Grover Easterling on the Detroit Literary Scene

Grover Easterling is a poet, activist, and educator currently living in Detroit. Grover and I were both students in the after-school program Citywide Poets organized by InsideOut Literary Arts, so naturally we became friends and writing partners. After we graduated from the program, we attended classes together at Wayne State University and led a student organization called WayneSLAM (aka Wayne Student Literary Arts Movement). The organization offered a space for artists of different genres to showcase themselves in a monthly open mic. Grover and I led the series from 2013 to 2016. I had an opportunity to catch up with Grover last week and asked him a few questions about his experience with WayneSLAM and the literary scene in Detroit.

What impact did WayneSLAM have on you?
As an artist it gave me the opportunity to help other artists get paid to share their art, to put money on the table for young writers of color. The series also showed me many different styles of poetry and the varying levels of where folks are at in their art.

As a youth, your family settled down in Troy, Michigan. What differences did you notice when you sought out the literary scene in Detroit?
I wanted to invest in Black art and what made me feel seen, and that wasn’t present in Troy. When I visited Detroit, I was exposed to various cultures and their art scenes. In Detroit’s literary scene, people are more willing to be radical in their writing. People are more comfortable with their Blackness here.

How have Detroit’s artists and writers influenced you outside of your writing?
They help me stay innovative. Being around poets has given me tools to sharpen my skills as a political and environmental organizer.

Recently, Grover released a video titled “Change the Climate 2020” featuring newsclips mixed with a reading of his poem “All Be Green” in an effort to bring awareness to environmental issues in Michigan as the 2020 presidential election approaches.

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