SlamCharlotte Takes the Title as Champion at the First Annual InkSlam Poetry Festival
Move over New York City, Los Angeles is the new home of slam poetry. Every Tuesday night for the past 11 years, Greenway Court Theatre has been the home of the immensely popular Da’ Poetry Lounge, which has become the nation’s largest ongoing, open mic spoken word event. The soul-searching, quick-talking, and groove-loving regulars of the series have been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, won Tony Awards, and have been recognized as some of the country’s finest spoken word poets, eager to take the stage to showcase their free-flowing intelligence, abundant with heart and wit. From November 4-7th 2009, the Greenway Arts Alliance presented inkSlam, the first annual Los Angeles Poetry Festival at Greenway Court Theatre. After two days of workshops, the nation’s top eight slam poetry teams congregated at the 350-seat auditorium to battle for the title of inkSlam Champion. Winning team SlamCharlotte included poets Twenty20, Tavis Brunson, Quentin “Q” Talley, Andrew Tyree and team leader Bluz, a.k.a. Boris Rogers. Bluz, whose works are inspired by the people around him, is fueled by the crowd’s energy. “I’m always nervous before I go up,” he confides. “I have all these butterflies, but once I’m up there, the adrenaline starts going and it’s almost like a drug. The crowd is so receptive. It’s awesome.”
Bluz has led his team to consecutive victories at the National Poetry Slam in 2007 and 2008, and is the 2008 LEAF Festival Poetry Slam Champion. He is currently ranked as 13th in the world for Poetry Slam after his successful bout at the Individual World Poetry Slam competition in Vancouver, Canada. Bluz admits that despite early dabblings, it wasn’t until high school that he dove headfirst into writing. “My high school teacher told me I wasn’t any good. I’m the type of person who, if you tell me I can’t do something, will find a way to prove you wrong.” With incremental positive feedback from family and friends, he started to write more often and in doing so, fell in love with the art of the spoken word. “I’m just pushing and going forward,” he tells me with kind eyes and a Cheshire Cat smile, concluding our brief chat after his team’s triumph. Now with an inkSlam champion title under his belt, this self-described people watcher is proving he’s got game, one competition at a time. And this time, it’s written in stone.
Photos by Nancy Accomando and Bona Hong