This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 423,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Made in Clarkdale Poetry Slam on Sunday, Dec. 7

Poets are invited to compete at the Made in Clarkdale Poetry Slam at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, at Clark Memorial Clubhouse, 19 N. Ninth St, Clarkdale, Arizona.

Slam poetry is an art form that allows written page poets to share their work alongside theatrical performers, hip-hop artists and lyricists. While many people may think of poetry as dull and laborious, a poetry slam is like a series of high-energy, three-minute one-person plays.

The poets will be judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam. Poets of all ages are welcome to compete for the cash prizes for first, second and third place. Additionally, the top-scoring poet age 18 and younger will also win a cash prize, whether or not he or she also ranks in the top three overall. Teens will compete alongside adult poets, judged by the same random on the same criteria.

Slam poets will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted.

All types of poetry are welcome on the stage, from street-wise hip-hop and narrative performance poems, to political rants and introspective confessionals. Any poem is a "slam" poem if performed in a competition. All poets get three minutes per round to entertain their audience with their creativity.

The slam is the second the 2014-15 Sedona Poetry Slam season, which will culminate in selection of Sedona's fourth National Poetry Slam Team, the foursome and alternate who will represent the Sedona and the Verde Valley at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, Calif., in August. Poets in the slam come from as far away as Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, competing against adult poets from Sedona and Cottonwood, college poets from Northern Arizona University, and youth poets from Sedona Red Rock High School's Young Voices Be Heard slam group.

There will be seven slams in the regular season, six in Sedona and one in Clarkdale. The final Grand Poetry Slam takes place next spring, to determine the team. The local poets will share the stage with 350 of the top poets in the United States, Canada and Europe, pouring out their words in a weeklong explosion of expression. Sedona sent its five-poet first team to the 2012 National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C., its second to the 2013 NPS in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., and its third to Oakland, Calif., in August.

The slam will be hosted by Sedona poet Christopher Fox Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on seven FlagSlam National Poetry Slams in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Graham has hosted the Sedona Poetry Slam since 2009.

Contact Graham at foxthepoet@yahoo.com to sign up to slam.

What is Made in Clarkdale?

Founded in 1986, the annual Made in Clarkdale is a nine-day arts festival celebrate the vibrant arts scene of those who live, work and create in the town of Clarkdale. For more information, visit www.madeinclarkdale.org.

What is Poetry Slam?

Founded in Chicago in 1984 by construction worker Marc Smith, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport. Poetry slams are judged by five randomly chosen members of the audience who assign numerical value to individual poets' contents and performances. Poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Interview questions about Sedona slam poet Claire Pearson

I was recently interviewed about Sedona poet Claire Pearson by a student at Northern Arizona University. These are my answers.

1) How long have you know Claire Pearson?

Photo courtesy of Zack Garcia
A few hours short of 14 months. I met Claire Pearson at 8:35 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, at 34°51'56.5"N 111°47'42.2"W, beneath the light in a parking lot whereupon we spoke for the better part of two hours about our views of poetry, poetic theory, the ghosts of dead men and the lack of good coffee shops catering to the 18 to 21 crowd in Sedona.

2) How have you seen her grow?

In the time I have known her, she has grown approximately 1/6th of an inch, if measured from heel to crown, ignoring variations in stance, pose and bouffant. Based on these observations, I expect that if her rate of growth is logarithmic, she will grow at most an inch by the time she is of legal drinking age, although I suspect she will still be carded until at least age 30 due to her height and unusually large neotenic eyes, although if her rate of growth is linear, by the time she is 100 years old, she will be 11.57 inches taller.

When I first met Claire Pearson, she was a veteran and the de facto captain of the Sedona youth poetry slam team, Young Voices Be Heard, and had competed at several Brave New Voices regionals.
As a Brave New Voices veteran, she knew as coaches many of the national and regional slam poets that I knew as peers.

Although loosely affiliated, Brave New Voices and Poetry Slam Inc. are two separate nonprofit poetry slam organizations. Many “adult” slam poets who have an affinity to mentoring young people crossover from the PSI scene to coach local youth teams in their home cities, while many others leave the PSI scene altogether to coach BNV teams exclusively. As structured in relation to PSI, BNV sees itself as the minor league of PSI, grooming young talent who “graduate” into the big leagues of PSI.
As a high school graduate but not yet 19 years old when I met her, Pearson was effectively at the peak of her growth in BNV and was about to age out of eligibility. She was looking to continue slamming as an adult and I provided the means to introduce her into Northern Arizona’s PSI scene.
Coming into the adult scene already with years of writing and slamming experience behind her, Pearson was able to skip passed the angst-ridden and derivative poetry that many first-year adult slam poets create before they find their voice.

Pearson had already found her voice as a heavily metaphoric, narrative poet with confessional and quasi-romantic tendencies by the time I was introduced to her work. Through slamming against college students and adults twice and three times her age, she has made her work edgier and more accessible to general audiences while still maintaining her metaphoric imagery.

Pearson has learned how to write from a feminine perspective in a competitive linguistic sport that is all too often dominated by the male gaze. She has also been able to exorcise many of those ghosts of dead men, whom she still holds dear but which no longer dictate what and how she writes exclusively. Most importantly, she has moved from being a confident though sometimes timid poet to being to hold her own in slams against national poets, some of whom have toured professionally or competed on the finals stage at the Individual World Poetry Slam.

3) How can you tell she loves slamming and poetry?

Pearson is open to criticism of her work as well as offering criticism of others, not just in the surface of performance flubs or cliché lines, but in the root and structure of the poems and performances. After a slam, we can discuss the atmosphere of the room or why a poem did or didn’t work given the particulars of the audience and the poems, showing that she is not just waiting to read but is critically listening to the work on the stage and how it is presented.

Pearson makes the trip from Sedona to slam in Flagstaff weekly or at least attend the slams as a spectator. She earned a slot on the FlagSlam National Poetry Slam Team in her first year, an accomplishment very few poets have been able to achieve as it usually takes several years to work up the skill and talent to win a slot.

Pearson attends slams outside her home city, which is also something many young poets, especially those in a relatively isolated city like Flagstaff, do not do. In part, she has a network of friends in the poetry scene which makes traveling less intimidating and more of an adventure, but she also has learned how to adapt her work to audiences of differing demographics rather than repeating poems by rote in hopes that they stick with audiences regardless of location. She doesn’t slam just to win, like many poets do without understanding the “why”, nor does she slam just to vent, but rather uses to the experience in whole and in part to develop herself as an artist. That dedication to grow artistically is why audience members who see her week after week are willing to reward her effort, even if as a Sedona émigré she is outside the clique engendered by the somewhat insular Flagstaff poetry scene.

4) What makes her stand out from other slammers and poets?

 Pearson offers a voice unique to Flagstaff as a veteran poet. Due to the transitory nature of college students at Northern Arizona University, the Flagstaff poetry scene does not grow like a typical non-college art scene does. Poetry scenes in large cities have poets who spend years or decades in their scene, serving as mentors and growing into icons to either cherish, challenge or learn from, but few NAU graduates remain in Flagstaff, thus taking what they’ve learned and developed to other scenes away after only a few years. In essence, it’s hard to develop a slam family legacy in Flagstaff. While some poets bloom early and develop their voice quickly, most poets take several years to become who they are meant to, and by then, just as they’re reaching their first artistic peak, they’re ready to move on to communities that can support their careers.

Many first year rookies write what they think they should, which is why many poems sound familiar or similar, regardless of the poets’ backgrounds or personal histories.

With those growth years already behind her, Pearson is able to hone her craft and show many of the poets her age or older what they can become once they have half a decade of writing under their belt. As such, Pearson is a sort of a poetic oracle, showing the path other poets can walk should they pursue our art form with the same sort of tenacity she does.

Claire Pearson will be one of the poets competing at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Nov. 1


Poets and audience members are invited to the first Sedona Poetry Slam of the 2014-15, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. State Route 89A, Suite A-3.


Click here to buy tickets, which are $12.

Slam poetry is an art form that allows written page poets to share their work alongside theatrical performers, hip-hop artists and lyricists. While many people may think of poetry as dull and laborious, a poetry slam is like a series of high-energy, three-minute one-person plays.

All poets are welcome to compete for the $75 grand prize and $25 second-place prize. The prize is funded in part by a donation from Verde Valley poetry supporters Jeanne and Jim Freeland.

The slam is the first the 2014-15 season, which will culminate in selection of Sedona's fourth National Poetry Slam Team, the foursome and alternate who will represent the city at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, Calif., in August. Poets in the slam come from as far away as Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, competing against adult poets from Sedona and Cottonwood, college poets from Northern Arizona University, and youth poets from Sedona Red Rock High School's Young Voices Be Heard slam group.

There will be seven slams in the regular season, six in Sedona and one in Clarkdale. The final Grand Poetry Slam takes place next spring, to determine the team.

Slam poets will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted.

All types of poetry are welcome on the stage, from street-wise hip-hop and narrative performance poems, to political rants and introspective confessionals. Any poem is a "slam" poem if performed in a competition. All poets get three minutes per round to entertain their audience with their creativity.

The poets will be judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam.

Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive.

The local poets will share the stage with 350 of the top poets in the United States, Canada and Europe, pouring out their words in a weeklong explosion of expression. Sedona sent its five-poet first team to the 2012 National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C., its second to the 2013 NPS in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., and its third to Oakland, Calif., in August.

The slam will be hosted by Sedona poet Christopher Fox Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on seven FlagSlam National Poetry Slams in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Graham has hosted the Sedona Poetry Slam since 2009.

Contact Graham at foxthepoet@yahoo.com to sign up to slam.

What is Poetry Slam?
Founded in Chicago in 1984 by construction worker Marc Smith, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport. Poetry slams are judged by five randomly chosen members of the audience who assign numerical value to individual poets' contents and performances. Poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Juno Se Mama (Open Letter to the People of Darfur)" by Ed Mabrey



Ed Mabrey is
  • Three-time Individual World Poetry Slam Champion (2007, 2012, tied in 2013)
  • National Poetry Slam Team Finalist
  • Individual National Poetry Slam Finalist
  • 3 Time Lake Eden Arts Festival Champion
  • Featured performer on Season 3 of Verses and Flow (brought to you by Lexus on TV One)
  • Two-time Feature on HBO All Def Digital
  • Emmy Nominee (MOW-Fox/ABC)
  • Three-time National Haiku Slam Champion
  • Ohio Arts Council Poet of the Year
  • National Best Selling Author (Contributor)
  • Eight poetry albums recorded
  • Performances seen on several continents
  • Tour professionally
  • One of the most sought-after performers and workshop teachers in the country

Visit www.EdMabrey.com


The Save Darfur Coalition


In September 2004, President George W. Bush declared the crisis in Darfur “genocide” — the first time a sitting American president had made such a declaration regarding a crisis that was still ongoing.

Despite the world’s growing outcry, however, the violence persists in Darfur and the number of dead and displaced continues to increase.

Currently, as many as 3 million people have been displaced within Darfur, with an estimated 263,000 refugees living across the border in Chad.

Overall, the UN estimates that more than 3.2 million people in Darfur (out of a total population of roughly 7.5 million) are still affected by the conflict.

On September 9, 2004, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell declared the conflict in Darfur genocide. This was the first time the U.S. had ever declared genocide while the genocide was still occurring.
  • The genocide in Darfur has claimed 300,000 lives and displaced over 3 million people.
  • 3.2 million people, more than a third of Darfur’s population, remain in need of humanitarian assistance
  • More than 300,000 people have been displaced by violence in 2013

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Poem for Evan" by Christopher Fox Graham


"Poem for Evan"
by Christopher Fox Graham

this microphone was crafted for one purpose:
to take sound and amplify it across A ROOM

its brothers exist in a thousand places:
in the bedroom of a high school guitarist
at a candidate’s podium
in an Elks Lodge Bingo Hall

but this microphone
this microphone 
stands at a poetry slam
give    it    purpose

fill this room with your art

this stage
is devoid of props or sets
it needs nothing else but you
this stage merely holds your weight
make it creek and bend 
under the heaviness of words

make these wood beams

wish they were
          a sinner’s coffin,
or a church’s rafters 
or a hangman’s gallows        
something easier to bear
than the soapbox 
of poets
this audience
sits on the edge of its seat
voices silent
waiting for your three minutes to fill their ears
word by word

they did not come to hear pickup lines
and internet jokes
they want to feel something
do    not
waste
their    time

in the shadows of this stage,
there is a man with a gun
aimed at your temple

and when your three minutes end
he will turn your brain 
into art on this wall

you cannot escape his bullet 
so do not try
instead
speak
make your words count
give them weight and substance

make us feel something
turn these eyes into faucets
overflow the kitchen sink of our chests
’til this room fills
and spills out into the street
sink this city like Atlantis

or make us laugh so hard
our bellies and faces ache tomorrow
as we recount each punchline verbatim
but    do    not    waste    our    time

if there’s a boy or girl in the back of the room
you want to kiss
or fuck 
or marry
get off the stage
and say it face-to-face
because when you’re here

YOU
belong to
US

and if your words don’t seduce
every boy and girl in this room
you’re wasting your time

this stage is 
8:12 a.m. Hiroshima
12:27 p.m. Dealey Plaza
8:43 a.m. 99th floor North Tower

you have three minutes
until the world changes forever

this microphone
will not hate you
it will not love you
and it will not judge you

this stage does not care
if you are a good person
if you are rich or poor
young or old,
gay, straight, or in between

we only care about your life story
edited to the best three minutes you can speak
how did you live?
what did you learn?
what will you teach?

that man is not moving
the clock is ticking
the laser sight is beginning to burn

what will you say?
why should we care?
why do you matter? 

remind us everyone here
has a gun
pointed at our skulls
and one day that round
will fire
make us believe these moments we spend here with you
are the best three minutes of our lives

your heart is a grenade
pull the pin and explode
leave word shrapnel buried in our skin
so in weeks and years hence
when your name is whispered

we few, 
we happy few 
who witnessed your detonation

will point to the scar

reread the line, 
and say 
“NOW
THAT

IS
POETRY”
when you slam a poem
any poem

leave your blood in this microphone
leave your heart on this stage
don’t care about the scores
don’t care about the time
don’t hold back
never apologize
believe every word 
is an atom bomb
these are your last words

this is your epitaph
this is what will be scrawled 
on your tombstone

long after we 
are all dead and buried
prove you had
at least one
good     reason     to
BANG!



my time is up
this microphone is yours
turn this stage to splinters




Christopher Fox Graham © October 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

First Sedona Poetry Slam of the 2014-2015 season is Saturday, Nov. 1

Poets are invited to compete at the first Sedona Poetry Slam of the 2014-15, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. State Route 89A, Suite A-3.

Slam poetry is an art form that allows written page poets to share their work alongside theatrical performers, hip-hop artists and lyricists. While many people may think of poetry as dull and laborious, a poetry slam is like a series of high-energy, three-minute one-person plays.

All poets are welcome to compete for the $75 grand prize and $25 second-place prize. The prize is funded in part by a donation from Verde Valley poetry supporters Jeanne and Jim Freeland.

The slam is the first the 2014-15 season, which will culminate in selection of Sedona's fourth National Poetry Slam Team, the foursome and alternate who will represent the city at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, Calif., in August. Poets in the slam come from as far away as Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, competing against adult poets from Sedona and Cottonwood, college poets from Northern Arizona University, and youth poets from Sedona Red Rock High School's Young Voices Be Heard slam group.

There will be seven slams in the regular season, six in Sedona and one in Clarkdale. The final Grand Poetry Slam takes place next spring, to determine the team.

Slam poets will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted.

All types of poetry are welcome on the stage, from street-wise hip-hop and narrative performance poems, to political rants and introspective confessionals. Any poem is a "slam" poem if performed in a competition. All poets get three minutes per round to entertain their audience with their creativity.

The poets will be judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam.

Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive.

The local poets will share the stage with 350 of the top poets in the United States, Canada and Europe, pouring out their words in a weeklong explosion of expression. Sedona sent its five-poet first team to the 2012 National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C., its second to the 2013 NPS in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., and its third to Oakland, Calif., in August.

The slam will be hosted by Sedona poet Christopher Fox Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on seven FlagSlam National Poetry Slams in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Graham has hosted the Sedona Poetry Slam since 2009.

Tickets are $12.

Contact Graham at foxthepoet@yahoo.com to sign up to slam.

What is Poetry Slam?


Founded in Chicago in 1984 by construction worker Marc Smith, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport. Poetry slams are judged by five randomly chosen members of the audience who assign numerical value to individual poets' contents and performances. Poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Use the Press" Workshop at the Individual World Poetry Slam

Whether you're a seasoned poet or a rookie, you want audiences to attend your shows, especially when you're on tour. Beyond relying on your host or social media network, use the press -- newspapers, radio stations, television stations and other media outlets -- to generate buzz about you before you arrive and cover your shows for their local audiences.

Rock bands have big followings because of their talents but also because they know how to generate news coverage. Slam poets should be no different.

Through the Use the Press Workshop, free and open to the public, poet Christopher Fox Graham will offer slam poets and poetry organizers tips on how to craft press release, deal with the media, and entice reporters, bloggers and others to write about your impending show, cover your slam or feature, and promote your as an artistic celebrity.

Graham is a 10-year journalism veteran and the managing editor of Larson Newspapers, a family-owned newspaper chain based in Sedona, Arizona. Graham has hosted the Sedona Poetry Slam since 2009 and been a member of the National Poetry Slam family since 2001.

He has hosted more than 30 national touring poets at his venue and home in Sedona, generating front page coverage for their featured performances at newspapers and magazines throughout Northern Arizona, both drawing in larger audience and helping touring poets increase sales of their chapbooks, CDs, DVDs and our merchandise, keeping them fed and fueled on the road.
Even if you have no plans to tour, the workshop will show how to work with the media outlets in your home city to attract reporters to regularly promote your poetry slams, interview feature poets who perform at your slam, attend and cover your Grand Slams and help promote your fundraising efforts to send your teams and individual poets to national competitions.

The workshop will include information for reaching audiences for other general events and activities you promote outside of slam as well.

This workshop is free and open to the public.


The workshop takes place at Jobot Coffee and Diner, 918 N. 5th St., Phoenix Arizona at 11 a.m.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

GumptionFest IX hosts the sixth annual Haiku Death Match in Sedona

GumptionFest IX's Haiku Death Match, aka GF9HDM

A Haiku Death Match is a competitive poetry duel that is a subgenre of poetry slam. The Haiku Death Match is a prominent feature at the annual National Poetry Slam, replete with full costume for the host.

At GumptionFest IX, we will hold the Sixth Annual Haiku Death Match. It takes place on Saturday, Sept. 20 from 4 to 5 p.m. at Posse Grounds Park.

What is haiku?
Haiku (俳句) is a form of Japanese poetry consisting of 17 syllables in three metrical phrases of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.

Japanese haiku typically contain a kigo, or seasonal reference, and a kireji or verbal caesura. In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line, while haiku in English usually appear in three lines, to parallel the three metrical phrases of Japanese haiku.

What is slam haiku?
Slam haiku used in a Haiku Death Match is far simpler: Use of three or fewer lines of 17 syllables. Slam haiku can be anything from a single 17-syllable line or simply 17 words. Two of mine:

Traditional 5-7-5 haiku
Serial Killer Haiku
Funny you should ask
my trunk can fit two Boy Scouts
and a grandmother

American 17-syllable haiku
Grammar Haiku:
Why isn't "phonetic" spelled phonetically?
While you think, let's make out

A standard Haiku Death Match is conducted thus:
The host randomly draws the names of two poets, known as haikusters, from the pool of competitors.
The haikusters adorn headbands of two colors: Red and Not-Red (white).
Red Haikuster and Host bow to each other.
Not-Red Haikuster and Host bow to each other.
Red Haikuster and Not-Red Haikuster bow to each other.
Red Haikuster goes first.
The Red Haikuster reads his or her haiku twice. The audience does not clap or make noise (usually, though, they laugh or vocalize, but, of course, we must pretend that this is completely unacceptable).
The Not-Red Haikuster reads his or her haiku twice. Again, the audience does not clap or make noise.
The host waits for the three judges to make their choice for winner, then signals them to hold aloft their Red or Not-Red flag.
Simple majority (3-0 or 2-1) determines the winner.
The host asks the audience to demonstrate “the sound of one hand clapping,” i.e., silence, then “the sound of two hands clapping,” at which point they can finally applaud. The mock ceremony involving the audience is half the fun.
The winning haikuster then goes first.
Depending on the round, the winner will be best 3 of 5, 4 of 7, best 5 of 9, etc., of a number determined beforehand for each round.
After the duel, Red Haikuster and Not-Red Haikuster bow to each other and shake hands. The next duel begins.

Rules for the GumptionFest VII Haiku Death Match:
  • Titles: Haikusters can read their haiku titles before they read the haiku. (This gives the haikusters technically more syllables to put the haiku in context, but the haiku itself must still be only 17 syllables. While this is not “pure” Haiku Death Match rules, it’s much more fun for the audience.
  • Originality: Poets must be the sole authors of the haiku they use in competition. Plagiarized haiku are grounds for disqualification. We all love Matsuo Bashō, but he’s 300 years too dead to compete.
  • On-page or memorized?: Poets can read from the page, book, journal, notepad, etc.
  • Preparation: Poets can have haiku written beforehand or write them in their head while at the mic. As long as the haiku are 17 syllables, we don’t care how, when or from where the haiku originates.
  • Rounds: Will be determined by the number of haikusters who sign up to compete.
  • Quantity of haiku needed: Depends on the number of rounds. 30 haiku will likely be enough for poets who push rounds to the last haiku needed and go all the rounds, but 50 to 100 gives haikusters enough material to be flexible in competition. Most veteran haikusters have several hundred to compete with.
  • Censorship: Adult themes and language are acceptable. There may be children present so you may have to deal with their parents afterward, but that’s your call.
  • Register: E-mail me at foxthepoet@yahoo.com or GumptionFest at GumptionFest@gmail.com.
What’s the Best Strategy to Win?
  • A winning haikuster is flexible.
  • If your opponent reads a serious or deep haiku, read one that is more serious or more profound, or go on the opposite tack and read something funny.
  • If your opponent reads a funny haiku, read one that is funnier, or go on the opposite tack and read something serious or deep.
  • If your opponent makes fun of you, make fun of yourself even bigger or make fun of them. A good head-to-head haiku can work wonders and often wins a Haiku duel. For instance, my “Damien Flores Haiku,” “Easy way to win: / Damien is 20, Officer, / and he's drunk."
  • If you’re on stage and you get an idea for a haiku, feel free to write it down immediately. That might be the next round’s haiku that wins you the duel.
  • Have a good time. Even if don't get past the first round, it's still a great time for all.
Still Scared of Haiku?
Don't be, they're easy to write. Haiku Death Match haiku are not likely to be remembered centuries from now, so don't stress out. Write short poems that you find entertaining and enjoyable.

The Robert Spiess Memorial 2012 Haiku Awards

nautical chart
I touch the depth
of my mother’s ashes
— Scott Mason, First Prize


slave quarters ...
the shapes of their shadows
in this dust
— Duro Jaiye, Second Prize


shades of blue ...
the deer’s remaining eye
cradled by bone
— Susan Constable, Third Prize

winter dusk
my grief released
from the crow’s throat
— Margaret Chula, Honorable Mention

formation of geese —
a log opens
to the woodsman’s maul
— Michele L. Harvey, Honorable Mention

I seem to be
an intermittent shadow . . .
summer clouds
— Kirsty Karkow, Honorable Mention

Anonymous Haiku:


Haiku are easy
but sometimes they don't make sense ...
refrigerator

she dances lithely
seduction under the moon
I ... hey, a nickel!

My life is Jello
Sitting, waiting in the bowl
Patiently to gel

"Doom" Haiku:
Frag demons for hours
Stare at the screen with red eyes
it's time for class

Cat haiku:
The rule for today
Touch my tail, I shred your hand
New rule tomorrow

Dog haiku:
You must scratch me there!
Yes, above my tail! Behold,
"Elevator butt."

Zombie Haiku:
Brains brains brains brains brains
Brains brains brains brains brain brains brains
Brains brains, shotgun, BAM!

Monday, September 1, 2014

"Bob Ross History" by Duncan Shields


Duncan Shields poem about Bob Ross teaching the history of North America was my favorite from the 2014 National Poetry Slam in Oakland, Calif. Shields performed the poem at the Legends Showcase. This is an earlier performance from April 5, 2014 at Astorino's, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Every human that has ever lived except one

Astronaut Michael Collins, behind the camera, is the only human not in this photo, shot from Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. Except for Collins, it contains astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in the Eagle lander, as well as every man, woman and child alive and the resting place of all our dead ancestors.

On the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing


Photojournalist Tom Hood and I were invited by Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff to cover a speech by astronaut Neil Armstrong related to the unveiling of the first images recorded by the Discovery Channel Telescope on July 20, 2012, on the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.

The recording of Neil Armstrong's speech has some funny lines and beautiful imagery:
“Almost a half-century ago, some astronomers designed an experiment. The idea was deceptively simple: Compute the distance between the Earth and the moon based on the time it would take for a beam of light to travel up to a mirror located on the surface of the moon and to reflect it back to Earth.”
“I wasn’t one of the scientists on this project — I was sort of technician. My job in the experiment was to install the mirror."

“It may not be obvious why anyone would want to measure the distance to the Sea of Tranquility within 11 inches, but we had to have some way of confirming our mileage for our expense account.”
“The mirrors are expected to be busy for many years to come, which gives me enormous satisfaction as a technician on the project.” 

“From the Sea of Tranquility, the Earth hung above me 23 degrees west of the zenith, a turquoise pendant against a black velvet sky.”
“The home of the human species is not inherently restricted to Earth alone. The universe around us is our challenge and our destiny.”

“Thanks to everyone here for being a part in this civilization.”



Neil Armstrong on the moon
It turned out to be Armstrong's last public speech [and second-to-last interview; his last being with an Italian radio station] gave before his death on Aug. 25, 2012.

The video to which he referred at another speech in Australia in 2011:

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong also left behind an American Flag, a plaque, an olive branch-shaped gold pin, messages from 73 world leaders, a patch from the Apollo 1 mission that, during a training exercise, combusted and killed three American astronauts, and medals in honor of two of the first Soviet astronauts who had died in flight.

Digitally remastered footage of the 1969 Apollo 11 moonwalk:


The video highlights of the three-hour moonwalk include a clearer picture of Neil Armstrong's descent down the stairs of the lunar module, which was taken from the Parkes Radio Observatory and the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station outside Canberra on 21 July 1969 (Australian time).
The long-forgotten video footage was uncovered during a decade-long search for the original recordings of the moonwalk, and involved lengthy detective work and clandestine meetings, says astronomer and telescope operator John Sarkissian from the CSIRO at Parkes, who headed up the search.
At the time of the Moon landing, three stations - Goldstone in California, Honeysuckle Creek in Canberra, and Parkes in New South Wales - simultaneously recorded the events onto magnetic data tape. The direct recordings were not of broadcast quality, says John, so they had to set up a regular TV camera pointed at a small black-and-white TV screen in the observatory to obtain higher-quality images that could be relayed to television stations around the world.
"Original signals weren't HD quality TV. They weren't even broadcast quality, even by 1969 standards," he says. "They were better than what was broadcast to the world; that's why we went looking for them ...".
Buzz Aldrin on the moon
The Goldstone camera settings to convert Neil's descent down the stairs were not correct and showed an image too dark to see. So the decision was made to switch to the Honeysuckle Creek footage, and after eight minutes, to the Parkes footage, which was used for the rest of the moonwalk.
It was this clearer footage, which had not been seen since 1969, that John and his search team were hoping to recover from the NASA archives, where the tapes had been sent.
Unfortunately, they hit a roadblock. "We discovered, to our horror, that in the 1970s and 80s NASA had taken the tapes in the national archive and erased them all to record other missions."
About 250,000 tapes from the Apollo era, likely including the 45 tapes of the moonwalk, are likely lost forever.
The Apollo 11 Plaque left on the lander on the moon
After some digging, they found that in the 1980s someone made a VHS tape of the Honeysuckle Creek magnetic tape, "a bootleg copy if you like, that was severely degraded," John says. A copy of that copy was given to an Apollo enthusiast who was tracked down to Sydney by the search team. This footage included a brighter and clearer version of Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong's descent to the lunar surface and was used to replace the darker Goldstone images at the start of the broadcast.
At the awards ceremony, select scenes from the entire restored video will show Neil's first step on the Moon's surface, Buzz Aldrin's decent of the lunar module ladder, the plaque reading and the raising of the U.S. flag.

Had the Apollo 11 mission failed, the White House had planned for President Richard Nixon to give this speech, which remained quietly in government archieves. The speech is heart-wrenching, even if it was never needed:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Did Tomas Stanton plagiarize Rudy Francisco? Obviously. Here's the evidence

Below is beautiful poem by Rudy Francisco, the 2009 National Underground Poetry Slam Champion, the 2010 San Diego Grand Slam Champion, the 2010 San Francisco Grand Slam Champion and the 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion.
 

"Scars/To the New Boyfriend"
By Rudy Francisco


Scars
1. If I could, I would nail these hands to the edges of stars. I would sacrifice this body to the sky hoping to resurrect as someone spiteful enough to not care about you anymore.
2. Staple me to a cross. Pierce my side with a broken promise and I will bleed all the crippled reasons why you deserve one more chance.
3. Loving you was the last thing that I felt really good at.
4.You wanna know how I got these scars? See, I ripped every last piece of you out of my smile.
5. I whispered you stardust.
6. I spoke you into sunflowers.
7. I dipped my hands in forever. I touched you infinity. Treated you as if you were the last molecule of oxygen inside of a gas chamber. I was good to you.
8. You wanna know how I got these scars? See, I swallowed my pride. And then it clawed its way out of my mouth.
9. I realized that I was never really your boyfriend. I was just your fuckin' hype man.
10. I hope your next boyfriend gets smallpox.
10. Yes I said smallpox!
10. I hate you!
10. But I still miss you!
10. And a part of me still loves you!
10. It’s hard for me to count when I get emotional!
10. I heard that over 90% of human interaction is nonverbal so...
10. If I could, I would tie your arms to a daydream and then auction you off to my fondest memories.

To the New Boyfriend
1. The first time I saw you and her on a picture, I wanted to take my entire arm, shove it inside of the computer and snatch the happiness right off of your face.
2. If I ever see you in the street, I'm probably gonna punch you in the throat.
3. I apologize in advanced. And I know, I know that it makes no sense, to have this much anger toward a man that I never actually met face to face. But my definition of love is being robbed in an alley 8 times in a row, and hoping there's something about today that makes all of this different. There is nothing logical about cutting off the most important parts of your yourself and then putting them inside of hands that shake, that tremble, that crack like an ancient sidewalk.
4. There is nothing rational about love. Your love stutters when it gets nervous. Your love trips over its own shoelaces. Love is clumsy and my heart refuses to wear a helmet.
5. Cupid is fucking irresponsible. And I'm tired of him using me for target practice.
6. I was told that time would heal all wounds. But what exactly do you do on days when it feels like the hands on your clock have arthritis?
7. She always wore her heart on her sleeves. So tell me why the hell do you look so familiar?
8. I think I've seen you somewhere in her smile. Like I've heard your voice in her laughter. Like I've smelled your cologne on her thighs. I bet if we dusted her heart for fingerprints we would only find yours.
9. I have this envelope. It's, it's full of all  the butterflies that I felt the first time she relaxed the velcro on her lips and smiled in my direction. I think most of them are still alive. I guess these belong to you too.

Copyright © Rudy Francisco




Rudy Francisco's poem was recorded at his feature at The Bowery Poetry Club, Manhattan, N.Y., in 2011, and published to YouTube on March 18, 2012, four months before the Copper State Poetry Slam on Friday, July 27, 2012.

The version below of Tomas Stanton, of Phoenix, was published to YouTube on Jan. 19, 2013. The original version we heard at Copper State included the line "I was just your hype man" and a line about miscounting in positions 9 and 10, both lines have since been omitted in the performance below, after Northern Arizona poets brought the plagiarism to the attention of his then-team captain.

 

A transcription:
1. So I finally figured it out that when you said forever, what you actually meant was 414 days, 13 hours and 25 seconds
2. You wasted my time
3. Would somebody please tell Facebook. I don't care how many neutral friends we shared, no, I do not want to be her friend, not now, not later, not ever
4. My bedroom still smells like the love we used to share, so last night I tried to replace that scent, but in the morning, my bedroom now reeked of two mistakes instead of one
5. I apologize to all of those who have been caught of a crossfire of our misery
6. if I could, I would burn every last image of you [sic] face from the inside of my eyelids, you beautiful nightmare
7. They say time heals all wounds
8. The batteries in all my watches seem to be dead
10. yeah I know I skipped 9, because 9 is your lucky number and there ain't nothin' lucky about you
10. I never thought I would hate you
10. yo, I hate you
10. I wish I never met you
10. why can't I forget you
10. I wish I never met you
10 I'm having a hard time moving on, so I just go backwards
9. in a conversation with my grandmother I was reminded that god is love and love doesn't make mistakes but sometimes people do
8. holding onto anger is like picking up a hot coal and throwing it at the one you despise but missing them, you were the only one that's burning
7. all got all new batteries for my watches
6. I feel the endless days of summer becoming shorter, these leaves of anger becoming harder preparing for fall
5. I finally figured out how to block you from my Facebook, it's nothing personal though, it's just still kinda hard though to see you smiling without me but I'm glad you've found somebody to make you smile
4. My bedroom is now a very lonely place, which means I have a lot of extra time on my hands
3. So I watched this fascinating video the other night of a caterpillar being born and spinning itself into a cocoon [sic] only to be reborn again as a butterfly
2. maybe in another lifetime we'll be butterflies
1. it's been about 414 days, 13 hours and 25 seconds since we last saw eye-to-eye and I heard that it takes twice the time you're with someone to move on so I guess I got 414 days, 13 hours and 25 seconds to go but I no longer feel like it's a waste of my time because the scars that we made will forever make me a better man


What is most obvious is the themes are the same: a rise in anger over a breakup, the climax in the repetition of the number 10 and a recount, the difference being Francisco goes 1 to 10, Stanton goes 10 to 1.

Evidence of Plagiarism:
Francisco: I was told that time would heal all wounds.
Stanton: They say time heals all wounds
 Immediately after that line:

Francisco: But what exactly do you do on days when it feels like the hands on your clock have arthritis?
Stanton: The batteries in all my watches seem to be dead

Francisco: I think I've seen you somewhere in her smile.
Stanton: it's just still kinda hard though to see you smiling without me but I'm glad you've found somebody to make you smile

Thematic similarities:
Reflection on love
Francisco: There is nothing rational about love. Your love stutters when it gets nervous. Your love trips over its own shoelaces. Love is clumsy and my heart refuses to wear a helmet.
Stanton: in a conversation with my grandmother I was reminded that god is love and love doesn't make mistakes but sometimes people do

Metaphor for what holding onto anger is like
Francisco: I know that it makes no sense, to have this much anger toward a man that I never actually met face to face. But my definition of love is being robbed in an alley 8 times in a row, and hoping there's something about today that makes all of this different. There is nothing logical about cutting off the most important parts of your yourself and then putting them inside of hands that shake, that tremble, that crack like an ancient sidewalk.
Stanton: holding onto anger is like picking up a hot coal and throwing it at the one you despise but missing them, you were the only one that's burning

A butterfly at the conclusion
Francisco: I have this envelope. It's full of all  the butterflies that I felt the first time she relaxed the velcro on her lips and smiled in my direction. I think most of them are still alive. I guess these belong to you too.
Stanton: 3. So I watched this fascinating video the other night of a caterpillar being born and spinning itself into a cocoon [sic] only to be reborn again as a butterfly.
2. maybe in another lifetime we'll be butterflies

There are also references to seeing the ex on Facebook, the performance style that rushes the 10, 10, 10 section, and the aforementioned omitted lines about being a hype-man and getting so passionate you can't count. But cutting the obvious plagiarism after you get caught doesn't change the fact the rest of the poem is plagiarized.

From the Poetry Slam Inc. Handbook:
Each poet must present his or her own original work.
 

Sampling.
It is acceptable for a poet to incorporate, imitate, or otherwise “signify on” the words, lyrics, or tune of someone else (commonly called “sampling”) in his own work. If he is only riffing off another’s words, he should expect only healthy controversy; if on the other hand, he is ripping off their words, he should expect scornful contumely.
After comparing reactions with other poets from Sedona and Flagstaff at the 2012 Copper State Poetry Slam, we concurred that the poem as plagiarized. I spoke with the team's captain about plagiarism and told him then that this was unacceptable.

However, I recently raised objections to Stanton hosting the Copper State Poetry Slam. He has not earned the right to host a statewide tournament if he has no qualms about stealing another poet's work and passing it off as his own in a slam.

The reply from the Copper State organizer: "I took your concern of plagiarism very seriously in the past, considering it myself and speaking with a variety of other people about it. Respectfully, I disagree with your assessment of the piece."

The evidence above clearly shows Stanton plagiarized Francisco. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Plagiarizing someone as well-known, well-respected as Francisco, dishonors our state's poetry community, (as well as being just plain stupid; Francisco's work is also all over the Internet and thus easy to find and compare). The Copper State Poetry Slam is supposed to showcase the best of Arizona's poetry community. Having a proven plagiarize host the event undermines the event's integrity.

Stanton should be removed as the host of the Copper State Poetry Slam finals and replaced with someone with honor and integrity. There are dozens of other poets, performers and organizers who could host this event.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"The Envy of the Moon" by Christopher Fox Graham

"The Envy of the Moon"
By Christopher Fox Graham

The Arizona desert is so silent
that on a night like this
you can hear the Moon

because of the distance between here and there
it takes time for messages to pass between us
but tonight I ask,
"Moon, do you envy the Earth?"
on most nights,
the Moon remains silent in the night sky
unwilling or unable to reply
but tonight,
tonight on the breath of the wind
deep and slow like it had centuries of time to contemplate an answer
I heard the Moon whisper, "Yes."

when speaking with heavenly bodies
you must slow your mind
understand that they do not enunciate impatiently
every syllable takes time to shake free of its surface
so they only speak when gravity is worth the weight

"Yes, I envy the Earth," the Moon said
"we were lovers
born in the same fire
spinning like dancers drunk on each other
shattered by craters which made us old before our time
but across her
oceans hide her secrets
I pull at them hoping to see her again

I lost sight of her beneath all the green
across her, moving things became too many to count
the noise of it is deafening

your people covered across her plains
cut geometric squares that now change with the seasons
cities spread from sea coast up her rivers to the mountains
and places in between
threads of lines connect them all
you people shake loose so much of my old lover
I barely recognize her
and I wondered what is so important
that you were so busy for so long

and then a few of you came to visit
planted your feet and your flags on my skin
said things close to me
there was no time to wait for the echo like before
it was overwhelming
the Earth feels like this every day
and i'm certain some days it's more than she can take
but I would give anything to feel it again

you had stared at me for so many generations
your desire to reach me was burned into your bones
so happy to be the first
you left your names engraved in stone for those afterward

and then I knew what she felt
why she held you so tightly
why she changed herself after every eruption or impact
it was to give a few of you a chance to survive
it was the only way we could touch again

you came to visit
but none of you stayed
you left me here
and I did not know I was lonely until you were gone

but I will tell you a secret:

deep in your American South
in the bayou of a delta
there is a man who sits nightly on his porch
as the sun dips below the horizon
he plays his guitar for hours
I can narrow my vision to see his face like he was sitting here
he plays and stares at me
like we are old friends

the lunar desert is so silent
that on a night like this
you can hear single note

because of the distance between here and there
it takes time for messages to pass between us

but I strain to listen
and I know I must compensate for the delay
deafen all the other songs and stories
so I can hear what he has to sing
but on a night like tonight
on the breath of the wind
he sings of being alone

I count you daily
there are 7 billion of you around him
some within miles
be he, he is alone
profoundly nakedly alone
as though he, like me, had been alone in the dark for centuries
but remembers what it was like to be loved and touched once
and when stares at me, he knows that only I know what he feels
he sings to me
he sings for me
he sings because I
do not know how

so, yes, I envy the Earth
I want you to be here
I want your cities to spread across these ancient craters
I want to be so deep beneath your feet that I am forgotten
because you are staring out at other worlds to touch
I want you to no longer call me the Moon like I am a stranger
but 'home' because this is where you spent your lives
this is where you want to be buried
this is where you want to leave from
and never look back

I envy the Earth
because she has this," the Moon said
"she has you"

A colonized moon




Christopher Fox Graham © 2014