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.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Slam Tutorial: What's Worth Dying For?

One of the 12 Olympians of Slam, Marty McConnell is one of the best female voices in the national poetry slam scene.

I first saw her at the 2001 National Poetry Slam in Seattle, Wash., and had a odd, but fun moment at a party in one of the hotel rooms with Marty, Daphne Gottlieb and Taylor Mali -- a story I like to tell newbie slammers when they make their first slam team and are heading off to nationals ....
... In any case, I have a lifelong crush and we coincidentally share the same tattoo.

"Give Me One Good Reason to Die" asks "what would you die for?
The question in a simple one, and one that easily lends itself to the particulars of a political poem. I have seen variations of this poem range from leftist topics like equality, human rights, social revolution, rightist concepts like gods and countries and more mundane topics like love, world peace or one's art. Used humorously, this concept can extend to emo music, a good cup of coffee. I have also seen the idea used as an anti-conceit for ironic effect.

In this poem, Marty McConnell uses the conceit not to discuss what she in particular would die for but that our generation is so lackadaisical on creature comforts and devoid of purpose that we have little to fight for. Yet, at the crux of the poem, she points to the social injustices that would seemingly be worth dying for if members of our generation chose to fight for them.
Thus, the concept works both ways in eviscerating the conceit then criticizing those who accept her argument by reversing course.

"Give Me One Good Reason to Die"
By Marty McConnell

at the millennial rolling-over point
baby boomer one-time-hippies
turned parents across these United States groan,
"when we said
'you can be anything' we meant
'you can be a brain surgeon or
district attorney or
genetic engineer' -- we
didn't mean you should become
a... poet."

But it was Dad who taught me that the call
of my wild heart rings as valid
as any voice of reason

And Mom who showed me that raging terror of where you're headed
is the surest sign you're traveling
in the right direction

This is a generation
beyond definition, unconvinced
the American dream isn't a fiction
of REM sleep; certain
gender matters less than love; determined
the apocalypse won't catch us napping.

Breast-fed on "how many roads must a man walk down,"
we watched our creators sacrifice their sharp edges
to stay within the lines; small wonder we race
to rant about wrongs or
find the edge of the planet
and lean at the lip of the void

We are the change generation,
fitted with the inconsistencies
of a millennium in flux; vagabond lot, we
skitter one city to the next
in seek of a home not in need of so much repair;
see, our inherited tools they fit fit like a Phillips-head
in a slot-top screw; we know that sit-ins
end in tear gas and tanks,
picket lines in promises
and compromises, lobbying
in backrooms and bullshit

I might believe in this Revolution
if one person proved he knew
what he was fighting for
and how

because the KKK still erects a cross in Cincinnati's Fountain Square every Christmas and

teenage girls have to weigh back alleys versus daddy's fists to secure
abortions and

Promise Keepers fill stadiums while poets play coffeehouses and

if I fucked a woman in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia or Utah
I could get anywhere from 30 days to 20 years in jail

I don't own
enough rage for it all -- I am
ninety-five miles per hour on I-81, sprinting
to track the tirade vibrating
on the next stage

is Anybody Listening?

I live
in search of a cause worth dying for

We are a generation of screamers
silenced by the conspiracy of comfort
that cradles us voiceless
in our PC cities, where only the drunk
and the dangerous spill what seethes
in so many

I trade crusades like cards,
flip issues like channels

give me a god

give me a rallying cry

give me one
good reason to die

No comments: