote for a +1. The historical Museum was a pleasurable evening.

    April 26, 2014

  • Tam

    I have a plus one.

    April 15, 2014

  • Kris

    I have a plus one also

    April 6, 2014

  • Diane D.

    Three of us would like to come.

    April 4, 2014

  • Debbie R

    i will bring a friend however she isn't on meet up to rsvp...

    April 4, 2014

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