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 670,000 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.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sedona Arts Center hosts Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Dec. 16

The Sedona Poetry Slam returns Saturday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m. at the Sedona Arts Center, 15 Art Barn Road, Uptown Sedona.

Lauren Perry, of Phoenix, won the Sedona Poetry Slam on Nov. 4. She has represented Phoenix at the
Utah Poetry Festival, several National Poetry Slams, the Individual World Poetry Slam and the
Women of the World Poetry Slam. The next Sedona Poetry Slam will be held at 7:30 p.m.,
Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Sedona Arts Center, 15 Art Barn Road, Uptown.
A poetry slam is like a series of high-energy, three-minute one-person plays. Slam poetry is an art form that allows written page poets to share their work alongside theatrical performers, hip-hop artists and lyricists. 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 and inspire the audience with their creativity.

All poets are welcome to compete for the $75 grand prize and $25 second-place prize. To compete in the slam, poets will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted. The poets are judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam.

Poets in the Sedona Poetry 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.

The first slam of the season was held Nov. 4 at the Sedona Arts Center. The next five slams move to the Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. SR 89A, Suite A-3, in West Sedona, on Saturdays, Dec. 30, Feb. 3, April 7, May 5 and May 26.

Tickets are $12. For tickets to the Sedona Arts Center slams, call 282-3809 or visit sedonaartscenter.org. For tickets to the Mary D. Fisher Theatre slams, call 282-1177 or visit SedonaFilmFestival.org

The 2017-18 season will culminate in selection of Sedona’s seventh National Poetry Slam Team, the foursome and alternate who will represent Sedona and the Verde Valley at the National Poetry Slam in Chicago in August.

The Last Chance Slam on May 26 will be the final opportunity for poets who want to qualify for the 2018 Grand Slam. With every regular slam, poets earn points toward a slot in the Grand Slam, on Saturday, June 9. The poets who make the Sedona National Poetry Slam Team at the final contest will represent Sedona and share the stage with 350 of the top poets in the United States, Canada and Europe at the week-long National Poetry Slam in Chicago in August.

Sedona sent its first team to the 2012 NPS in Charlotte, N.C., its second to the 2013 NPS in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., and its third and fourth to Oakland, Calif., its fifth to Decatur, Ga., and its sixth to Denver. For more information, visit foxthepoet.blogspot.com.

The prize money is funded in part by a donation from Verde Valley poetry supporters Jeanne and Jim Freeland.

Contact host Christopher Fox Graham at foxthepoet@yahoo.com to sign up to slam early by Friday, Dec. 15, or arrive at the door by 7 p.m. to sign up the day of the slam. Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive. The Sedona Poetry Slam will be hosted by Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on 10 FlagSlam National Poetry Slams in 2001, 2004-06, 2010 and 2012-17. Graham has hosted the Sedona Poetry Slam since 2009.

What is Poetry Slam?
Founded at the Green Mill Tavern in Chicago in 1984, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport designed to get people who would otherwise never go to a poetry reading excited about the art form when it becomes a high-energy competition. 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. Slam poets have opened at the 2010 Winter Olympics, performed at the White House and at the United Nations General Assembly and were featured on "Russell Simmon's Def Poets" on HBO.

For more information, visit poetryslam.com or the PSi channel on YouTube.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Sedona Poetry Slam season kicks off on Saturday, Nov. 4

The Sedona Poetry Slam begins its slam season on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Sedona Arts Center, 15 Art Barn Road, Uptown Sedona. 

A poetry slam is like a series of high-energy, three-minute one-person plays. Slam poetry is an art form that allows written page poets to share their work alongside theatrical performers, hip-hop artists and lyricists. 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 and inspire the audience with their creativity.

All poets are welcome to compete for the $75 grand prize and $25 second-place prize. To compete in the slam, poets will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted. The poets are judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam.

Poets in the Sedona Poetry 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.

The second slam will be at the Sedona Arts Center on Saturday, Dec. 16. The following five slams will take place at Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. SR 89A, Suite A-3, in West Sedona, on Saturdays, Dec. 30, Feb. 3,  April 7, May 5 and May 26.

Tickets are $12. For tickets to the Sedona Arts Center slams, call 282-3809 or visit sedonaartscenter.org. For tickets to the Mary D. Fisher Theatre slams, call 282-1177 or visit SedonaFilmFestival.org

The 2017-18 season will culminate in selection of Sedona's seventh National Poetry Slam Team, the foursome and alternate who will represent Sedona and the Verde Valley at the National Poetry Slam in Chicago in August. 

The Last Chance Slam on May 26 will be the final opportunity for poets who want to qualify for the 2018 Grand Slam. With every regular slam, poets earn points toward a slot in the Grand Slam, on Saturday, June 9. The poets who make the Sedona National Poetry Slam Team at the final contest will represent Sedona and share the stage with 350 of the top poets in the United States, Canada and Europe at the week-long National Poetry Slam in Chicago in August.

Sedona sent its first team to the 2012 NPS in Charlotte, N.C., its second to the 2013 NPS in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., and its third and fourth to Oakland, Calif., its fifth to Decatur, Ga., and its sixth to Denver. For more information, visit foxthepoet.blogspot.com.

The prize money is funded in part by a donation from Verde Valley poetry supporters Jeanne and Jim Freeland.

Contact host Christopher Fox Graham at foxthepoet@yahoo.com to sign up to slam early by Friday, Nov. 3, or arrive at the door by 7 p.m. to sign up the day of the slam. Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive. The Sedona Poetry Slam will be hosted by Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on 10 FlagSlam National Poetry Slams in 2001, 2004-06, 2010 and 2012-17. Graham has hosted the Sedona Poetry Slam since 2009.

What is Poetry Slam?
Founded at the Green Mill Tavern in Chicago in 1984, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport designed to get people who would otherwise never go to a poetry reading excited about the art form when it becomes a high-energy competition. 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. Slam poets have opened at the 2010 Winter Olympics, performed at the White House and at the United Nations General Assembly and were featured on "Russell Simmon's Def Poets" on HBO.

For more information, visit poetryslam.com or the PSi channel on YouTube.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

40 years ago today, Voyager 1 left Earth, never again to return home.


The entirety of our species may be this one golden record. This is the entirety of the recording.



This audio recording of Bulgarian folk sing Valya Balkanska performing “Izlel e Delyu Haydutin,” is one of several songs on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes.

"The Golden Record"
A poem for the Voyager 1 & 2 spacecraft
By Christopher Fox Graham

Valya Balanska
in 60,000 years
when the human race is extinct
racing at a geologic pace to fossilize ourselves
next to dinosaurs
Valya Balkanska will still be singing
she may be the last
and only voice
the galaxy knows of our species

to tell her story
I must begin at the beginning:
we all shared the same neighborhood once
when matter didn’t matter so much
but FLASH-BANG! scattered us
like children
from doors of school
on the last day before summer
some stayed close to home
while others wanted to see how far away they could run

and when they began to pick up the pieces
they clung to each other so tightly
you could feel the gravity of it all
but these rocky asteroids and gas giants
comets of ice and terrestrials covered in methane or argon
stare across the vacuum playing telephone with each other
and wonder if they’ll ever touch again

can you hear them?
they speak slow
some syllables take millions of years to finish
but out in the black
are so many lost marbles
they number a billion billion for each one of us here
they, too, were born blind in the dark
wondering, “what is this place”“
and “where did I come from?”
they cling to the nearest glowing stars
like lost children
terrified to be alone

The Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977.
among the sea
in a stretch of nebula
on one of those marbles
unremarkable in its ordinariness
a thump-pulse of moving things speaks so fast
the planets can’t understand the gibberish
but they love the sound of it all
it reminds them of a split moment in lost memory
when we all were dancing on the head of a pinprick

those creatures, they say,
have sent ambassadors into the stars
riding radio waves in images and sounds
but we have no way to answer, just to listen
a few constructions of metal
have sailed into the dark bearing their dreams
like messages in bottles
so if they annihilate themselves
in a flash of fire
or by eating up all the matter on which they survive
something will remain to prove
there was some magic once

The Golden Record with encoded messages about how to play it,
Earth's location triangulated with 14 pulsars, and information about
the hydrogen atom to give a point of measurement reference.
on one of those lost satellites called Voyager
now 18 billion miles away from a home
it will never see again
is a golden record
and instructions to play it
so if, in eons hence
on some other marble, wiser life sprouts
and in their wild youth,
breaks the laws of gravity
they may find it floating wandering in the dark
and hear the sounds

of us

those alien discoverers may not get past the wonder
of greetings in 55 different human languages
saying in Begali “Hello! Let there be peace everywhere.”
or in Indonesian “Good night ladies and gentlemen.” and
“Goodbye and see you next time.”

after hearing “Johnny B. Goode”
they may crusade the stars
searching for Earth
and more Chuck Berry
they may listen over and over
to the perfect precision of Beethovan’s 5th symphony

or the unleased joy in the Peruvian wedding song

1½ tons of metal
weighing nothing in the ether
carries our billion conversations
every love story
every epic poem
every genocide and celebrity wedding
every nation to rise and fall
every miracle
manmade or otherwise

1½ tons of metal
carries the weight of 10,000 years of human history
on a record barely an hour long

But when they hear Valya Balkanska sing“Izlel e Delyu Haydutin,”
our evolution and extinction will not have been in vain

those alien discoverers
may not have tears
but they will know we did
they may not understand grief
but the first sound they utter afterward
will become it
they will understand
why we could not bear to be alone
when there were so many lost marbles
aching to feel footsteps
the touch of stargazing strangers
they will know there was good in us
and they may even call us 
“brothers”

to the creatures who find Voyager:
you may not have a song to mourn your dead
but as Valya’s haunting melody
and the Bulgarian pipes
retch all the sorrow of a million human generations 
into the stars one last time
you have a mourning song now

and Valya,
Valya will sing it for us







Bulgarian lyrics

Излел е Делю хайдутин,
хайдутин ян кеседжия
с Домбовци и Караджовци.
Зароча Дельо пороча
Дериденските аяне,
айяне, кабадаие:
- Две лели имам в селоно,
да ми ги не потурчите,
да ми ги не почърните,
че кога флезем в селоно,
млого щат майки да плачат,
по-млого млади нивести,
дете ще в корем проплака.

Гюлсюме Делю заръча:
- Варди са, Делю, чувай са,
канят са да та примажат,
деридеренски аяне,
аяне, кабадаие:
сребърен куршум ти леят,
та ще та, Делю, удрият.
- Гюлсюме, любе Гюлсюме,
не са е родил чилякън,
дену ще Деля примаже.

English translation

Deljo the hayduk went out,
the hayduk, the rebel
with the Dumbovi and the Karadjovi clans.
Deljo gave the following orders
to the brazen-faced governors of Zlatograd:
- "There are two aunts of mine in the village.
Do not make them Turks,
do not besmirch them,
because when I come back
a lot of mothers will cry,
a lot of young brides,
and unborn children."

Gyulsume told Deljo:
- "Beware, Deljo, beware,
you are being threatened, Deljo
the Zlatograd rulers,
the brazen-faced governors,
they cast a silver bullet
for you, Deljo, to kill you."

- "Gyulsume, my love Gyulsume,
not yet is born a man
who could kill me."

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"Home" by Warsan Shire

Photograph by Daniet Etter/New York Times/Redux /eyevine.
Syrian refugee Laith Majid cries tears of joy and relief that he and his children have made it to Europe.

"Home" by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles traveled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here





Warsan Shire is a 24-year-old Kenyan-born Somali poet, writer and educator based in London. Born in 1988, Shire has read her work extensively all over Britain and internationally - including readings in South Africa, Italy, Germany, Canada, North America and Kenya- and her début book, 'Teaching my Mother How to Give Birth," was published in 2011. Her poems have been published in Wasafiri, Magma and Poetry Review and in the anthology "The Salt Book of Younger Poets." She is the current poetry editor at SPOOK magazine. In 2012 she represented Somalia at the Poetry Parnassus, the festival of the world poets at the Southbank, London. She is a Complete Works II poet. Her poetry has been translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Shire is also the unanimous winner of the 2013 inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize.

Monday, January 9, 2017

"I am echoes of empty moments" by Christopher Fox Graham




I am echoes of empty moments
the days with you:
drunk-night glimmers
flashing into sober mornings
reminding what was when;

you are 200-proof moon-shine moonshine
the press of your sleeping hips
hangovering me
headaches of your smile
body aches of your kisses
AA means something else
and there are twelve-hundred steps
to recovery
I cannot piss your DNA out from my liver
it’s deeper than my bones
shotgunning kegstands of your arms around me

I want you, summer lemonade
sweet-and-sour kick in the teeth
burrowing corkscrew cavities into molars
your mint-julep biceps holding me down
your voice a gazebo piano ballad
earworming a melody the rest of me misharmonizes

this old body was too young in you
you, too old for the time we had
we charted inevitability
we lived the prequel of the now-that-must-be
we plotlined the time-travel TV movies
we echoed thunder before the lightning
and in the now-that-must-be,
20-20 foreshadowing hindsights foresight

I still get drunk you in the moonlight
shape constellations into us
dismiss the stars that don’t connect
as figments of imagination
we, too stubborn to let the heavens disappoint

outside this skin built of metal adamantium strong
unbreakable in the winter sun
but inside the boy still shimmers in your afterglow
someone I knew once
he shared my bones
hoped so hard for fate to fail
hoped so hard time was a hiccup
we could reshape in our image

but without étui, the bedsheets of time
only fold now to then
never make now then
inside, he’s running away with you
flying elsewhere on someone else’s wings
but cannot escape this unventilated skin
he’ll suffocate in
rather than breathe new air

I’m supposed to be stronger than this
stoically accept your absence as a must-be
pass on the days without tears
get over you as all things do
fish-in-the-sea-ing our moments into someone else
less shimmeringly iridescent
but I can’t
I don’t know how
and I have no one to tell,
so your DNA leaks out of my liver
cirrhosising me to death
no one sees the lesions
covering this skin in a new armor
fresh-milk skin in each dawn
stitched together with dried salt threads

because you slipped in under the skin
some night when we shared the same bedroom air
fermented in our sweet sweat and whispers –
in dreams, all my stalwartness comes for naught
I cannot bleed you from my blood
you pump my broken-glass heart into synapses
irresistant when I sleep
reconstituting you back into being nightly

resever these heels so I can’t outrun you
torment me, tied to a kitchen chair
from these lips, draw some hallelujah,
which sounds more like your name
than any heavenly hymn
or late-night radio replay on backcountry roads

tonight as the sun sets and overweight lids heavyize
no volume of drink or caffeine
can keep me from you
or you 
out of me

it’s why I fight sleep so desperately
whatever war I wage in daylight
your irredentist reconquest reseizes in moonlight
paradoxing our ontology

make this heart ache again
bodyslam my mind against my skull again
this is the only real I feel most days
and agony bests absence
because it means there’s still someone here
you

or me 

or someone in between

even if it’s just a boy’s death throes

memories

bleeding out








Christopher Fox Graham © 2017

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Lumberjacking is the World’s Most Dangerous Profession" by Christopher Fox Graham

lumberjacking is the world’s most dangerous profession
falling trees and limbs slay lumberjacks at a rate
30 times higher than average
breaking bones a dozen times daily

these arms are not built to fell trees
these hands not built to wield axes or chainsaws
I am no lumberjack
but I know the sound of a tree falling in a forest
we do not know how many died
to build this stage
to erect these room
to raise this roof

poetry is the world’s most dangerous art form
suicide and addiction and overdose slay poets
at a rate not measured by the Bureau of Statistics
because we do not list "poet" as a profession
no matter how deep is in our bones

but I am a poet

these arms were built to climb trees
these hands to wield pen and microphone
the sound of a poet falling in a forest
sounds so much like a tree
even the Earth can't tell the difference
we do not know how many died
to raise this roof
to erect these room
to build this stage

I know no dead lumberjacks
but if I were to inscribe the names of all the dead poets
this body would be inkwell:

one drowned in the heat of lonely city
swallowing pills to stay afloat

one who found refuge in a bottle
until his liver took his heart in the divorce

one who shotgunned the worst of him
across pages of the best of him

one with the Will of a Haymaker
now Basquiating himself
with a heroin needle
refusing to hear us say "stop"

one who swam into the river
never intending to reach the far shore

one who relived his golden age
overdosing on methadone

one who named his son Oren
and told us to look it up
wrote that one day his son would fall,
but a poet would there to catch him

and another poet

and another

and another

I know no lumberjacks
but I know they must weep like I do
whenever these names come flooding back

we do not build furniture or homes or monuments or empires
tangibility that can exist without the living
we only leave behind our words
which yellow and age over time
only existing if we read or speak them
but there are too many words now
and not enough time
and I'm beginning to forget
and there's no one here to help

lumberjacks take refuge in the woods
work beneath the leaves
take revenge on the limbs and trees
that slew their brothers
but we poets have nowhere to go
but back to these pages
to these microphones
to these slam stages
where we pour out our rage
it's why we're always shouting
a Dead Poets Society
is trapped in our throats

I'm not even supposed to be here
there's too much sin,
sloth
and pride
to be a Speaker of the Dead
to bear this burden of survivor
I am the Devil's bad luck
and the Grim Reaper's off days

I am tired of burying our dead
of toasting our fallen as conquering heroes
of retelling all the same old stories
to those old poets who can remember
before the needle drained
the pills slowed
the bullet shattered
the depression became too much to bear

I am tired of telling new young poets
about who came before
or how their newest stanza
can make me weep
because it sounds so much like someone
they can read but never meet
they don't need this added weight
while learning to fly
I am tired of telling still-living poets
with one foot in the graveyard
and one hand on a needle
that I don't deserve to outlive them

one poet named his son “Pine Tree” in Hebrew
wrote that one day he would fall
I am no lumberjack
but I will ready to catch him
because a poet said to


I can build nothing
but this
this is a promise I can keep






Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sedona Poetry Slam hosts Individual World Poetry Slam qualifyer on Saturday, Aug. 20

Slam poets will assemble for the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Aug. 20, to choose Sedona’s representative for the 2016 Individual World Poetry Slam. Poets are invited to compete at the first slam of the 2016-17 season, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. SR 89A, Suite A-3, in West Sedona.

All poets are welcome to compete for the $75 grand prize and $25 second-place prize. 

 Call Mary D. Fisher Theatre at 282-1177 or visit SedonaFilmFestival.org. Contact host Christopher Fox Graham at foxthepoet@yahoo.com to sign up to slam.


Individual World Poetry Slam

FlagSlam and Poetry Slam Inc. international nonprofit present the 2016 Individual World Poetry Slam, the four-day poetry slam festival from Wednesday to Saturday, Oct. 12 to 15, created by PSi giving poets the opportunity to compete outside of a team competition for the title of the Individual World Poetry Slam champion. The ninth annual event will bring world acclaimed feature performers, poetry and performance workshops, specialty slams, open mics and events for all ages to Flagstaff.
The contenders will hail from every major North American city including Phoenix, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Vancouver, Canada, as well as countries around the world such as Australia, France and Germany. Participants will compete in two days of preliminary competitions, culminating in a final clash of the top 12 on the final stage.
The festival will host a slew of side events and workshops, including the ever popular Nerd Slam, featuring poetry focused on comic books, fantasy, science, engineering, science fiction and anime, hosted by Phoenix poet Bernard “The Klute” Schober and featuring panelists like lightsaber-armed “Star Wars” nerd specialist Graham.

The slam will also pick the winning poet who will represent Sedona at the Arizona Poetry Society annual conference in November.



What is Poetry Slam?
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 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 and inspire the audience with their creativity.

Poets in the Sedona Poetry 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.

To compete in the slam, poets will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted. The poets are 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 prize money is funded in part by a donation from Verde Valley poetry supporters Jeanne and Jim Freeland.

Sedona Poetry Slam
 The Sedona Poetry Slam will be hosted by Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on nine FlagSlam National Poetry Slams in 2001, 2004-06, 2010 and 2012-16. Graham has hosted the Sedona Poetry Slam since 2009.

The slam is the first of the 2016-17 season, which will culminate in selection of Sedona’s sixth National Poetry Slam Team, the foursome and alternate who will represent the city and the Verde Valley at the National Poetry Slam in Denver in August.

The final Grand Poetry Slam takes place next spring to determine the team. The poets who make the team to represent Sedona will share the stage at the week-long National Poetry Slam with 350 of the top poets in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Sedona sent its five-poet first team to the 2012 NPS in Charlotte, N.C., its second to the 2013 NPS in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., and its third and fourth to Oakland, Calif., and the fifth to Decatur, Ga.

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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"She is Kissable Violet-Pink" by Christopher Fox Graham

She is kissable violet-pink
all radiant silver laugh lines
beneath upscale eyes offering underbrewed coffee
to a highway rat fresh off the road
nickel smiles traded for news stories and directions

she is a next-morning destination
an I’ll-be-back-again
a when-do-you-get-off?-too-forward-too-brash bitten tongue
till it bleeds crimson lotus blossoms

her thank-you handshake turns heart to whipped mint

if home was not five hours across the ripe peach Arizona desert
I would ask to make her my morning
until liver turned mild evergreen in decades hence
and ate me alive from the inside
her hips, my early morning sun
even under cloudy skies

I could swallow her until arching back scrapes the heavens
until she swears the sun
has changed to Niagara reef jade
until she forgot the language of ancestors
and this modern tongue
due to mine
swallowed the stars
and spoke something celestial
best translated as
“applause please”

"Near Telluride" by Christopher Fox Graham

Near Telluride
where blue edge sky
cut razor across the lucky clover forest
is the balcony sunset of the gods
whatever names you want to call them
my soft wine soul is too heavy with sins and sulfides
to ever reach their heavens
but if there is one
if must look something like this
when glittering sun
turns the morning lakes into skylight views
long ago they traded nectar for sweet tea
sit on Olympian porches with hound dogs
and talk about the good old days of Troy
the well-bred brown earth draws them here like a magnet
until sunset turns skies raspberry pink
and the begin to Alzheimer’s themselves into oblivion
and we forever lose their names to the mist

"Cross the velvet rope" by Christopher Fox Graham

Cross the velvet rope
and enter the bright black raspberry night
there’s not a cloud in sight
to interrupt views of statuesque night
golden cactus flowers send candy drop letters
to the green sprouts in the east
growing beneath the etched glass glow of cities
turned antique olive by the grime
when we extinct ourselves the sun will glow
bright again beneath our carcasses
and meadow flower yellow will rise
as skyscrapers fall

Friday, May 20, 2016

Arizona's top 12 compete to join Sedona's National Poetry Slam Team on May 28

On Saturday, May 28, the best poets in Arizona will compete in the 2016 Sedona Poetry Grand Slam, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. State Route 89A, Suite A-3. The event is the biggest poetry slam of the year because the winners will go on to the national competition. Poets competed at six slams over the last eight months, earning points through wins just to be able to compete on the Grand Slam stage.

The slam is the climax the 2016 season, when the audience will select the foursome and alternate to officially represent Sedona and the Verde Valley at the National Poetry Slam in Decatur, Ga., in August. Poets in the slam come from as far away as Phoenix and Flagstaff, competing against adult poets from Sedona, college poets from Northern Arizona University, and youth poets from Sedona Red Rock High School's Young Voices Be Heard slam group.

Sedona sent its 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 and fourth to Oakland last two years.

The Sedona Poetry Grand Slam will be hosted by Sedona poet Christopher Fox Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on 10 FlagSlam National Poetry Slams between 2001 and 2016.Graham has hosted the Sedona Poetry Slam since 2009.

Some of the 12 top poets who will compete on June 6 include:

Josh Wiss

Josh Wiss is a 25-year-old poet who is bound to a lifestyle constant creativity. He attended his first poetry slam in fall 2010 and has been addicted to the art form ever since. A self-proclaimed “feeler,” Wiss lives life riding the oscillating waves of a water sign. He has dedicated his life to embracing the purity of existence and trying to transcribe experiences through a variety of expressive mediums. Whether he is plucking ukulele strings, painting vibrant panels or pouring poetry onto pages, Wiss attempts to completely envelop himself in each of his works.
His poetry is raw and often reflects an optimistic side of his personality. Obsessed with bold colors and blowing bubbles, a childlike energy inhabits his performances. Wiss has been to the National Poetry Slam on both the Sedona and Flagstaff teams in previous years.
 

Evan Dissinger

Evan Dissinger is 25 years old and currently living in West Sedona. He has been involved with slam poetry since 2008 and has been on three national teams; 2008 with FlagSlam and again in 2012 and 2015 as a member of team Sedona.
Dissinger lives with one cat and is often found hunched over a canvas or cruising on a skateboard when not at his restaurant day job.
Dissinger is an inquisitive Aquarius with a unique interpretation of the world around him. Dissinger caries a timid boldness that can be found reflected in his art.

The Klute aka Bernard Schober

Phoenix-area crackpot Jerome du Bois once said of The Klute: "You have one of the blackest hearts I've ever had the misfortune to glimpse," so in 2007, The Klute received an upgrade.
With the implantation of a freestyle bioprosthesis, The Klute now has "superior flow characteristics." His heart remains blacker than ever.
The Klute, part man, part machine, all of him sarcastic, is a fixture of the Arizona poetry scene, having been on five National Slam Poetry Teams from Mesa (2002-2003, 2005-2006, and 2010) and five from Phoenix (2008-2009, 2012-2014), and is the winningest slam poet in the state.
He has been published in anthologies by Write Bloody and Sergeant Press. He's a one-man psy-ops campaign bringing the system down from inside. He buys low and sells high. He keeps the Grim Reaper on speed dial and his absinthe on ice.

Rowie Shebala

Roanna "Rowie" Shebala, a Native American spoken word artist, of the Diné – Navajo – Tribe was born and raised on the Navajo Nation.
"Yá’át’ééh shik’éí dóó shidine’é
Shí éí Roanna Shebala yinishyé
Tsé Ńjíkiní nishłį́
Deeshchii’nii bashishchiin
Too'soni' dashicheii
Naasht’ézhí dashinalí"
Given the gift of storytelling from her father she combines story, poetry, and performance.
Shebala constantly brings the voice of her heritage into her performance, and written work often treading into spaces where hearing native voices is unlikely.
In doing so, she hopes to reframe what it means to be a Native person for the masses, point out the appropriation of her people's culture, and reclaim an identity that has perverted by heavily edited versions of history, the invisibilization of indigenous peoples today, and the use of those people as caricatures for mass amusement. Shebala represented Sedona at the Women of the World Poetry Slam last year and performed as a featured guest poet at New York City's Lincoln Center in August.

Valence

Tyler "Valence" Sirvinskas is a performance poet and new media artist based in Arizona.
Spoken word, performance art, electronic music, and visual art are all elements of Valence's artistic vision. In 2011, he began competing in poetry slams, and represented Flagstaff at the 2011 National Poetry Slam. In 2012, he won the Sedona Grand Slam, and in 2013 secured a spot on the Sedona National Poetry Slam Team.
Valence has lived in Arizona for the last decade, but was born in and spent his childhood in Chicago. Part of the last generation to know first-hand what life was like before the internet, Valence is grateful for anything that makes people silence their smartphones.
In the future, Valence has plans for touring, various projects, and a new style of performance art that combines spoken word with live video and music. At only 24 years of age, he's still somewhat green but definitely done screwing around.

Kaycee Pearson

A recent graduate of Sedona Red Rock High School, Kaycee Pearson is the younger sister of Claire Pearson, who has been on three Flagstaff National Poetry Slam teams, in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and represented Flagstaff at the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Kaycee Pearson is equally talented and recently had her poetry published in "Petrogyphs: Lucid Dreams," the annual SRRHS literary book. "It wouldn't be a Sedona Poetry Slam without a Pearson at the helm," Graham said.
 

Other poets may include Gary Every, Jess Ballantyne, Tara Aitken, Robert Chandler Gonzales, Taylor Marie, Kenny Kreslake, Diana Stoneberg and Lauren Perry.


FlagSlam team members will perform between rounds at the Sedona Poetry Grand Slam. Tickets 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 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.

At Nationals, the Sedona National Poetry Slam Team will share the stage with 300 of the top poets in the United States, Canada and Europe. While the highlight of the event in the competition, the week is filled with writing workshops, featured performances, themed readings and a handful of "underground" poetry competitions.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sedona Poetry Grand Slam




Grand Slam
Poet Total Points Rank order on  6/28/2016
Josh Wiss 17 1 12
Evan Dissinger 14 2 11
The Klute 9 3 10
Christopher Fox Graham 6 4
On FlagSlam
Ryan Smalley 5 5
On FlagSlam
Claire Pearson 5 6
On FlagSlam
Rowie Shebala 3 7 9
Valence 3 8 8
Gary Every 3 8 7
Josh Floyd 3 10 5
Jess Ballantyne 3 10 6
Tara Aitken 2 11 4
Gabbi Jue 1 12
On FlagSlam
Taylor Marie 1 12 3
Ali Daly 1 13 2
David 1 13 2
Diana Stoneberg 1 13 2
Kaycee Pearson 1 13 2
Kenny Kreslake 1 13 2
Kim Possible 1 13
On FlagSlam
Lauren Perry 1 13 2
Robert Chandler Gonzales 1 13 2

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"This Heart is Just a Muscle" by Christopher Fox Graham

you point to it
and ask "what does it say?"

"nothing"

this heart is just a muscle
beats and blood
red meat
pumping
keeping this body moving
love does not live there

a ribcage prisoner
blind, it will never see the sun
never look upon you
deaf, it will never hear your name
no matter how closely you whisper it
handless, it will never jerk the steering wheel into a U-turn
back to you
it trusts the rest of me
moving symphonically
to avoid a billion red passengers
spilling onto the asphalt or the carpet
through an open wound

if it had desire
it would be for silence beyond a locked door
so it could work uninterrupted

if I'm lucky
it will count 4.4 billion beats
before gunshot or nuclear explosion or lightning bolt
halts the countdown to infinity

this heart is just a muscle
love does not live there
and you cannot change that
no matter how sweet your words slip out
no matter how your curves pull me to lock my hips with yours
and match your rhythms
this heart is just a muscle
love does not live there

but inside this skull
are a trillion neurons firing at random
holding the smell of my grandfather's wheatfields in August
the feel of baseball threads
a gaggle of palindromic primes
the echo of 50 lovers' names
dialects of this singular tongue

whatever this is
the contours of your body
the weight of your name in my ears
the taste of you still in my mouth
it floats somewhere in there
an elusive bolt electricity near lightspeed
billiard-balling the gray matter net
and what it says depends on the impact of ricochets and shockwaves
punching memories of you
into waking moments

if I could purge your infection with antibodies
I would have bled you out months ago

we were not built to hold each other this hard
but I'm unable to unhook you from the rest of me
our houses of cards are built on the day before
and time can’t moonwalk

we are broken machines
with imperfect parts
but if there is love anywhere
it is a frozen moment of you holding me

there is no antivirus to cut you loose
no hard reboot of these systems

I am a ribcage prisoner
of this unrelenting heart
it’s just a muscle
beating blood to all the parts of me
that can still measure the millimeters of your smile
hear you cry my name without consonants
remember how you would pin me down
so we would sleep chest to chest
barenaked in the afternoons
symphonically every muscle still aches your name
still yearns the echoes


this hermetic heart is just a muscle
and it says nothing
love does not live there 
it doesn't have to
the rest of me is so loud with you
I couldn't hear it anyway







2016 © Christopher Fox Graham