Motor Signal Reading Series

21 02 2014

So, recently I have been really trying to get back into writing, particularly poetry. I also started going around checking out open mics in Detroit. Although it is actually pretty hard to find a dependable, comprehensive, and up-to-date list of poetry-centric open mics online, once you find one, the flood gates sort of open—other people will be there passing out flyers and cards to other venues that have them. I’ve found two pretty sweet venues thus far: the L!V Lounge in Bricktown and the Bottom Line Coffee House in Midtown. I like blogging too, but there is nothing like reading a poem you created and seeing people connect with it that just gets you super inspired (at least it does for me).

I also really love attending more formal readings, and those are really few and far between in Detroit. (There’s always Ann Arbor, at least!) There are some one time events of famous visiting poets occasionally, at the DIA and such—however, it’s been hard for me to find any reading series that isn’t super stuffy and pretentious. Although it seems that tonight I have finally found one!

motor signal

Earlier this evening, I was lucky enough to attend a really awesome new reading series put together by the folks at Literary Detroit called the Motor Signal Reading Series. It took place at this really awesome hidden gem of a place in Eastern Market called Signal Return Press. The venue has awesome merchandise and broadsides with quotes and Detroit-centric themes, plus they also host classes on printmaking and allow students who have taken at least two of their workshops to rent their studio space to create their own prints/art.


I am really psyched to have found out about the series and Signal Return. As far as the shop itself, they have a Business Card making course on March 1st and I am pretty sure I am going to sign up. They also have a series of classes that mix poetry and printmaking coming up in March-April, which I also really want to do, finances permitting. (You can check out the class list for the year here if you are interested!)


The actual reading series has a very cool premise: to foster more audience participation in poetry, to use spoken words/poetry to unify poet and audience, and to have featured poets chose who they read with to create a more relaxed, seamless, and creative environment.

Tonight’s reading featured Jamaal May & Tarfia Faizullah, both very distinguished poets and cool people.

Tarfia currently teaches at Umich (my alma mater) and wrote a book called Seam based on her experiences interviewing ‘Birangona’—women who survived the atrocities of the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Her work was very intense, but woven with beautiful imagery. One of her poems was passed out on broadside:

Jamaal teaches poetry and wrote a book called Hum that he read from, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. His style was almost like slam pieces, as he had such an awesome rhythm in his delivery. He read a really intense piece and the quipped, “I always say if you take ’em to Mordor you gotta be able to take ’em back to the Shire,” and then closed with the following lighthearted piece from his broadside:

Very cool event. The next reading is on March 18th, featuring Airea Dee Matthews and Raymond McDaniel. You can find out more about the Motor Signal Reading Series and follow them on Tumblr and Facebook. You can also check out Literary Detroit on Facebook.