Jessica Care Moore named poet laureate: 'An authentic voice of Detroit'

The City of Detroit has named its newest poet laureate: Jessica Care Moore – a Detroiter through a through. The city's stories course through her veins; her heart beats in verse. 

"I am living proof that imagination rooted in our city's rich soil can take you all over the world and back," Moore said during a press conference on Tuesday.

Moore will organize and spearhead events focused on poetry throughout the city, deliver a yearly speech at the Detroit Public Library, engage in programs that celebrate Detroit's diverse community, and compose a unique poem for an end-of-year presentation, according to a news release from the city.

The 52-year-old graduated from Frank Cody High School, pursued higher education at both Wayne State and Michigan State universities and went on to launch Moore Black Press Publishing Inc. in Brooklyn in 1997. 

In doing so, she followed in the footsteps of Naomi Long Madgett, her mentor and former poet laureate of Detroit. Madgett founded Lotus Press back in 1972, with the mission of bringing the work of Black poets to the forefront.

"I only hope with this new position, I'll be able to turn on some lights inside our schools filled with promise and untapped young genius," Moore said. "Poems belong to all of us, and they all have the power to change lives. Poems absolutely saved my life."

In addition to being a poet and publisher, Moore is an activist, a filmmaker and the founder of The Moore Art House – a non-profit organization committed to improving literacy in Detroit.

Detroit Poet Laureate Jessica Care Moore.

"This is a recognition that was overdue," said Mayor Mike Duggan. "She really is an authentic voice of Detroit. Now it's official."

Moore said that poetry is omnipresent, and her goal is for the children of Detroit to encounter it within their educational environments.

"You guys are still teaching the same –Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman– the same five guys that I learned when I was in high school where there was dinosaurs and things," the poet laureate said. "So let's get our curriculum into 2024. Let's bring in contemporary writers and poets and bring them into the classroom. We have great poets in this city."

The Ford Foundation sponsors the poet laureate, city historian and composer laureate positions in Detroit.

Left to right: Poet Laureate Jesscia Care Moore, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Kevin Ryan from the Ford Foundation. (Provided by the City of Detroit)

"I am so thrilled that the (arts, culture, and entrepreneurship) office is going to be focusing on performing arts in 2024, and that starts with this poet laureate," said Director Rochelle Riley. "We're going to have a composer laureate that we announce later this summer. We're going to be working with theater to make sure all of these young people who we talk to about Broadway and being on stage – I don't want them to ever feel like they have to leave Detroit to be stars."