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Michigan's poet laureate to host workshop and reading in downtown Lansing

Nandi Comer
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Nandi Comer
Nandi Comer is Michigan's Poet Laureate

Nandi Comer, Michigan's poet laureate, is stopping in downtown Lansing to host a free poetry workshop and reading.

Comer was appointed last April, becoming Michigan's first poet laureate since 1959 and the second in the state's history. She said it is crucial for the state to invest in the arts through establishing mentorships and supporting training programs for emerging artists.

"This weekend's workshop will really concentrate on the things that we love that we tend to forget to celebrate," Comer told WKAR.

The workshop will begin at noon on Saturday at the Capital Area District Library's downtown location. Comer names the workshop an "Ode to Ordinary Things: Taking Time to Celebrate the Mundane".

"I think that sometimes the ode has become an ode to big things, like motherhood... or an ode to nature," Comer explained. "These are really beautiful, wonderful things to celebrate. But I think some of the most interesting poems come from small moments or things that we overlook."

Comer invites writers of all ages to attend the workshop and listen to the subsequent readings from herself and Lansing's poet laureate Ruelaine Stokes. She believes sharing the stage with fellow writers highlights the immense talents of Michigan's creative community.

"Almost all of my events, I'm accompanied by a writer from the area. They read their work, I get to learn about them as writers, and we have conversation after the presentation. It allows for the audience to decenter this one single person as a poet in Michigan," Comer explained.

"I want them to know they have someone that's right in their community that is just as talented and vibrant, and doing an amazing job as well."

Comer said her process for selecting which poems to recite often depends on her audience, prompting her to improvise on the spot. She said she also enjoys pulling from her second collection Tapping Out, which explores the gritty aspects of humanity through the lens of Mexican wrestling.

Comer will also be providing free books for attendees. At every stop along her poet laureate tour, she partners with the Library of Michigan to distribute free books to participants, especially focusing on inspiring young writers.

In her final six months as poet laureate, Comer plans to highlight the work of Michigan writers by displaying their poetry on billboards across the state. Each billboard will feature a QR code, allowing viewers to easily learn more about the poets behind the words.

"I'm thinking about how we showcase, highlight and really invite people to be curious about poetry."

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