Archive May 2021

Motown Spoken Word Artist of the Year: Kyle Mack

Last week I wrote about the finalists for the Motown Mic spoken word competition. This week I had the chance to connect with the 2021 Motown Spoken Word Artist of the Year, Kyle Mack. Born and raised in Novi, Michigan, he began exploring the city of Detroit after meeting his now fiancée, Ashley Adams. Adams is a poet who goes under the stage name Galaxy and Mack credits her for inspiring him to enter the contest. “I owe all the thanks to her because if it wasn’t for her pushing me to finish and submit my poem, especially when I was doubting myself, none of this would have been possible,” says Mack.

What’s even more impressive is that Mack’s winning poem is also the first spoken word poem he’s ever written. Mack is a musician and rapper (you can find his music on Spotify and Apple Music), and this was a new venture for his artistry. Mack eloquently reflected on the differences between these two genres: “To me, I feel spoken word is more raw compared to music. With music, you always have a beat or background instruments. With spoken word there is just your voice.”

For Mack, participating in the Motown Mic spoken word competition exemplifies how pushing yourself forward to try something new can be a great experience. “The competition allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and indulge in a different form of art that I’ve always wanted to indulge in,” says Mack. It is often said that poetry and music go hand in hand. Mack has shown how these genres can connect and transition between each other.

As for the future, Mack has an album called Catholic School Bastard coming out on July 23. He is looking forward to sharing his artistry and performing once venues begin opening up. You can watch an interview with Mack on Motown Museum’s Facebook page.

Photo: Kyle Mack, winner of the 2021 Motown Mic Spoken Word Competition.
Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

How Houston Leads the Way Part II

Hey mi gente, thanks for joining me for another blog post. As my time as Houston’s literary outreach coordinator comes to a close, I want to get back into all the ways that Houston is making waves.

Let’s talk about the only literary conference created specifically for the emerging writer: the Boldface Conference for Emerging Writers. Hosted by University of Houston’s undergraduate literary magazine Glass Mountain and run by a brilliant set of up-and-coming writers from the university’s Creative Writing Program, Boldface is a conference like no other. The five-day conference includes daily workshops, readings, craft talks, social events, and panels with professionals in the literary field, all specifically designed with the needs of the emerging writer in mind.

What I love most about how their programming works is that the organizers are versatile and thoughtful enough to change it up to meet the needs of the public. Last year, they were able to quickly reorganize and provide a virtual experience called the Strikethrough Workshop. This year, the annual conference will be held virtually from May 24 to May 28 and features craft talks with Melissa Febos, Diana Goetsch, Donika Kelly, and Ito Romo. Visit the website for the Boldface conference to find out more and to register for the events.

I also want to give a big congrats to local educator and poet Kim-Ling Sun who was awarded a United States of Writing Project Grant for her upcoming project “Celebrate and Stop the Hate.”

Sun, along with writer Addie Tsai, have created a two-part writing workshop series for BIPOC teens to celebrate heritage and work towards unity between communities. In the first workshop, teens will learn about different poetic forms and work on generative poetry. In the second workshop, teens will all present their works as part of a community reading. The workshops are free and will be held on Saturday, May 22 and Saturday, May 29, from 1:00–2:00 PM CDT. Those interested can sign up for the workshop here.

In addition, a reading featuring Sun and Tsai, along with Tamara Al-Qaisi-Coleman and Min Kang, will be held live at Social Beer Garden HTX and live-streamed via Facebook on June 5 starting at 4:00 PM CDT. The “Celebrate and Stop the Hate” AAPI reading will also include a charity raffle, food trucks, and lion dance performances.

And, a major shout-out to Joshua Nguyen who won the 2021 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry for his first full-length collection, Come Clean, forthcoming in the fall from University of Wisconsin Press.

Lastly, I am so excited to share that I have been named the 2022 Texas poet laureate by the Texas Commission on the Arts! I have plans and can’t wait to celebrate with everyone.

Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

Motown Mic Finals

The Motown Mic spoken word competition came to an exciting conclusion with a grand finale virtual event on April 29 featuring five poets: Arrie Lane, Dizmantle, Keebie Mitchell, Kyle Mack, and Vizo. This annual poetry slam hosted by the Motown Museum in Detroit was open for submissions earlier this spring asking for pieces from poets that helped celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Motown legend Marvin Gaye’s record “What’s Going On.”

Interviews with all five poets can be found on their Instagram page, @motownmuseum. Each poet had the unique opportunity to work with performance coaches in the Motown Museum studio to record video and audio of their poetry performances to be aired for the grand finale. Former Motown Mic winner Mikhaella Norwood hosted a beautifully curated airing of the short films and performances from each poet of their submitted piece. At the end of the event, viewers were able to use a unique link to vote for their favorite poet.

On April 30, the 2021 Motown Mic spoken word artist of the year was announced via Instagram Live: Kyle Mack! Mack is a musician and rapper and his poem “Young America” is the first spoken word poem he’s ever written. The rhythmic piece reflects on what the city of Detroit means to him. In my next blog post, I’ll be interviewing Mack about his inspirations and what this victory means to him. Looking forward to it!

You can watch the grand finale event with an introduction from Smokey Robinson here:

Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

Benefits of the Twittersphere

Want to know what’s happening in the New Orleans literary scene? A good way to learn more about how to support the writers and the work Poets & Writers’ United States of Writing initiative is doing in the city is to follow the Poets & Writers’ New Orleans Twitter feed. There, you can:

1. Learn more about the writers in New Orleans. Often I tweet or retweet about upcoming events happening in the city featuring emerging and established writers, some of whom have received funding from the Readings & Workshops program.

2. Stay in the literary loop. Organizations and writers both inside and outside of New Orleans often ask me to share opportunities such as jobs, internships, and submission calls for publications.

3. Follow the conversation. What topics are writers talking about? What are literary organizations and publications sharing? You can find out how broad the community is, the latest news, and how to connect by checking out our feed.

Lastly, a big congrats to the seven New Orleans writers who received United States of Writing Project Grants from our second round! A special shout-out to Ayo Fayemi-Robinson who was awarded a grant for her project “The Black Pages,” the first session of which will take place Wednesday, May 26 at 5:00 PM CT.

“We'll walk down the history of African American poetics,” wrote Fayemi-Robinson describing her project, “and address why sound has always mattered and how it is that our poetics never left the stage. What we celebrate is not a return, but a resonance.” The event will include a presentation and Q&A led by Dr. Jerry W. Ward, Jr. Be sure to check out the Literary Events Calendar for more information on this and other upcoming projects!

If you have any questions or want to reach out, you can always contact me directly via e-mail at

Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.