Friday, July 29, 2011

News from InsideOut Literary Arts #michlit

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InsideOut Literary Arts Project

 July 28, 2011

"Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world". ~ Dr. Margaret Wheatley
Slam Team with coach Aricka Foreman (center) on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) going to BNV writing workshops. Photo credit Isaac Miller.



Six of Detroit's most fearless young poets did the D proud at this year's Brave New Voices (BNV) Poetry Festival in San Francisco. For the first time ever, a Detroit team qualified for the semifinals. But this team's talent stretched even further.

The 2011 Detroit team (Justin Rogers, Devin Magee, Joseph Verge, Ariana Washington, Breeana Blackmon and Andrew Barnhill -- l to r in photo) won a prized spot on the final stage, alongside three perennial slam finalists, seasoned teams from New York, Philadelphia and Denver. In the end, Team Detroit placed fourth, a victory made more memorable by the hard effort the team put into journeying to San Francisco.

"This was truly a momentous accomplishment,'' said Isaac Miller, who coached the Slam Team, along with Aricka Foreman. "Detroit needs to know the extraordinary things that its young people are doing.''



The team took its dream of competing to the people of Detroit, issuing a successful on-line plea for $3,000 through a Kickstarter appeal and raising over $5000 more in churches, coffee houses and community settings where audiences responded to the youths' promise to represent a side of Motown often overshadowed by dismal headline after dismal headline. "This is not just a slam. These are words for a better tomorrow," slam team member Justin Rogers proclaimed. Rogers' words and the generosity of over 120 poetry-loving Detroiters gave the team wings in more ways than one.



On Saturday, July 23, before an audience of 3,000 at the San Francisco Opera House, Detroit's six poets persevered, surviving amid a field that started with 750 youth from across the United States and beyond, including Leeds, UK, and Guam.

"BNV was a wildly life changing experience,'' said Justin Rogers. "Our poets put everything on stage. It was incredible being surrounded by people with some of the same life goals and weird interests. Our team was able to push through difficulties every single day, and we always came out on the other side a little bit closer than before. I left emotionally drained but I so badly wish I could go again next year."

InsideOut and Detroit are hopeful right along with you, Justin. 


Joseph, Devin & Justin performing group piece "Tears"

at BNV. Photo credit Isaac Miller.

Here are a few YouTube links to BNV Detroit Slam team performances:



Members of the Youth Slam Team will be performing Thurs. Aug. 4th, 6:30pm at the Southfield Library (23600 Evergreen Rd) as part of the Poetry, Pages and Scribes series. That evening, they will be honoring the life and work of one of Detroit's poetic heroes, David Blair.  For more information contact Ber-henda Williams.

Community Memorial Service for D. Blair 

Blair's friends are organizing a celebration of his life this Sunday, July 31.   

"We are going to send him off with a 2nd Line Jazz funeral and we invite you to come mourn and celebrate. 1pm - Gather at corner of Cass & MLK/Mack. We will march down Cass to Unitarian Universalist Church (UU) at 4605 Cass on the corner of Forest. Percussion instruments are welcome to join in this march. 2pm - Life Celebration at the UU church. 3pm - We will 2nd Line March back out into the street and let Detroit hear us celebrate. 3:30pm - Community Potluck at the UU. Please bring a dish to share."

For more details and/or to donate to memorial fund, click here.


On and On (for Blair)

By Peter Putnam



I want you safe

on some front porch

whispering poems to the moon

Or better still

back in our living room

surrounded by friends

and singing songs that go

on and on and on...


But you're bigger than that

I can't hold you down

(I can't hold you now!)

The streets are your home too

and the parks

and the hookers and the factory workers

the ballers and the b-boys

the pheasants and the peacocks

You've taken it all in

the Detroit River and the '67 fires

the addictions and the light

the soiled and the born again-- and made friends

on every filthy beautiful island

in this broken buoyant town

from Belle to Eight Mile


That's why it breaks my heart

when you wonder,

"Do you even know I've gone?"


Please listen, most humble of stars,

to our answer:

You were our one-man gospel choir,

our Motown,

our Michael,

our Muse

You took hate & hope

pain & possibility

(yours, ours)

and made love, made peace, made poetry.

Our heart beats like tool and die for you.


So ok, ok, tonight you're gone

across a million oceans

playing some new gig

God only knows where.

Still, this is how much we miss you:


Detroit will say your name, Blair,

we will claim you as friend

as brother

as lover

we will shout your poems

to the moon

and we will sing your songs

to each other

on and on and on...


until this city heals

and we heal

and your sweet sweet soul

 comes home.


Peter Putnam is a professor of writing at Henry Ford Community College and the author of "The Song of Father-Son: Men in Search of the Blessing."

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