We at Eternal Graffiti would like to start off by saying it has been an incredible run thus far. In trying to show love to our contemporaries and honor our mentors, we knew today would come. We knew when we highlighted Bluz it would take some serious planning and consideration.
We knew we couldn’t skimp on the details and honestly we were unsure which of us should take on the task. So were tag teaming the telling of the only poet to ever coach either of us, Boris ‘Bluz’ Rogers. This post today is not just to showcase Bluz but to announce that he will be our first official guest blogger for Eternal Graffiti and will be posting his first blog tomorrow!!
Carlos: Bluz had been coaching me from the sidelines of countless slams for years when he took over as Slammaster of SlamCharlotte in 2006 and in 2007 I made the team for the first time.
Mike: I got introduced to the whole Charlotte poetry community through an open mic at a venue named Wine up, Bluz was one of the regulars there. He did not perform much but when he did it was a big deal, the host would save him to the end and the crowd would anxiously await what he had to say. I was just an open mic poet, with nervous hands reading bad poems, but Bluz was one of the Heroes, I actually still remember the first poem I ever heard him recite. One of the first things I noticed about Bluz is that he did not always show up with his set handful of poems (read: crowd pleasers) and always do the same poem, he was constantly creating new work and trying out new things. I started slamming the same year, and made the team by the skin of my teeth.
Carlos: That summer after taking second place at the 2007 Southern Fried Poetry Slam our team showed up in Austin TX full of spitfire and determination. After landing, Mike and I, the only two rookies on the team, went scouting the venues we’d be competiting in. When we walked into one of the venues, we asked a guy behind the bar if we could walk upstairs and see the performance space. He showed us around and asked if we thought we’d do well in the competition. Without having consulted with each other, Mike said the words I was looking for, “Oh we’re gonna win.” The guy just so happened to be the general manager of the restaraunt and told us that if we did in fact win, that he’s buy us drinks the night of Finals.
Mike: To rewind a bit, we actually flew from Charlotte to Dallas to compete in “DIPS” (Dallas Invitation Poetry Slam) which was held right before nationals, we placed second and I remember being a little rattled, we did not take our regional competition, we did not take a smaller tourney that had fewer teams, in effect an eaiser slam, and we were going into nationals with two L’s. I mentioned to Bluz my apprehension and he said very confidentially “Don’t worry, its all part of the plan.” I didn’t know much about slam strategy at the time but in retrospect I’ve come to understand every call he made was leading us to final stage. (We plan to talk about slam strategy at some point on this blog, we will come back to the specific reason why placing second in both of those slams actually propelled us to win Nationals)…but back to the bar, me all bravado “Oh we’re gonna win”
Carlos: Four nights later, we’d done well in the prelims and won our semi final bout and were walking into the backstage at Finals not knowing what to expect. When all of the teams were called together for a roll call, each team responded to their name with a well rehearsed chant and we had nothing cool to respond with (i.e. Slam Nuba “WE CUT HEADS”). When they called Slam Charlotte we were like “umm… uhhh.” The teams were all required to be in the venue hours before the slam started and so… we hung out. One of the greatest benefits to coming up under Bluz’ leadership was that he was such a good strategist that he’d always tell us which poems we would put up before the bout ever started and rarely did he change his mind. This night of Finals however we still hadn’t been given an official call. So with over an hour before the slam, Bluz sat with a towel draped over his eyes leaning against the wall in the backstage hallway. He sat still so long, some of us joked that he was dead. But he knew his decisions that night would affect all of us for a very long time. He had been this close to the famous trophy before but under the previous Slammaster’s tenure.
Mike: Picture yourself a rookie in the Finals of the biggest event in your subculture, this was the Superbowl and several months ago I had barely made the draft. My brain was a pinball machine, I kept pacing the green room, trying to look cool, but reciting every word of every potential poem I knew Bluz could throw. I knew if he gave me the ball I would NOT fumble. Most of the slam is a blur, as they tend to be when you are backstage, I don’t remember much but I do remember Bluz sitting in that hallway with a towel over his hand FOREVER (I really did get mad close to him to make sure he was still breathing!! lol) I wanted to talk strategy, I wanted to think about the bout draw and what the other teams where going to throw; group pieces vs indies, funny vs serious, but Bluz just wanted calm oceans–focus–silence. He came out of the trance with a game plan and never deviated. He had all three rounds mapped out, and did one of the most selfless things i have seen a poet do still to this day.
Carlos: Bluz chose not to put himself onstage that night. Bluz was undoubtedly one of the best poets in our city, our region, and the country. He’d twice made Final Stage at the Individual World Poetry Slam. He was a pilar of not only our poetry community in Charlotte but of the entire Southeast extended family. NO ONE would have blamed him had he put himself onstage even and if by freak accident he’s bombed and it cost us the title. People expected him to perform. Bluz deserved a poem on that stage. So when he finally did pull that towel from his face and told us the lineup, we knew there was a great deal of responsibility on our shoulders.
Mike: To underscore Los’s point, every team knows what poems they have that score the best they also know based on score creep and other factors that you play that poem in the 1st round or the last, Bluz had the deepest pockets and the best poems in terms of how they previously scored. His decision to not play himself but to give other team members the ability to shine, sink or swim, let me know that it was not about him, and his rockstar moment or the DVD or the tours afterwards. It was a genuinely selfless move to show how much faith he had in us…in our words – I will never forget that momement
We still go to Bluz till this day for advice. But what we leave with is inspiration, he does not give exact guidance he just gives us the confidence to go for it. We are National Champs because of him, we have toured the globe because of him, you are reading this blog because of him. Eternal Graffiti is eternally grateful
Enjoy the poem and welcome another voice to Eternal Graffiti!
Facebook – Bluz
Reverb Nation – Bluz