LTU’s reference librarian, Sheila Gaddie, sat down with Michigan’s Poet Laureate Nandi Comer Feb. 13 for a conversation about poetry and the arts.

LTU’s reference librarian, Sheila Gaddie, sat down with Michigan’s Poet Laureate Nandi Comer Feb. 13 for a conversation about poetry and the arts.

Photo provided by Lindsey Macdonald

LTU hosts Michigan’s second-ever poet laureate

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | Southfield Sun | Published February 21, 2024


SOUTHFIELD — On Feb. 13, Lawrence Technological University welcomed the state’s second-ever poet laureate, Nandi Comer, for a presentation to promote literary arts.

“I’m really pleased to be able to participate in these sorts of gatherings,” said Richard Heist, the vice president for academic affairs and provost at LTU. “This university, a large technological university, is, as the name implies, a very highly technological-focused school. We’re one of a dozen or 13 schools in the United States. I’ve been privileged to actually work at two of these now, and what’s interesting, both of these institutions that I’ve had the privilege to work and serve, Embry–Riddle (Aeronautical University) being one and Lawrence Tech being the other, highly technologically focused, very motivated, very driven, with the sciences and engineering. In each of these institutions, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know, to introduce, to work with poet laureates. And I think that says a little something about the character of these institutions.”

Comer assumed the role of poet laureate in 2023 as the first person to hold that position in 64 years after, in 2021, the state Legislature passed a budget to re-establish the role.

Comer had been shocked to hear that she was one of the finalists for it.

“I was incredibly surprised. I was notified that I was one of the finalists who had been nominated by a panel of established poets and writers. And at first, when they told me I was a finalist, I thought, ‘Well, I’m glad I was nominated.’ Because I know how incredible the selection of poets that we have in the state, and I just didn’t think that I would get it.”

However, upon learning more about the position, Comer realized that her background made her well-equipped to take on the role. As poet laureate, Comer engages with students, teachers and residents across Michigan to encourage poetry, spoken word and literary arts.

“The poet laureate’s major role is to advocate for the art and practice of poetry,” she said. “And so that it can show up in multiple ways, whether it’s by doing readings, by teaching classes, by planning events, by doing things that would then encourage the participation and engagement with the art form.”

Comer is a Detroit native and graduate of Communication and Media Arts High School. She attended the University of Michigan, where she earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in English and the other in Spanish. She often draws from her Spanish language skills in her work, such as in her book, “Tapping Out,” which is inspired by Mexican freestyle wrestling. She has also published a book called “American Family: A Syndrome.” Her work has appeared in Callaloo — a literary journal from Johns Hopkins Literary Press — Crab Orchard Review, The Journal of Pan African Studies, the Sycamore Review and Third Coast.

Comer has held a position as writer-in-residence in the Detroit Public Schools Community District and its community centers. She has also served as the director of the Allied Media Projects Seeds Program and the co-director of Detroit Lit, a program dedicated to developing reading and professional opportunities for narrative-makers of color in Detroit. She has worked as the curriculum developer and youth curriculum consultant for various arts organizations. In 2018, Comer received the William Wiggins Award for Outstanding Teaching at Indiana University.

Before Comer, the poet laureate position had been vacant since 1959, when her predecessor, Edgar A. Guest, passed away. According to the state’s website, Guest was born in England and immigrated to Detroit when he was 10. Guest got a job as a copy boy for the Detroit Free Press in 1895 and worked his way to the news department, where he remained for nearly 65 years. He published his first poem in December 1898. During his lifetime, he published over 20 volumes of poetry and penned over 11,000 poems. In addition to his work at the Free Press, Guest broadcast a weekly radio show on NBC from 1931-1942. In 1952, he was appointed as Michigan’s first poet laureate.

Comer’s term will end in December. Before her term ends, she will work with a team of professional scholars and writers to nominate poets that they think should be the next poet laureate. In addition to helping select the next office holder, she will also work alongside them to mentor them to take on the position for a two-year term starting in 2025. Even though she is halfway through her term, Comer said that there’s a lot to look forward to in 2024, such as a tour with eight stops around the state at libraries, schools and community centers; a laureate project that will also be developed; and the Poetry Out Loud recitation contest for high school age youth.

For more information, visit

To learn more about Comer’s work, visit