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, August 9, 2009

Slam Tutorial: A Stereotype Hijack

One of the 12 Olympians of Slam, Beau Sia is known for identity poems. He has said that moving to New York at 19 made him conscious of his identity as an Asian-American (he is of Chinese Filipino descent), something that he denied often in his childhood home of Oklahoma City.

A stereotype hijack poem is a subgenre of identity poems, but takes the opposite tack. While many identity poems aim to confront and reverse stereotypes (all of "us" aren't really like what you think of "us"), hijacking a stereotype gives the poet a certain freedom to make light of sillier or absurd aspects while still pointing out that malicious stereotyping destructive. The poet can poke fun at stereotypes that members outside the group can't do in public or mixed company and do so with more weight, yet the poet can still act as an advocate for the identity.

Despite the assumption that this style can only work for ethnic, cultural, religious or sexual minorities if the poet is instead in the majority group but performing for a minority audience (a white poet before a mostly black audience, a straight poet before a mostly gay audience, etc.), the poet can use this poetic style to their advantage with the caveat that they don't make light of the majority's dominance, subjugation or oppression of the minority in question.

Whether the identity in question is an ethnicity, religion, subculture or clique, the stereotype hijack is ripe for a humorous poem because it can take the more outrageous aspects of a stereotype and push them beyond ridiculous.

"Give Me A Chance"
By Beau Sia

if there is anyone
in the audience
in the entertainment industry
watching me perform,
I want you to keep in mind
that if you are casting any films
and need a Korean grocery store owner,
a computer expert or the random thug
of a yakuza gang,
i’m your man.
if you’re making Jackie Chan
knock-off films
and need a stunt double,
that stunt double is me.
if you need a Chinese jay-z,
a Japanese eminem,
or a Vietnamese backstreet boy,
please consider me,
because I am all those things and more.
i come from the house that
step n’ fetchit built
and i will broken English my way
to sidekick status
if that’s what’s expected of me
make an Asian different strokes.
i’ll walk around on my knees yelling,
ahso, what you talk about wirris?!
because it’s been 23 months and 14 days
since my art has done anything for me,
and i would be noble and toil on,
i swear i would.
live for the art and the art alone,
and all that crapass.
but college loans are monthly up my ass,
my salmon teriyaki habit is getting way out of control,
and i want some
motherfucking cable!
so you can understand where i’m coming from.
when tight verse
exhibiting dynamics
within the text
falls by the wayside
rejoice in its
pretty, packaged, boygroup,
talentless twats
sent from florida
to make me puke
but i'm not preaching. none siree, boss.
i cannot stress how ready i am
to sell out,
wear jiggy clothes,
and yell from the top of my lungs
any hook i am told to sing.
if you want the caricature
of a caricature,
then i am that caricature.
if you want an exotic dragon lady
like lucy liu,
who fucks like a kama sutra
come to life,
just tell my ass where ya want it,
and i will bend over.
if you need a voice-over artist,
just tell me
where you want the,
hi-ya's! to go
and i will be there,
because i am all that more,
i am a pop culture whore,
i an a co-sponsored world tour,
an i am
an appropriated culture at my core.
i've been noticed, acclaimed, and funny
and now all i want
is a beach front house to paint in
and a range rover
to listen to my music in,
cuz struggling fucking sucks hard
after the ninth package of ramen noodle soup.
i'm beau sia.
give me a chance,
and i'll
change the world.

Beau Sia began performing at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, eventually earning himself a place on the 1996 Nuyorican National Poetry Slam team. That same year, he would be filmed for the documentary SlamNation. The film followed Sia and his Nuyorican teammates (Saul Williams, Jessica Care Moore and Mums da Schemer) as they competed at the 1996 National Poetry Slam. The team would go on to place third in the nation, and have a lasting impact on how people would view slam poetry.
Sia earned two National Poetry Slam Championships in 1997 and 2000 while competing on the NYC-Urbana national poetry slam team. He would also reach second place in the Individual Poetry Slam competition in 2001.
He wrote a parody of Jewel's work, A Night Without Armor, within four hours and published it as A Night Without Armor II: the Revenge in 1998. He wrote different poems with Jewel's original titles, lampooning her earnest lines. It is painfully detailed in its satire, changing the delicate paintings printed in Jewel's book to rough, humorous pencil drawings by Sia. The front and back cover were also painstakingly mirrored.

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