Naomi Long Madgett

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Naomi Long Madgett (born July 5, 1923) is an African-American poet, born Naomi Cornelia Long in Norfolk, Virginia. A former teacher and an award-winning poet, she is also the senior editor of Lotus Press, a publisher of poetry books by black poets.

Life and work[edit]

Madgett was the daughter of a Baptist minister, and spent her childhood in East Orange, New Jersey, she began writing at an early age.[1] While living in New Jersey, she went to an integrated school, where she faced racism.[2]

In 1937, her family moved to St. Louis, where Madgett was encouraged to write while attending high school. She read widely, from Aesop's Fables and Robert T. Kerlin's anthology Negro Poets and Their Poems to Romantic and Victorian English poets such as John Keats, William Wordsworth, and Alfred Tennyson.[2]

At the age of 17 she published her first book of poetry, Songs to a Phantom Nightingale, a few days after graduating from high school.[2]

She attended Virginia State College (now Virginia State University), and graduated in 1945 with a bachelor of arts degree.[2]

Madgett married and moved to Detroit, where she worked for the Michigan Chronicle and gave birth to a daughter, Jill, in 1947.[2] While living in Detroit, Madgett became a teacher in the Detroit public school system, her poem "Midway", from her collection One and the Many, attracted wide attention as it portrayed black people's struggles, and victories, in a time when racism was prevalent in the United States. In 1955, she graduated from Wayne State University with a M.Ed.[3]

In the 1960s, Madgett taught the first black literary course in the Detroit public school system. In 1968, she became a teacher in creative writing and black literature at Eastern Michigan University, where she taught until her retirement in 1984.[2]

Some of Madgett's poems have been set up as songs and publicly performed.


  • Octavia and Other Poems (1988) was national co-winner of the College Language Association Creative Achievement Award.
  • Long Poetry Foundation offered its first annual Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award for excellence in a manuscript by an African-American poet.[4]


  • One and the Many: Poems, Exposition Press, 1956
  • Midway (1956)
  • Star by Star: Poems. Harlo Press. 1965.
  • Pink Ladies in the Afternoon, Lotus Press, 1972 (Reprint 1990)
  • Exits and Entrances. Lotus Press. 1978. ISBN 978-0-916418-13-7.
  • Phantom Nightingale: Juvenilia: poems, 19341–943. Lotus Press. 1981. ISBN 978-0-916418-30-4.
  • Octavia and Other Poems. Third World Press. 1988. ISBN 978-0-88378-121-0.
  • Remembrances of Spring: Collected Early Poems. Michigan State University Press. 1993. ISBN 978-0-87013-345-9.
  • Connected Islands: New and Selected Poems. Lotus Press. 2004. ISBN 978-0-916418-94-6.
  • Pilgrim Journey: Autobiography. Lotus Press. 2006. ISBN 978-0-916418-97-7.


References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Pilgrim Journey, Wayne State University Press. Accessed September 24, 2007: "The daughter of a Baptist pastor, Madgett was born in Virginia and moved with her family to East Orange, New Jersey as a toddler."
  2. ^ a b c d e f - TimeDispatch article on Naomi Long Madgett, Accessed August 16, 2006.
  3. ^ William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, Trudier Harris, eds. (2001). The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-513883-2.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  4. ^ Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award, Broadside Lotus Press.

External links[edit]