There are cities in this nation that seem to have books written about them every day, but Detroit is a city that most would not think of when it comes to literary history, but one look would prove them wrong. It may not be the huge names in writing, but there are stories that have been told by novelists and poets, stories that include historic locations around the city. Marygrove College has collected a listing of historic locations and authors in the city. Below you will find five of the most interesting, but there are more, so check out the listing at the Marygrove Literary Map of Detroit.
St. Anne’s Church
1000 Sainte Anne St.
Detroit, MI 48216
From the poet Lawrence Joseph to author Joyce Carol Oats, St. Anne’s Church and the neighborhood surrounding it play important roles in their writing. In the poem, “It Will Rain All Day,” by Joseph, he refers to locations around the church and mentions St. Anne’s in particular. Oats uses the setting of the St. Anne neighborhood as the backdrop for her story “them,” which profiles those trying to escape the post-industrial poverty they are trapped in.
W. Jefferson Ave. and W.Grand Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48209
Riverside Park, an oasis located on the industrial waterfront of southwest Detroit, is the home to the visions as seen by poets Michael Lauchlan and Mary Minock. Both poets use the park as locations where this isolated piece of nature brings pleasure surrounded by the realities and wealth of the industrial society in which it and the subjects in the poems exists.
2934 Russell St.
Detroit, MI 48207
Once again, a Detroit landmark brings words that inspire, bring visions of summer and even the end of life as in those poems written by Terry Blackhawk and Carolyn Forche. Author Lisa Lenzo speaks of the encounters of the characters in her book “The First Day,” a story of a young boy and his father out for a day at the market after the child had lost his legs from injuries in an accident. The visions given are of the looks and comments made about the youth, but more than the negative, the positive impressions and joy the pair find in the people at the market and the understanding of what they mean to each other.
Second Baptist Church
441 Monroe St.
Detroit, MI 48226
Being the oldest African American church in the nation, organized in 1836, there is history to be found and authors have not missed out on it. The collected poems of Robert Hayden were deeply influenced by the church and its members as he grew into adulthood in the downtown community. In one of his poems, he speaks of the “Mourning Poem for the Queen of Sunday,” a well-known and outspoken women of the church who dies at the hands of a lover. This history is there for all to see in the poem and is echoed on the Second Baptist Church website.
Sacred Heart Seminary
2701 W. Chicago Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48206
In the 1996 novel, “Requiem for Moses,” written by William X. Kienzle, the author tells of life in the community in the early 50s through the eyes of the main character Philip Levine. In the novel, he speaks of Levine taking the street car and then walking past the seminary. The character speaks of the “black-robed men walking in silence beneath the elms,” continuing on to describe the life of those inside the iron gates, the life as he sees it and the implications of a Catholic seminary offering an “unofficial” service for a Jewish man from the neighborhood who has died.
Related: Best Books About Detroit
Award winning freelance writer and photographer Lawrence DiVizio is based in Southeast Michigan and works to convey in words and images the world around us. His work can be found at Examiner.com.