Yesterday I found out that a local Detroit performer, Blair, passed away over the weekend. A blogger for the Metro Times did a nice write-up on him, which will give you a sense of who he was and what he accomplished in his too-short life.
I first met him while working with this theater group in the city in preparation for a trip to South Africa. He taught a poetry class for senior citizens at Hannan House, and I observed/assisted when I could. I knew nothing about poetry but learned a lot about it from him–mostly about capturing emotion in description. He was good at that.
The trip was rough for me. The first time I’d been out of the country. I didn’t get along well with the people who brought me (to be cryptic about it…) and was a real mess during the plane ride home. As I was sorting the experience out, he told me some hard truths that I’m still trying to grapple with, about catching problems early and solving them right away. About being quick to communicate. I didn’t want to hear any of this but of course he was right. I can’t say I was a good listener but I did hear what he said. Right after that, he offered me an opportunity to open for him at a music concert the next week after we returned. This was my first musical gig, and though I still write songs and perform them, my fiction has lately dominated most of my time and artistic energy. Thinking about him makes me want to pick up my guitar again. That’s beside my point–I am remembering Blair for his amazing kindness to young artists, for his generosity. He probably thought I was really young and naive, which I certainly was, but in that conversation he helped me out every way he could. I want and try to be like him.
The last time I saw Blair perform was a couple of years ago, when he released a debut CD with his band, The Boyfriends. Though he was a fantastic musician, it’s his poetry that I will remember him by the most. He performed this poem as a tribute to our city:
He was important to us. We will feel his loss for a long time.