Being reminded of David Blair at POP-X

When my friend David Blair, the much loved Detroit poet, passed away unexpectedly about five years ago, I said here on the site that I thought it was likely, given the kind of man that David was, and the poetry that he’d produced during his lifetime, that we’d continue to be reminded of him through the lives and work of others. Well, I saw evidence of that very ting this afternoon, as I was making my way through Liberty Square Park, checking out the pavilions in this year’s Pop-X festival. There, in front of me, completely unexpected, was a pavilion inspired by my old high school friend… Here, for those of you who were lucky enough to know him, are a few photos that I snapped. If you’d like to check it out in person, the exhibition will be up until October 1.

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And, here, taken from the Pop-X site, is the explanation of the piece offered by its creator, the sculptor Andrew Thompson.

“Five years ago…” There are unique milestones for every Detroiter to find their own way to track the changes of the city around them. 2011 was significant for myself and many others in the art, music, and poetry scenes marked by the unexpected death of David Blair, commonly known as Blair, who passed only at the age of 43. “Five years ago…” Philip Levine was named the United States Poet Laureate at age 83. These two poets were known for their extensive writing about their experiences working on factory floors in Detroit. Levine worked in factories until he was 25, when he moved away from Detroit, about the same age Blair was when he arrived in Detroit and worked manufacturing jobs while writing and performing his music and poetry.

I am asking friends and colleagues who have recently moved to Detroit to transcribe the two poems “Detroit (While I was Away)” by Blair and Philip Levine’s “What Work Is” in their own handwriting. The physical act of re-writing the poems is a process of taking the words of the poet and moving them through ones own mind and body. Resaying the words as if they were your own, if only temporarily, embodies the poet’s language within the scribe. These transcriptions will be collaged together and scaled up and transferred onto the exterior of the pavilion.

The visitors to POP-X are invited to transcribe the poems within their own handwriting, sign the transcriptions, and pin them to the interior walls of the pavilion.

One last thing. Here’s video of David performing the poem “Detroit (While I Was Away).”

[If you do go to POP-X, be sure to also check out the pavilion inspired by Marie Tharp, the Ypsilanti-born oceanographic cartographer credited with first mapping the ocean floor, put together by the folks at Fly Children’s Art Center. And, after that, check out the pavilions designed by my friends Lisa Waud, and Donald Harrison and Martin Thoburn, which are also really cool… And, if you’d like more information about POP-X, and you don’t feel like going to their site, or visiting in person, you can check out the interview I did with festival director Omari Rush last year on The Saturday Six Pack.]

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5 Comments

  1. K.T.
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Rest in peace, Blair.

  2. Mr. X
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    It still makes me incredibly sad when I think about David having passed at such a young age, with so much more to contribute. Detroit lost a great voice.

  3. Mr. X
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I would have loved to have seen him as an old person, like Grace Lee Boggs, still doing stuff, still trying to make Detroit a better place.

  4. Barbara
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Your laugh echoes in my head, still. Daddy Warbucks.

  5. Andrew Thompson
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Hello Mark! I’m so glad to have come across your post about the piece I was able to put together in Ann Arbor in honor of Blair & Philip Levine. I had the pleasure of talking with a few people who were friends of his/remembered him & his work and it meant a lot to me how touched people were to see his words and image pop up again seemingly out of nowhere. It was a real privilege to get the opportunity to share one of his poems with so many people at the festival and to see so many participate writing out his words in their own handwriting.

    thanks a lot,
    AndyT

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