“How much for a dozen,” a woman asked, poking her head through the door. “I don’t know, I’m just security!” a man yelled back. Around 30 people had crammed themselves inside a small bakery, responsible for sending the smell of sweet dough down the street as a sort of invisible, olfactory siren call. Spindles of white strung hung across the ceiling, used to tie pastry boxes full of a once-a-year- delicacy that felt holy in more ways than one. The more people were served, the more came in. “I feel like I’m parting the Red Sea,” said a man who had just collected his order from the counter and was now trying to get through the shop to the snow awaiting him outside.
TD: I can’t wait till I get (to Detroit) again. I want to see your house. Where is it?
CR: Just south of Davison, near Conant.
TD: Over on the east side. Oh yeah, because that’s where Conant Gardens is. That’s where I grew up.
Last week, I had the honor of attending Cave Canem Retreat as a second-year fellow. Cave Canem is an organization built for poets of African descent, founded twenty years ago by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady. It has been called “the major watering hole and air pocket for black poetry” by Nikky Finney. While fellows and faculty run a three year course before graduating from Cave Canem, its two cornerstones have always been Toi and Cornelius. This year also marked Toi’s last year as faculty of the retreat. For those readers unfamiliar with Toi Derricotte, she was born in Hamtramck and lived in and around Detroit through her mid 20’s. Her work, much like her, is simultaneously vulnerable and unabashed, often saying that which would otherwise go unspoken in American literature or elsewhere. Toi has long encouraged Cave Canem fellows to “write the hard poem”, as she has done time and time again. It is thanks to Cave Canem that I now feel re-invigorated to do just that, over and over again. I had a chance to speak with her on the last day of the retreat, an in the interest of brevity, I have broken the interview into two parts. Enjoy!
I sat down this week to chat with my neighbor Liza Bielby about the Porous Borders Festival happening next weekend around the Detroit and Hamtramck border. Liza is part of The Hinterlands, the group responsible for organizing the festival. Read what she has to say, visit the website, and come out to the festival. [Shameless plug] I'm hosting an event called The Breakdown on Saturday May 16th at 8 pm, where anyone with a story to tell, talent to showcase, song to sing, fruit to juggle is invited to perform when the spirit moves them.
I recently sat down with with the poet Tarfia Faizullah at Cafe 1923 in Hamtramck and interviewed her about her own work, about her sense of the Bangladeshi community in Hamtramck, and Organic Weapon Arts, an independent press she runs with Detroit native poet Jamaal May.
Steve Hughes is one very interesting humanoid. He has been listening to stories with acuteness for years, producing small publications of 1,000 copies or fewer of self-published work using words and images called Zines. Stupor is his Zine, which is unique because each issue has a different subject matter.
Ever wonder what it’s like to have a 6000 pound, 10 foot tall version of yourself? Well, Pope John Paul II didn’t have to. In 1987, he visited Hamtramck to celebrate the Polish community. The result: a wonderful larger-than-life statue built in a small lot called Pope Park. The base of the statue is perhaps taller than the statue itself. The Pope, with arms wide open, has a pleasant smile as his regalia droops low defining the edges of his upper torso. It’s a must see for anyone visiting Detroit. It celebrates the better side of struggle; solidarity through adversary.