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

Monday, August 3, 2009

Slam Tutorial: Stand-up Comic Poetry


Nothing says poetry needs to be rhymed meter and perfect symmetry. Some great slam poetry is essentially a scripted stand-up comedy routine with great punchlines, poetic turns of phrase, and a standard narrative structure. If you think you can't write poetry, try writing down a story that teaches a lesson, entertains, or concludes with a great punchline. Embellish the language with metaphors, rhetorical devices, turns of phrase, and
Most poems of this narrative style are essentially 5 to 10 second hooks, meaning each line or two has a natural rise, climax and fall involving a metaphoric image, a turn, a dash of humor, self-reflection, social commentary, etc., that all culminate in a grand finale by the time the poet reaches the end of the poem. For instance:
The rest of the class is made up of
seventh-grade celebrity impersonators.
Perfect examples to the power of product placement.
Decked out in rhinestone jeans and velour sweat suits
that cost more then I'm paid to teach their poetry workshop.
Jason is easily the most interesting one out 40
and if I could,
I would kick the rest of them out to watch "Elimidate" in the library.


"Ode To My Bathroom"
By Geoff Trenchard

Jason is white sneakers and black socks pulled up to his knees.
Jean shorts and a Hawaiian shirt
he can't for the life of him buttoned straight.
He is multiple decks of "Magic the Gathering" collectible playing cards
and a hair-to-gel ratio still in its experimental phase.

The rest of the class is made up of
seventh-grade celebrity impersonators.
Perfect examples to the power of product placement.
Decked out in rhinestone jeans and velour sweat suits
that cost more then I'm paid to teach their poetry workshop.
Jason is easily the most interesting one out 40
and if I could,
I would kick the rest of them out to watch "Elimidate"
in the library.
No one likes to admit it, but white trash does not grow on trees.
You can look at a 12-year-old
and sometimes see the obnoxious idiot they could one day become.
They aren't bad in that 'grow up
and sell crack to preschoolers' kind of way.
More of the type to drive a Hummer with a
'Save the Planet' bumper sticker.
I don't blame them completely.
Jeffrey McDaniel says
some people are doomed
just because their parents had boring sex.

But Jason is different,
a ball of nervous ticks and endless Monty Python quotes
that tell me
mom and dad got freaky.

He knows more about They Might Be Giants than any human needs to.
Has read Lord of the Rings so many times he speaks Elvish.
But not one of the assignments he has turned in had anything to do with
who Brittney kissed or who Ja Rule's got beef with.

So he's standing at the front of the room about to
read his poem.
Clenching his paper like it was god's autograph.
he says
"AHEM, Ode to my bathroom.
I am a roll of toilet paper
and my life is shitty."

Now, to the kids at Union Middle School,
"shit"
is not just second banana to "fuck."
It's own atomic bomb of profanity
that sends electromagnetic spasms of laughter rippling
through the room.

The 12-year-old J Lo in the front row
laughs so hard she snorts
like a vacuum with a mouse stuck in it.
Every day I watch him stare at her
with the unrequited longing you only have
when you're still a virgin.

He continues,
"I was born in a factory
and grew up in a plastic bag.
Now I hang next to the magazines and plunger
in the constant fear of ass."

In the back,
Eminem's biggest fan flaps his arm like palm leave
welcoming comic Jesus.
Last week, he spent the whole period flicking bits of eraser
and calling him a homo
'til he was about to cry.

Now, Jason's smiling so wide he can barley speak to
finish the poem.
"but today" he says "I am relieved,
because I can smell the three-bean chili the family I live with is cooking
and I know the end is near.
Thank you."

He sits down to a standing ovation.
I shake my head in an awe shucks pendulum.

Later, he asks me if I was pissed
I said,
"Jason don't let anyone tell you any different:
poetry exists
to give the socially awkward
a way to be finally applauded by their peers."

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