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

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Slam Tutorial: Favorite Vices: Drinking, Smoking, & Screwing


William “Billy” Collins (born 22 March 1941) is an American poet. He served two terms as the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. In his home state, Collins has been recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004. He was recently appointed Claire Berman Artist in Residence at The Roxbury Latin School, in West Roxbury, MA. He is a distinguished professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York.

Human beings are nothing if not lead by their vices. The world would be a much better place, more efficient, more productive if were weren't constantly pursuing our favorite vices, such as : drinking, smoking, & screwing.

However, life would be way too dull to even imagine.

And how productive would it really be in the long run? Half the reason we do anything is to afford the time and means to indulge in our habits in the first place, the other half reason is to assuage the guilt for having done them. Remove them both as we'd wind up dying in weeks, like kicked-over houseplants.

Asceticism has its place in the world, but the reason monks, nuns, hermits and priests can afford the time to renounce the world is because those who didn't built the monasteries, nunneries , temples and cloisters while the wealthy and worldly give the food and financial donations to keep them operational.

The anthology "Drinking, Smoking & Screwing: Great Writers on Good Times," assembles excepts by authors including Dorothy Parker, Erica Jong, Mary McCarthy, Vladimir Nabokov, J.P. Donleavy and Henry Miller on our most cherished triumvirate sins.

If you plan to write about your vices keep in mind that the audience can identifying with it. Illicit drug use, binge drinking, chain smoking and attempts to screw anything on two legs (male, female, straight, bi or gay, we all have sex drives) have always had their place in poetry. I guarantee the first poem ever written was by Og writing to Gort about trying to screw Thag after he looked really hot at the mammoth roast.

The Best Cigarette
By Billy Collins


There are many that I miss
having sent my last one out a car window
sparking along the road one night, years ago.

The heralded one, of course:
after sex, the two glowing tips
now the lights of a single ship;
at the end of a long dinner
with more wine to come
and a smoke ring coasting into the chandelier;
or on a white beach,
holding one with fingers still wet from a swim.

How bittersweet these punctuations
of flame and gesture;
but the best were on those mornings
when I would have a little something going
in the typewriter,
the sun bright in the windows,
maybe some Berlioz on in the background.
I would go into the kitchen for coffee
and on the way back to the page,
curled in its roller,
I would light one up and feel
its dry rush mix with the dark taste of coffee.

Then I would be my own locomotive,
trailing behind me as I returned to work
little puffs of smoke,
indicators of progress,
signs of industry and thought,
the signal that told the nineteenth century
it was moving forward.
That was the best cigarette,
when I would steam into the study
full of vaporous hope
and stand there,
the big headlamp of my face
pointed down at all the words in parallel lines.

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