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.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Workplace Revelation

I'm not a television watcher, but Greg Ruland is Michael Scott, only there is no Dwight Schrute in the newsroom.

Ruland pours incompetence like a fountain.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Have Gun, Will Speak Freely

Have Gun, Will Speak Freely
Sedona Gun Club Practices Second Amendment To Enforce The First
By Nate Hansen
944 Magazine © 2007

On a living room bookshelf, rising floor to ceiling, ranges an arsenal of literature from Friedrich Nietzsche to Dante Alighieri, David Sedaris to Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Chapbooks written by people otherwise unpublished sit among poems and books from the beats; inspiration some days, history others. Five miles away, off a winding road between a tourist town and lavish resort, the same book lovers worm through rounds from .40- and .45-caliber handguns, a .32-caliber pistol, a .30-06 rifle, a 12-gauge and an AK-47. At home, book jackets. At the firing range, full metal jackets.

Greg Nix and Christopher Fox Graham are the 20-something visionaries and organizers of Sedona Gun Club. Once a month, they gather like-minded people who relish in the idea of popping off rounds after sounding off poetry, haikus, quotes or jokes. You see, this isn't an ordinary gun club. First rule of Sedona Gun Club, there is no Sedona Gun Club. Actually, that's not true, but it's hard to resist saying it.

The Sedona Gun Club originated as the brainchild of writer and friend Nate Hansen [in case you haven't noticed, the writer of this article], but shortly thereafter was adopted and given life by Nix and Graham. Its mission is to guarantee — and enforce if deemed necessary — the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution by making use of the succeeding amendments, specifically the Second Amendment's "right to bear arms."

During meetings, members must read written works — original or otherwise — before shooting any weapons. Afterwards, the ceremony continues with one copy archived for a future underground newsletter called The Report, while the second is fired upon. After all, words and guns have and always will be natural combatants, Nix and Graham say.

"We use poetry as targets for its metaphorical statement. A poem is an intentional, concentrated effusion of words encapsulating a moment, a feeling or an experience. A bullet is an intentional concentration of metal, gunpowder and purpose," Graham says. "Granted, the metaphor isn't why we created the gun club — we initially just wanted to shoot at targets — but it seems to be a way to explain our rationale for blasting holes in our art."

Nix sees things a little differently. Born and raised in Georgia, he prides himself for his Southern cynicism, yet always ends an argument in a gentlemanly way. He agrees with his friend in respect to why they do what they do with poetry and guns, but explains it in a broader sense.

"Poets are taken seriously in other countries because they are meant to challenge them, meant to speak truth to power, meant to question what others take as a given," Nix says. "Poets in this country are just trying to figure out how to pander to the widest base and sell merchandise. Why take somebody seriously when they already make it clear what they're all about?"

Nix slips on a pair of ear protectors and slides a 30-round clip into an AK-47. He continues his tirade, feeling for the import weapon's safety lever.
"Poets aren't taken seriously in this country because most poets in this country are fucking morons. Write me a poem that has something intelligent to add to this supposed national dialogue we fantasize we are engaged in," he continues. "We all know racism, bigotry and war is bad, but how about you tell me why instead of just jerking off to the latest groupthink babble that's put out there?"

Nix steps up to the firing line, flips down the safety so the weapon and range is "hot" and unloads an entire magazine of 7.62 on Graham's 1980s hi-fi stereo. Graham looks on, laughing as remnants of a Culture Club cassette is blown to smithereens and scattered beside empty bottles of beer and wine consumed the evening before.

"You hit eject," Ella Garrett, original member of SGC screams with her hands over her ears.

After Nix returns the weapon to its rightful owner, Graham loads four rounds of .30-06 into his rifle. As Nix did, Graham attempts to multitask conversation with gunfire — sometimes oil and water, sometimes gunpowder and flame.

"Being an armed poet makes sense in the shadow of the Patriot Act. First, it's knowing what type of literature we're checking out of the library, then it's restricting it, then it's banning certain speech as treasonous. A cabal pursing corporate wealth at the expense of the people's rights is far less likely to enact legislation restricting free speech if they knew their constituents had a breaking point and would back up their outrage with a forceful return of those rights," he says.

Graham kneels down in the ready, looking oddly like a British soldier during the Revolutionary War. He makes sure his cowboy hat is properly adjusted over ear protection and returns to pay full attention to his rifle. He looks through the scope and focuses on the bullet-ridden stereo, his former boom box.

"Put the needle on the record. Put the needle on the record," P.J. Robbins, newest member, sings tauntingly.

Boom!
Echoes ring out over the forest service area when Graham pulls on the trigger.
Boom!
A cloud of dust and disc jockey debris fly from nearly 100 yards away.
Boom!
A miss, but it seems half the hillside collapses as dirt showers from 20 feet above an embankment.
Boom!

After his fourth and final hit, Graham rises from his position and approaches the makeshift armory, all smiles.

"Pro-gun and anti-gun lobbies have a far too narrow view of the Second Amendment. At the same time, your neighbor probably doesn't need a howitzer to hunt pigeons, it also shouldn't restrict ownership to the police and military.

The Second Amendment is very clear, "a well-regulated militia" protects the nation in case of invasion, while the "right to bear arms" protects the free speech of the people from government infringement," he concludes without missing a beat.

Friends and members of SGC are familiar with the duo's eloquence and well-versed antics, but this is impressive. Chewing bubble gum and walking has nothing on blowing an old television away while citing Shakespeare.

Nix and Graham aren't only the organizers of Sedona Gun Club, they're housemates. Before they began sharing a two-bedroom home in West Sedona, they were rivals at slam poetry events. Each one varies in their writing style, political stance and personality, but when it comes to their views towards free speech, they're brethren.

Nix is from Georgia, but Graham is from Montana. He prides himself on a western heritage, and similar to Nix, a heritage that has never been one to rollover and say, "die." On the other hand, the fact they both sleep on nearly 1,000 rounds of ammunition stored under their beds is comforting as well. While other members of SGC take turns on weapons of their own, they step away for a moment to discuss the gun club's mission and vision. Nix notices a Starbucks' coffee cup sitting beside a semi-automatic weapon cooling near the center console of a pickup truck. He can't help but laugh, then begin another sociopolitical rant.

"America is just a longing for a plot of land you can guard with guns, a soapbox made out of empty beer cases, and a night sky willing to listen to all the crazy, shit-pot theories you dare to come up with," he says. "Something's always wrong with America, but then again, something's always wrong in a family, a group of friends, and your mental state at any given moment. If shit wasn't going wrong, we'd have nothing to bitch about. If we had nothing to bitch about, you'd have nothing to read. Peace, love and happiness is a goddamned boring state of mind and doesn't keep circulation up."

"These are critical times for civil rights, perhaps the most dangerous times for free speech in our history, " Graham chimes in quietly. "Hope for the best with a pen in one hand, but prepare for the worst with a firearm in the other. If the worst should befall us, the common people are going to look to poets for hope," he says.

After calming themselves with passive glances back toward the firing line, both Nix and Graham insist their intention is not to promote aggressive behavior towards any entity, whether it be foreign or domestic, but rather ensure the freedom of speech without censorship. In other words, SGC maintains one right by upholding another. Everything SGC uses — ammunition, weaponry and targets — is as legitimate as a person can get. Soon, the gun club plans on making it mandatory for all members to take a gun safety course. Some already have their CCW, a concealed carry permit. All in all, and odd as it seems, it's good fun for a good purpose.

"Being a poet and knowing how to use a weapon safely isn't a contradiction, despite the stereotype of socially liberal poets as nonviolent peaceniks," Graham says. Before rounding up bits and pieces of technical targets and empty shell casings, the two make plans for everyone to meet at the Martini Bar, one of Sedona's few spots for nightlife. Thirsty for a few Pabst Blue Ribbons and Oak Creek Ambers, members talk among themselves.

"Imagine scores of armed poets springing up across the West like Chuck Palahniuk's fight clubs or a Cacophony Society with ammunition," Graham says to a dreadlocked marksman.

For more information, to inquire on how to become a member or to visit a Sedona Gun Club meeting, visit http://www.myspace.com/sedona_gun_club or www.myspace.com/nate_hansen

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'm too tough for Canada - and never allowed to visit

Another thing I discovered on my vacation after trying to enter into Sasakatchewan to shoot a few photos. According to the Immigration Office in Ottawa, Canada, I am forbidden from ever entering that country. I have a nice little letter saying the same.

If I ever try to enter or are found in country, I'll be promptly arrested, jailed and subsequently deported. The immigration official I spoke to at the border checkpoint had a cute accent, though.
"I just want to let you know, Mr. Graham, that we are turning you back at this time and you're forbidden from ever entering Canada, eh."

On the plus side, it was the most polite country to ever kick me out of it.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

To The Girl Riding Shotgun

For Montana and Sarrah Wile

across this home country of rednecks and ranchers
the pages of my ancestry
turn backward to days
running barefoot over vetch and stones
when i stood much shorter
gracing the sweetgrass with elbows and shoulders
instead of the strained fingertips of today
memories flood back when i least expect them
lessons learned, loves lost,
childhood games and their innocence
before i translated the rules
and learned how to break them

the silhouettes of familiar landscapes
eagerly welcome me back as if they're the tourists
revisiting a boy they knew in their youth

these green wheat fields of farmer tans
these western hats signaling oncoming howdys
these selfless smiles from strangers
this countryside
this is home

a boy i knew once lives here
we shared the same name
wished on the same stars
jumped the same cricks together
and left the other behind
when we cut the cord
leaving him in the Rockies
while i wandered the deserts

we see each other still in dreams
and play tag with fawns, calves and cubs
that have yet to learn
our parents play predator and prey

he still plays on the hillsides i long for,
beneath fir trees overlooking the valley that once held me fast
along the yellowstone artery carving a canyon
our ancestors will see from orbit

his house is over the ridge,
somewhere
down this dusty stretch of gravel,
somewhere
in the shadow of flax and sweetpeas,
somewhere
i know the outline of the farm like a thumbprint
can pick it blindfolded from all the others
simply by the sound of the breeze
but the roads still seems unfamiliar
though the map clearly says it's here

and to the girl riding shotgun
all this land is as new
as it seems to me mostly
as i wait for the memories in bottles
to find me lost in this sea of rolling hills
beneath blue moons rising red in the blood of harvest
sometimes we're both awash anew in these fields
National Geographic anthropologists on assignment
deciphering a dialect with a common vocabulary
in others
she is only a passported traveler while i am timeless
standing swallowed by the sunset of red fields
touching my family's livelihood in the grain
reaching roots down deep into the land
that we love as a mother

bud lights, rodeos and hank williams
rise up from the soil
in the aftermath of a solid spring shower
as honky-tonk two-steps,
broad-rimmed stetsons
and a vigorous fiddle
shake free the alfalfa baled back home
and for a moment in the dim lights
old men remember being cowboys
while cowgirls look for old wives they will become

to understand montana
you must travel it by road
knowing that distances are measured in days, not hours
every stop is a must-see
because haybales are the only signs of human habitation
no matter what town you visit,
there's always a drink waiting at The Mint,
where the bartenders call you "hon,"
even if they know your name

lost locals identify themselves
by family name first
in the smallest towns
to which your bloodlines tie you
in montana,
family comes before the man

here, where death and life are cyclical
we learn young to converse honestly
because each visit
may be the last
until the hereafter
words are ties that bind

that boy i once knew
i see now grown up
behind the wheel of every beat-up Ford
that passes us
the girl riding shotgun learns
that the difference between
redneck and revolutionary
lies in the chance taken
by my parents
before i could even spell "poet"

that boy sees me, too
behind the wheel of every out-of-state plate
knowing that this boy looking for home,
somewhere
is on the interstate,
somewhere
dreaming of catching up,
somewhere
where the beer is cold
the jukebox plays only johnny cash
and on the drive back down country roads
the breezes bring back memories
on the parachutes of roadside dandelions

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The "Just Because" house party


Sometimes, parties need to happen "just because."

(Originally intended as a birthday party, but the guest of honor can't make it, so we're throwing the party just because.)

You've been hearing about the party since March, so here are the details:

Two live bands:
Yin Yang & Zen Some
and
The Tarantulas.

Film students from the Zaki Gordon Institute of Independent Filmmaking will be shooting a music video of Yin Yang & Zen Some's song "Robots Attack!" so come in your best digs and get ready for some screen time!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A Moment in Albuquerque

For R.A.

thump, thump
thump, thump
two hearts
one body

thump, thump
thump, thump
familiar landscapes drop away
in the rearview
summer moments falling behind
into the anxious embrace of the autumn
missed moons and winter choices
keep or cut loose

thump, thump
thump, thump
tires kiss asphalt
the way he kissed her
intentional and unavoidable
between the lines
between the sheets
the inevitable path onward
heads to skin to gas tank
skin to breath to pistons
breath to hips to axle
hips to rhythm to tires
rhythm to climax to road
and the headlights illuminate
the silent afterglow

thump, thump
thump, thump
the geography of bodies and maps
tell stories of our history
lovers' names tied inexorably to cities,
hometowns and vacation destinations
cities we've fled from or fled to
cities we met lovers or lost them
cities we've yet to see
or want to never see again
for her, Albuquerque carries a memory
most men can't comprehend
though the mathematics of the choice
we can calculate and counter
two bodies and a moment
equals three heartbeats in two skin
and a choice to subtract one in Albuquerque

thump, thump
thump, thump
November seems unseasonably cold
maybe it's the 80 mph highway wind
against the chassis
the silent air between them
as the miles tick by

thump, thump
thump, thump
what small talk should we have?
whatever slips of lips
seems woefully insignificant
if it evades the subject inside you
weather, road, womb, reaching fingers
desperate to comfort
so we say nothing
watch the passing headlights
chase the taillights ahead
from 89A to 17 to 40

thump, thump
Flagstaff
thump, thump
Holbrook
thump, thump
"Welcome to New Mexico"
one of you won't be leaving
thump, thump
Gallup
thump, thump
Albuquerque
thump, thump
we made the choice before we left
thump, thump
three becoming two
thump, thump
two heartbeats, one body
thump, thump
moment
thump, thump
choice
thump, thump
consequence

thump

thump

an equation
a city
a memory
and the ambivalent road

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Poetry open mic returns to Sedona

Spoken word and performance poetry returns to Sedona with the Sedona Poetry Open Mic, from 8 to 10 p.m., on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. The event kicks off on Tuesday, April 3.
The open mic takes place on the at the Old Marketplace stage, 1370 W. Hwy. 89A, West Sedona, between The Martini Bar and Ravenheart Coffee, both of which will supply coffee and alcoholic for the audience.
The open mic is open to all types of spoken word artists, from page poets, slam poets, spoken word artists, performance artists, storytellers and comedians.
The open mic is co-hosted by Greg Nix and Christopher Fox Graham, both of Sedona.
Originally from Atlanta and a veteran of the Flagstaff poetry scene, Nix is a performance poet and writer whose use of satire, sarcasm, irony and humor interplay with his political sensibilities and social commentary with a Southern sense of sincerity, according to a press release.
Graham is a slam poet whose work blends romantic longing, confessional honesty and personal introspection with a touch of Arizona humor, according to the release.
A veteran of the metro Phoenix and Flagstaff slam scenes, Graham has represented Northern Arizona as a member of four National Poetry Slam teams, won the 2004 NORAZ Grand Slam and the 2005 Arizona All-Star Slam.
The Martini Bar, Ravenheart Coffee New Frontiers Natural Marketplace will offer gift certificates for the best poets, as chosen by the audience.
The event is sponsored by the GumptionFest Artistic Support Foundation, a coalition of artists dedicated to supporting the arts in the Verde Valley.
For more information, call The Martini Bar at 282-9288, Graham at 1-520-921-0075 or visit www.gumptionfest.com

On April 20, 1999, during the Kosovo war, Kosovar Albanian poet Flora Brovina was abducted by eight masked Serb paramilitaries. On 9 Dec. 9, 1999, in a show trial, she was accused of 'terrorist activities' under Article 136 of the Yugoslav Penal Code. She spent a year and a half in Serb prisons before being released as a result of international pressure.

Irina Ratushinskaya, ???´?? ??????´?????, was arrested in 1979 and charged with anti-Soviet agitation for "the dissemination of slanderous documentation in poetic form." She was released on the eve of the summit in Reykjavík, Iceland, between President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in October 1986.

John O'Leary (1830 - 1907) was an Irish poet and Fenian (patriot in the Irish republican movement). In 1865, O'Leary was arrested in England, and tried on charges of conspiracy. He was sentenced to twenty years' penal servitude, of which nine years were spent in English prisons prior to his exile to Paris in 1874.

In 1990, the Burmese military junta charged Myo Myint Nyein, editor of Pay Phu Hlwar magazine and poet, with "organizing youths and students to create instability" through articles in the publication. While in prison, Myo Myint Nyein and other incarcerated colleagues clandestinely formed the "Press Freedom Movement". Because of his involvement in the "Press Freedom Movement", Myo Myint Nyein was sentenced to an additional seven years of hard labor.

Armando Valladares was a political prisoner and prisoner of conscience in Cuba. Valladares was jailed in 1960, at age 23, when the new regime under Fidel Castro began to crack down on dissidents. Valladares's refusal to participate in any political rehabilitation programs elicited a response from the government - 46 days without food. His weakened muscles relegated him to a wheelchair for 5 years. Valladares spent 22 years in prison before being released in 1982 and moving to the United States. President Ronald Reagan appointed Valladares to serve as the US ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. As head of the US delegation, he successfully brought Cuba before the commission for its human rights violations. Reagan would later confer on him the nation's highest civil honor, the Presidential Citizens Medal. Statistics from the BBC.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5081360.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2293991.stm

Poetry open mic returns to Sedona

Spoken word and performance poetry returns to Sedona with the Sedona Poetry Open Mic, from 8 to 10 p.m., on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. The event kicks off on Tuesday, April 3.
The open mic takes place on the at the Old Marketplace stage, 1370 W. Hwy. 89A, West Sedona, between The Martini Bar and Ravenheart Coffee, both of which will supply coffee and alcoholic for the audience.
The open mic is open to all types of spoken word artists, from page poets, slam poets, spoken word artists, performance artists, storytellers and comedians.
The open mic is co-hosted by Greg Nix and Christopher Fox Graham, both of Sedona.
Originally from Atlanta and a veteran of the Flagstaff poetry scene, Nix is a performance poet and writer whose use of satire, sarcasm, irony and humor interplay with his political sensibilities and social commentary with a Southern sense of sincerity, according to a press release.
Graham is a slam poet whose work blends romantic longing, confessional honesty and personal introspection with a touch of Arizona humor, according to the release.
A veteran of the metro Phoenix and Flagstaff slam scenes, Graham has represented Northern Arizona as a member of four National Poetry Slam teams, won the 2004 NORAZ Grand Slam and the 2005 Arizona All-Star Slam.
The Martini Bar, Ravenheart Coffee New Frontiers Natural Marketplace will offer gift certificates for the best poets, as chosen by the audience.
The event is sponsored by the GumptionFest Artistic Support Foundation, a coalition of artists dedicated to supporting the arts in the Verde Valley.
For more information, call The Martini Bar at 282-9288, Graham at 1-520-921-0075 or visit www.gumptionfest.com

On April 20, 1999, during the Kosovo war, Kosovar Albanian poet Flora Brovina was abducted by eight masked Serb paramilitaries. On 9 Dec. 9, 1999, in a show trial, she was accused of 'terrorist activities' under Article 136 of the Yugoslav Penal Code. She spent a year and a half in Serb prisons before being released as a result of international pressure.

Irina Ratushinskaya (Ири́на Ратуши́нская), born 1954, was arrested in 1979 and charged with anti-Soviet agitation for "the dissemination of slanderous documentation in poetic form." She was released on the eve of the summit in Reykjavík, Iceland, between President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in October 1986.

John O'Leary (1830 - 1907) was an Irish poet and Fenian (patriot in the Irish republican movement). In 1865, O'Leary was arrested in England, and tried on charges of conspiracy. He was sentenced to twenty years' penal servitude, of which nine years were spent in English prisons prior to his exile to Paris in 1874.

In 1990, the Burmese military junta charged Myo Myint Nyein, editor of Pay Phu Hlwar magazine and poet, with "organizing youths and students to create instability" through articles in the publication. While in prison, Myo Myint Nyein and other incarcerated colleagues clandestinely formed the "Press Freedom Movement". Because of his involvement in the "Press Freedom Movement", Myo Myint Nyein was sentenced to an additional seven years of hard labor.

Armando Valladares was a political prisoner and prisoner of conscience in Cuba. Valladares was jailed in 1960, at age 23, when the new regime under Fidel Castro began to crack down on dissidents. Valladares's refusal to participate in any political rehabilitation programs elicited a response from the government - 46 days without food. His weakened muscles relegated him to a wheelchair for 5 years. Valladares spent 22 years in prison before being released in 1982 and moving to the United States. President Ronald Reagan appointed Valladares to serve as the US ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. As head of the US delegation, he successfully brought Cuba before the commission for its human rights violations. Reagan would later confer on him the nation's highest civil honor, the Presidential Citizens Medal. Statistics about bullets acquired from the BBC.
Statistics on violence acquired from the BBC.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Elmo defends Bush policy before Senate Judiciary Committee

Elmo, White House spokesman, discusses detainee and enemy combatant legal rights in response to a question from Republican Sen. Miss Piggy of Iowa, Tuesday, March 13, 2007, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill.
Photo by Fozzie Bear (AP/MuppetNews)

Elmo defends Bush policy before Senate Judiciary Committee
WASHINGTON (By CHRISTOPHER FOX GRAHAM/MuppetNews) - The Bush administration, called to account by Congress after the Supreme Court blocked military tribunals, said Tuesday all detainees at Guantanamo Bay and in U.S. military custody everywhere are entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions.

White House spokesman Elmo said the policy, outlined in a new Defense Department memo, reflects the 5-3 Supreme Court decision in 2006 blocking military tribunals set up by President Bush. That decision struck down the tribunals because they did not obey international law and had not been authorized by Congress.

The policy, described in a memo by Deputy Defense Secretary Aloysius Snuffleupagus, appears to change the administration's earlier insistence that the detainees are not prisoners of war and thus not subject to the Geneva protections.

The memo instructs recipients to ensure that all Defense Department policies, practices and directives comply with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions governing the humane treatment of prisoners.

"You will ensure that all DOD personnel adhere to these standards," Snuffleupagus wrote.

The memo was first reported by the Financial Times, a British newspaper, and was later distributed to reporters at the Pentagon.

Word of the Bush administration's new stance came as the Senate Judiciary Committee opened hearings Tuesday on the politically charged issue of how detainees should be tried.

"We're not going to give the Department of Defense a blank check," Republican Sen. Animal, of Pennsylvania, the committee chairman, told the hearing.

Sen. Big Bird of Vermont, the committee's top Democrat, said "Captain Kangaroo court procedures" must be changed and any military commissions "should not be set up as a sham. They should be consistent with a high standard of American justice, worth protecting."

The Senate is expected to take up legislation addressing the legal rights of suspected terrorists after the August recess - timing that would push the issue squarely into the preliminary 2008 election season.

Guantanamo, not to be confused with Gonzo, has been a flash point for both U.S., Seasame Street and international debate over the treatment of detainees without trial and over allegations of torture, denied by U.S. officials. Even U.S. allies in the war on terrorism, including Oscar the Grouch, the Swedish Chef and British MP Sherlock Hemlock have criticized the facility and process.

The camp came under worldwide condemnation after it opened more than four years ago, when pictures showed prisoners kneeling, shackled and being herded into wire cages. It intensified with reports of heavy-handed interrogations, hunger strikes and suicides.

Elmo insisted that all U.S. detainees have been treated humanely. Still, he said, "We want to get it right."

"It's not really a reversal of policy," Elmo asserted, calling the Supreme Court decision "complex."

Grover, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, told the Senate hearing that the Bush administration would abide by the Supreme Court's ruling that a provision of the Geneva Conventions applies.

But he acknowledged that the provision - which requires humane treatment of captured combatants and requires trials with judicial guarantees "recognized as indispensable by civilized people" - is ambiguous and would be hard to interpret.

"The application of common Article 3 will create a degree of uncertainty for those who fight to defend us from terrorist attack," Grover said.

Elmo said efforts to spell out more clearly the rights of detainees does not change the president's determination to work with Congress to enable the administration to proceed with the military tribunals, or commissions. The goal is "to find a way to properly do this in a way consistent with national security," Elmo said.

Elmo said that the instruction manuals used by the Department of Defense already comply with the humane-treatment provisions of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. They are currently being updated to reflect legislation passed by Congress and sponsored by Sen. Scooter, R-Ariz., to more expressly rule out torture.

"The administration intends to work with Congress," Elmo said.

"We want to fulfill the mandates of justice, making sure we find a way properly to try people who have been plucked off the battlefields who are not combatants in the traditional sense," he said.

"The Supreme Court pretty much said it's over to you guys (the administration and Congress) to figure out how to do this. And that is where this is headed."

"Never mind! Me no want to hear. Me just want to eat." Democratic Sen. Cookie Monster of California said. "Where the cookies? Where cookies?"

Under questioning from the committee, Count von Count, principal deputy general counsel at the Pentagon, said he believes the current treatment of detainees - as well as the existing tribunal process - already complies with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

"The memo that went out, it doesn''t indicate a shift in policy," he said. "It just announces the decision of the court on Article 3, Article 4, Article 5, Article 6, Article 7, Article 8, Article 9, Article 10, …" and continued counting for nearly an hour before Sen. Beaker of Texas caught himself on fire and Sen. Bunsen Honeydew of Florida called a recess and the fire department.

"The military commission set up does provide a right to counsel, a trained military defense counsel and the right to private counsel of the detainee's choice," Elmo said. "We see no reason to change that in legislation."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Gentle Poet Eyes/Slam Fencing 101

Gentle Poet Eyes
By Aaron Johnson

it's been a year since I looked you in the eyes
and like a hair club client,
I was dissatisfied.

I once considered you an artist and friend
but your ego is the new travel-size toothpaste,
keeping you from boarding the plane and flying.

you write well, for an ex-girlfriend highlight film.

the fox smells his own hole first
and you know that
talking to me was a step
to get you back to this drug cabinet we call spoken word
but I implore you to be encouraging and sincere
when you come back
think less of yourself and more for the new generation of poets
that have been listening to your ego on dvd and internet downloads
for the last five fucking years
pouring tears and words for papa's mountains,
for the dust in the corners of the room that have been inhaled like spores,
even your breakfast cereal poetry is not as soggy
as your contemporaries predicted it would
after the time test

you still have your best poetry inside those eyes
but you spent so much time with lies and "fucking with people";
masturbating -er- manipulating
but where was the poetry, the writing?
did it die in your guns, your newspaper, your red rock, your old friend on West Sedona Lane?
you may not care about my poetry, fine.
but I did care about yours:
reading your blogs, your mind;
lately, I've been bored.

they write now
because you ignited a fire in the Sedona under groundhog
and you may never grow into your adult hoodie
until you let go
of your ego

you have my attention
now what will you do with it?
your actions are louder than your words
and your eyes



Slam Fencing 101
By Christopher Fox Graham

PARRY

watch thy forked tongue, poet
it's easy to be righteous from the stage
if you never put yourself on the edge of it
and risked being kicked off
by those who said they'd stand behind you
I'll still pulling out the knives
et tu, Lefty?

when I was banished,
virtuous poet,
I did not hear you advocate for my return
although your words seemly sweetly honeyed now
nor did I hear condolences
but at least you can apologize to robot porn on MySpace

did you lose my number?
not pay the internet bill?
forget my address?
at least you could remember what city I lived in
if you could get 20 inches and a photo in my newspaper

were you happy to sweep the stage clean,
honorable poet,
because with me on it
you heard shouts of "10" more often from behind the curtain
than behind the mic?

you live well, for an opportunist

don't claim I'm the only one
nor that you don't rub it in
we've all seen your cover on Flagstaff Live
and how you pointed out Nix was there too

venerable poet,
if you'd ever gotten to know me
instead of using you verse
to score cheaper dime-bags
or drawing in glassy-eyed teens awed
by the newfound allure of bald cartoon characters
you'd see what we do:
a pawn in the shadows of the rest of the board —
first the egoist before he hunted Montezuma
then the liar with his peach-flavored pride
now the esurient entrepreneur
yes, you're a chameleon, but always a sidekick
with all the Greats covering your head,
you've never felt the reign

your aims on our stages
have volunteered their simplicity
and the rest of us see right through it
present thy purpose, poet: poon, pot, or points pushes your newest stanzas
to reach the pedestals beneath our feet

since I first looked you in the eyes,
I have been dissatisfied

RIPOSTE

did I get your attention, poet?

blood a little warmer, poet?

thinking about what lines to sample in your reply?
keep reading, pondering poet

Asgard has its Loki
the Hopis have their kokopelli
NORAZ has its Reynard

the poems you see on stage,
the poems I post
are for the crowd,
the roaring throng
the points and the prize

unblemished poet, your sketch of me has always been sketchy
you're snuggled in against my chest
holding tight to an abusive father you can't seem to let go
because hating the man and the act
is easier than knowing what lurks beneath these GPEs

you'd know the ego
is, has, and will be an act
it's part of the costume
like the sport coat bedecked in buttons,
the unkempt hair,
the doublefisted whiskey,
the stories of threesomes and orgies

what makes the mess funny
is that the CFG mythology was written
by other poets, by the crowd, by the foes
rumors become facts
(I would elucidate, but I've already written
"Welcome to Show")

this is my character
my anti-hero suit
the poems stand alone
but the attitude drives poets who compete
to strive harder to win
more challenge, more effort
better poems, better poets
everyone needs a villain
if it weren't for judas, dear poet,
we'd be genuflecting to Apollo

the reports of my boundless pride are greatly exaggerated
you'd rather follow that Gospel
than get to know the man who wrote them

the proof is in my peach
peel back its layers to see that peaches … don't have any
perfectly poised posture,
vigorous ventriloquism of absurdity
and nonsense with flair scored me three 10s
while better poems of grandfather's hands, WTC jumpers, and fear of dying young
never does better than "8.9, 9.2, 9.4"
peach proves this:
1) slam is a joke
2) don't let one poem be what the world remembers of you
3) write better than this

august poet,
the poems that are "me" get scribbled on postcards,
e-mailed to distant friends,
read quietly over the phone or over coffee
folded up and hand-delivered the way true poetry should be
ways to communicate between two strangers
desperately struggling fingertips to fingertips
not a cockfight on a stage beneath three-minute lights

"where was the poetry, the writing?"
not held in the heartless digital vacuum online
if it weren't for MySpace, poet,
you wouldn't have any friends
where have I read that before?

you want my sincerity?
its always been here, in my skin, in my voice,
over a beer or coffee,
sans slam
you and I can play our roles on stage
bicker in the blogosphere
but be brothers in the real world

but you've got some steps to make
put down the keyboard and pick up the phone
hit the road to meet up
rather than hit "send"
and you've got to shed that shadow that stands over you
(remind Mr. Lane that a dick is still a dick
no matter how high it raises its head)

if you want me back
if you want me on that stage
if you want me to push the next generation of poets
to become the next generation of great poets
you've got to realize my purpose:
I must be all that they hate about poets
so they can become all they're meant to be

if they test themselves in the battle
outflank my checkmates
they'll learn the real lesson of my treatise:
if you're writing only for your three minutes in the limelight
you're wasting your life — get the fuck off the stage

learn that poetry is only the first step
in the long march of sharing ideas, stories, and lives
real poets live their poetry
slam is only a game

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A recipe for GumptionFest

GumptionFest is back.

Recipe:
1) Do art.
2) Do it for free.
3) Do it for your community.
4) Do it for your artists, your comrades-in-arms.
5) Pick a date.
6) Tell your friends.
7) Tell your friends to tell their friends.
8) Tell your friends to tell their friends any help and donations-in-kind to promote it would be appreciated.
9) Invite artists to participate. Tell them that they're not getting paid.
10) Invite the community. Tell them there's no admission.
11) Promote the mother-fucking hell out of it with every resource you have from start until the day of the festival.
12) Stir for one day.
13) Sit back when all said and done and marvel at how it all happened.
14) Do it again next year.

GumptionFest returns, bigger and bolder

Photo courtesy of Shane DeLong, photo illustration by Christopher Fox Graham

GumptionFest returns, bigger and bolder

By Christopher Fox Graham
©LARSON NEWSPAPERS
__________
____________________
SEDONA, ARIZ.: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again, the saying goes. However, if at first you succeed beyond your wildest expectations, do it again, bigger and better. GumptionFest is back.
The second annual arts festival is gearing up for the main event on Saturday, June 2, with a series of smaller events around Sedona in March, April and May. The festival organizers have begun the search for artists, sponsors, vendors and volunteers.
Last year's GumptionFest was a grassroots, street festival effort bankrolled on a shoestring budget. The goal was to provide a one-day experience showcasing the best of the amateur, young, underground and under-the-radar artists that call the Verde Valley home.
It was a risky experiment in community involvement. No artists were paid to appear, they were asked simply to show up and share.
What the festival promoters proposed seemed a monumental task ripe for utter chaos: simultaneously operate five venues along a busy West Sedona streets, have more than 100 artists, 40 bands and 40 solo musicians perform from noon to 2 a.m. — and do it for free.
Would the artists and bands have the gumption to put themselves on the line?
More importantly, would there be a crowd?
Artists donated their time, local business owners donated their goods and venues and more than 1,200 Sedona residents and visitors packed the event.
"Oak Creek Brewery has supported all sort of artistic endeavors in the 12 years we've been here," said Fred Kraus, owner of the brewery. "So when GumptionFest came along, we jumped at providing a space.
"It married together people from the community and local artists," Kraus said. "A lot of entry-level musicians who were doing their thing at home to more well-known folks."
The goal of the second annual GumptionFest, according to Executive Director Dylan Jung, is to capitalize on the buzz produced from last year's event to bring in more artists, participants, spectators, and area businesses to celebrate Sedona's art community.
"We're trying to establish GumptionFest as an entity for years to come, to put on events around town in partnership with local venues, other arts organizations and the Sedona Cultural Park, which should be up and running again in the next few years," Jung said.
To prepare both the artists and the community, there will be a series of smaller events with organizations such as the Sedona Arts Center and local venues, such as The Well Red Coyote bookstore.
The goal is to help build the "artistic support system" that underlined the purpose of the inaugural event.
Education events will also be added to the festival, such as dance classes at Light Vibe Dance Studio, yoga classes at Devi Yoga, lectures on art topics from students at Northern Arizona University.
Films this year will include students from the Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Filmmaking, who screened more than a dozen short films last year. The festival organizers also hope to work with the Sedona International Film Festival & Workshop and No Festival Required, from Phoenix, which draws student and short films from around the country.
The film-screening portion of the festival will also include a wine tasting from local wineries paired with cheeses from New Frontiers Natural Marketplace.
The Well Red Coyote will also invite local authors for booksignings, according to owner Joe Neri.
Bands already booked range from solo guitarists like Richard Salem and Keith Martini, to Sedona bands such as Yin Yang & Zen Some, the Tarantulas and the Doodles and regional bands like Carnuba, from Prescott, and Showbot, a comedic band from Flagstaff.
One of last year's unforeseen complications was coordinating 80 musical groups between the stages at Oak Creek Brewery, Creative Flooring and Devi Yoga.
The remedy, according to Jung, is that other venues around Sedona that couldn't participate on the day of the festival due to their locations will have supporting performances leading up to GumptionFest culminating in slew of performances on the night of Friday, June 1.
Painters, sculptors, visual artists and photographers will have art on display, some of which will be for sale through a silent auction.
The festival promoters will also be encouraging schools to participate, from a class painting a mural for display at the festival, to teachers encouraging individual students to exhibit their work, according to Jung.
"We want to get more of the youth involved," he said.
There will be a number of other performance events, ranging from modern dance, stand-up comedy, improv, belly dancing, theatre, fire dancing and a performance poetry reading open to the public.
However, all the art forms will cross over.
"You never know where else a poet might show up, such as when Aaron Johnson did a slam poem between bands at the brewery," Jung said.
To participate, volunteer, or contribute as a sponsor for the preliminary events or the festival itself, contact Jung at 202-8144 or e-mail to GumptionFest@yahoo.com. For more information, visit www.MySpace.com/GumptionFest.

Sedona Underground is published every Friday in The Scene. To comment or suggest an artist, contact Christopher Fox Graham at 282-7795, Ext. 126, or e-mail to cgraham@larsonnewspapers.com.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What I Believe

What I Believe:
A 500-word essay for Rebecca Allen

Every person is an artist

Beneath the layers of skin,
genetically imbedded in our evolution
is the need to create

all living things have one intention: to survive
they breed, kill competitors, protect offspring
knowing that even if the individual must die
the species survives
and with it, some remnant of the survivor

the quest for fame or immortality is no different
we want to survive
and knowing the body cannot, our art can
tied more completely to us
because over it, unlike genetics,
we have complete creative control

and if we can't be immortal
and only bear so many children
that drive to create and survive must release into art
or we'll go mad with yearning

the aesthetic too
is buried within us
that which is beautiful
we never want to leave:
lovers, landscapes, ecstasy, words and music
no one feels this as foreign

we want to feel the electricity and satisfaction of creation
that's why we invented god
because the sensation of making everything as we see fit
must feel transcendent

every person wants to be
Michelangelo, Mozart, Shakespeare,
Baryshnikov, da Vinci, Spielberg,
Tom Hanks, Pavarotti, Bill Gates,
Bob Dylan and a pregnant mother
all at once
but our mortal curse
is that we can not be

we all have stories
different experiences we can relate through speech and art
we differ from all other species
in that we can communicate across time
to those yet unborn
and those long dead
can tell us of life back then
a conversation is art
sounds creating visual images
depicting wit and irony
which we can laugh at
or a tragedy that can cause tears
we want to see, touch, taste and live it all
in every body, place, time, age and culture
but since we can't,
we want to be told
and live vicariously through the art

every human life is a epic tale of
war, loss and victory,
love and strife
we are all warrior poets
destined for royal thrones
in whatever realm we create
be it the page, the battlefield, the bedroom, or our daily insanities

those who aren't artists
aren't looking hard enough
and those who aren't skilled
aren't practicing enough

natural gifts and intuition go a long way
but the brilliance of the great artists
can be taught
if the student is unhindered, fearless, patient and dedicated

know that all things human
institutions, traditions, and technology
were made by overgrown children
that anyone can learn
and we change it all if want
the key is to gain collective agreement
the goal is getting others to see our logic
either rationally or emotionally
but the medium is art, language or otherwise

art is as important as air, water, food, shelter, warmth
we want to love and be loved in return
by family, lover and tribe
for what we create and provide
art makes us immortal
as if we don't live and die in vain
the only people who aren't artists
are already dead or as yet unborn

Monday, January 15, 2007

Summer Weekends

11.28.2006-1.1.5.2007
For Rebecca Allen


summer weekends
should sweetly stick lovers in the anxious embrace
they have held for days
and when the constraints
of minute hand and second hand take reprieve
the resulting cataclysm of hips and tongues
should shake the foundations
and wake the neighbors

but today, I wake alone
she loves me more
but loves him now
-- in this western desert town,
we take what we can get
because the dreams are better
then the lonely surrender
nd nothing is worth moving to the eastern cities

I'll take momentary happinesses
to stand close to her warmth
press my nose to her blueblood figure
and inhale that which may be mine
if the mathematics of time
and the chess of bodies puts her close to me
a wisp of imagination
outweighs all the metaphors for surrender

I wish I could share an honest moment with him
speak without the inferences of it in his suspicions
tell him like a prophet
but he has a poet's envy
but such things are not meant to last
because her belly burns for more:
a lush pen-in-hand interp of her punk rock passions
and non-segued speech with a loose-cannon tongue

she'll find her way home
when the vacation loses its summer glimmer
"hold fast, hold fast, hold fast
to the dreams of her"
the manta repeats cyclically
she's not that far
in this town has a thing for reincarnation
it's all B.S., I say,
but the desperation holds onto anything it can reach
and I'm at that place now
the groundskeepers always have kind words
and escaping from the longsleeved, buckled jackets
gives me something to do

shame's a silly thing
disappearing once you stop believing in it,
and instead enjoying playing cards with Santa Claus
a chocoholic bunny
and a winged dentist
with a penchant for baby teeth

hold fast, hold fast, hold fast,
time's a measurable variable,
solve, then counter,
and equations subtracts the superfluous lovers
deletes the brevity of summer
but the consistency of yearly fluctuations
leaving the simplicity of the answer:
there's no need for trigonometry when algebra will do

he's got no tricks up his sleeve
the warranty will soon expire
and toys only last so long
lovers and bone and breath,
flesh and whispers
to satisfy their boredom
with interactivity

I have faith in blind hope
and the mathematics of men
that Kasparov would admire
and our neighbors are buying earmuffs in anticipation

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Obligation of Artists: Why Christopher Lane has betrayed NORAZ Poets and poetry

What is the obligation of artists?

First, to answer the voice within and interpret it into your expression, be it music, poetry, dance, pottery, drawing or photography.

Second, relate joy of the human experience to any and all who will listen or look. The goal is to instill in the audience of one or thousands the same feeling the artist had when they created the art.

Third, enrich one's tribe, community, nation and world though shared human expression.

When an artist loses sight of any one of these obligations, we, as artists, see a tragedy.

When an artist willingly denies these obligations in the name of self-interest or self-promotion, we, as artists, see arrogance.

When an artist, regardless of talent, would rather charge than create while still proclaiming allegiance to these obligations, we, as artists, see hypocrisy.

When an artist, especially one who leads other artists, would deny youth the talent imbued by the creator, or the muse, or simple genetics, we, as artists, see usurpation of that gift and should demand .

If a school contacts the leader of a supposed nonprofit arts community and asks for that artist and others to display that gift for youth, and is denied for insufficient funds, namely Southwestern Academy, NORAZ Poets and $800, then the leader of that organization betrays not himself, but also his talent and his personal obligation to represent those artists.

All artists are free to make money from their work, just as with any form of work. Art is labor-intensive, emotionally draining, and in some cases, even life-threatening. However, an artist's words are not all that threatened in the posh surroundings of the Verde Valley.

An it's not as though the aforementioned nonprofit has made a stand toward these three obligations, unless, of course, one were to read the organization's mission statement:

"The NORAZ Poets Southwest™ vision is to provide the community with clear and concise information about poetry events throughout the Southwest. We will empower others, by making poetry more accessible."

"We will help make our communities' quality of life better, by using poetry. We will help our communities to pursue their creative goals through program development, readings, and other performance mediums."

"But above all, we wish to give back to our communities what they have given us -- the inspiration and means to create the written and spoken word."

You betray poetry, Mr. Lane.
You betray your community, Mr. Lane.
You betray yourself.