In 2014, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation named InsideOut Literary Arts Project one of 58 winners of its second annual Detroit Knight Arts Challenge.
As part of the challenge, Knight awarded $2.48 million including $100,000 to iO for Techno Poetics, a project that aims to pay homage to Detroit’s Post-Motown Sound through research and a culminating public performance. The project is led by poet and iO alum Nandi Comer. She left a position as a staff artist and writing program coordinator at the Vermont Center for the year-long adventure of designing the project’s curriculum, research and final performance. Techno Poetics was formerly known as Dancing Through the Night
Musical genres such as lounge and hip-hop all have roots in Detroit, yet many people still limit the city’s musical impact to Motown. With challenge funding, local artists, guided by Comer will produce a multidisciplinary poetry performance that celebrates the electronic dance movement and explores the contributions of Detroit DJs. Word and sound artists will produce recordings weaving research, personal narratives of city residents and original poems. Checkout a recent interview featuring Comer explaining the bridge she’s building between Detroit, poetry and music.
“Techno Poetics is really about collaboration,” explains Comer. “Detroit Poets and all kinds of sound artists–DJs, Producers, even traditional instrument players– work together with the goal of creating new pieces that celebrate the history of Detroit and it’s contemporary music.”
In August, Comer led a three week summer intensive with youth poets curious about Techno’s role in Detroit’s post-Motown musical legacy. Student used field trips to some of Detroit’s popular and little known sites including Submerge, a techno museum, and the Motown Museum, ironically just a few blocks away from one another on East Grand Boulevard.
“Techno was started here in the Motor City. In my work I search for ways to explore that sound and culture that began in my city. I look to the form and sounds of Techno as a guide for composing my poems while the city’s history gives me inspiration for themes. There is a legacy here and it should be celebrated.”