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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

GumptionFest Needs Haikusters!

If you write haiku, your name should wind up on the bracket before the GumptionFest IV Haiku Death Match begins on Saturday, Sept. 5

GumptionFest IV will have a Haiku Death Match

GumptionFest IV's Haiku Death Match, aka GF4HDM

A Haiku Death Match is a competitive poetry duel that is a subgenre of poetry slam. The Haiku Death Match is a prominent feature at the annual National Poetry Slam, replete with full costume for the host, Jim Navé from Taos, N.M. or Daniel Ferri.

At GumptionFest IV, we will attempt to hold a Haiku Death Match as similar to the NPS version as possible.

What is haiku?
Haiku (俳句) is a form of Japanese poetry consisting of 17 syllables in three metrical phrases of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.

Japanese haiku typically contain a kigo, or seasonal reference, and a kireji or verbal caesura. In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line, while haiku in English usually appear in three lines, to parallel the three metrical phrases of Japanese haiku.

What is slam haiku?
Slam haiku used in a Haiku Death Match is far simpler: Use of three or fewer lines of 17 syllables. Slam haiku can be anything from a single 17-syllable line or simply 17 words. Two of mine:
Traditional 5-7-5 haiku
Serial Killer Haiku
Funny you should ask
my trunk can fit two Boy Scouts
and a grandmother

American 17-syllable haiku
Grammar Haiku:
Why isn't "phonetic" spelled phonetically?
While you think, let's make out

A standard Haiku Death Match is conducted thus:
The host randomly draws the names of two poets, known as haikusters, from the pool of competitors.
The haikusters adorn headbands of two colors: Red and Not-Red (white).
Red Haikuster and Host bow to each other.
Not-Red Haikuster and Host bow to each other.
Red Haikuster and Not-Red Haikuster bow to each other.
Red Haikuster goes first.
The Red Haikuster reads his or her haiku twice. The audience does not clap or make noise (usually, though, they laugh or vocalize, but, of course, we must pretend that this is completely unacceptable).
The Not-Red Haikuster reads his or her haiku twice. Again, the audience does not clap or make noise.
The host waits for the three judges to make their choice for winner, then signals them to hold aloft their Red or Not-Red flag.
Simple majority (3-0 or 2-1) determines the winner.
The host asks the audience to demonstrate “the sound of one hand clapping,” i.e., silence, then “the sound of two hands clapping,” at which point they can finally applaud. The mock ceremony involving the audience is half the fun.
The winning haikuster then goes first.
Depending on the round, the winner will be best 3 of 5, 4 of 7, best 5 of 9, etc., of a number determined beforehand for each round.
After the duel, Red Haikuster and Not-Red Haikuster bow to each other and shake hands. The next duel begins.
Haiku Death MatchRules for the GumptionFest IV Haiku Death Match:
  • Titles: Haikusters can read their haiku titles before they read the haiku. (This gives the haikusters technically more syllables to put the haiku in context, but the haiku itself must still be only 17 syllables. While this is not “pure” Haiku Death Match rules, it’s much more fun for the audience.

  • Originality: Poets must be the sole authors of the haiku they use in competition. Plagiarized haiku are grounds for disqualification. We all love Matsuo Bashō, but he’s 300 years too dead to compete.

  • On-page or memorized?: Poets can read from the page, book, journal, notepad, etc.

  • Preparation: Poets can have haiku written beforehand or write them in their head while at the mic. As long as the haiku are 17 syllables, we don’t care how, when or from where the haiku originates.

  • Rounds: Will be determined by the number of haikusters who sign up to compete.

  • Quantity of haiku needed: Depends on the number of rounds. 30 haiku will likely be enough for poets who push rounds to the last haiku needed and go all the rounds, but 50 to 100 gives haikusters enough material to be flexible in competition. Most veteran haikusters have several hundred to compete with.

  • Censorship: Adult themes and language are acceptable. There may be children present so you may have to deal with their parents afterward, but that’s your call.

  • Register: E-mail me at foxthepoet@yahoo.com or GumptionFest at GumptionFest@gmail.com.
What’s the Best Strategy to Win?
  • A winning haikuster is flexible.

  • If your opponent reads a serious or deep haiku, read one that is more serious or more profound, or go on the opposite tack and read something funny.

  • If your opponent reads a funny haiku, read one that is funnier, or go on the opposite tack and read something serious or deep.

  • If your opponent makes fun of you, make fun of yourself even bigger or make fun of them. A good head-to-head haiku can work wonders and often wins a Haiku duel. For instance, my “Damien Flores Haiku,” “Easy way to win: / Damien is 20, Officer, / and he's drunk."

  • If you’re on stage and you get an idea for a haiku, feel free to write it down immediately. That might be the next round’s haiku that wins you the duel.

  • Have a good time. Even if don't get past the first round, it's still a great time for all.
Still Scared of Haiku?
Don't be, they're easy to write. Haiku Death Match haiku are not likely to be remembered centuries from now, so don't stress out. Write short poems that you find entertaining and enjoyable.

Take these examples and see how easy haiku can be. Anonymous haiku:

Haiku are easy
but sometimes they don't make sense ...
refrigerator

she dances lithely
seduction under the moon
I ... hey, a nickel!

My life is Jello
Sitting, waiting in the bowl
Patiently to gel

"Doom" Haiku:
Frag demons for hours
Stare at the screen with red eyes
it's time for class

Cat haiku:
You never feed me.
Perhaps I'll sleep on your face.
That will sure show you.

Cat haiku:
The rule for today
Touch my tail, I shred your hand
New rule tomorrow

Dog haiku:
You must scratch me there!
Yes, above my tail! Behold,
"Elevator butt."

And some of my haiku:

Traditional 5-7-5 haiku
Jedi Haiku
We are Jedi Knights
our words are our lightsabers
our Force is the Word

Mother's Day Haiku
I blacked out last night
no, this isn't my blood but
happy Mother's Day

Nicholas is in the Will; I'm a Footnote Haiku
I thought my mother
loved both her sons equally ...
until I saw the will

Heavy Pause Haiku
Then, years afterward,
I realized the problem was ...
...
...
...
... I hesitated

American 17-syllable haiku
Dirty Old Man Haiku
And old man told me
the way to stay young
is sleep with 18-year-olds

Ella Garrett Haiku
We copy editors judge you,
reporters,
when you use bad grammar

Crucifixion Haiku (stolen from a joke by Dan Seaman)
Why did Jesus Christ
die on the cross?
Because he forgot the safe word

Bruce Haiku
Fathers should suffer
labor like mothers so they
don't bolt on their sons

Why I Act Like a Child Haiku
The older you get
the younger you feel.
At 40, I'll be fetal

Pudenda Haiku
My hand rests on your cleft:
the moist doorway from where
poems and poets are born

Theory of Relativity Haiku
The illusion of light
traps believers in the past
must move faster

Emigration Haiku
America is taxing my dreams
so I'm moving
to Canada

Arboreal Haiku
A tree falls in the woods
and no one is around.
Termites have no crowd

Insurance Haiku
"Drop your pants
and give me $100."
I hate my HMO.

Call Center Haiku
Work is so boring today.
I'll liven it up
with a homicide

Lisa Haiku
Somehow you can make
the words, "fuck me"
the most romantic phrase I know

Atheist Haiku
You ask why I am an atheist?
Fathers are our models
for God

Punk Rock Chick Haiku
Punk band patches
tats, pink hair, pierced attitude ...
I want her to break me

Nearsidedness Haiku
I should have seen
fucking you was dumb;
my testicles need spectacles

Thanksgiving Haiku
Before we start, I
want to say I hate you all.
Pass the salt, aunt Beth

Was it True Love Haiku
Loving you was
endless disappointment
with moments of denial

Head to Head Haikus
Damien Flores Haiku #1
Damien is cocky
about his haiku
but he still can't buy beer

Why it's Hard to Kill Aaron Johnson With My Car Haiku
God damn lefties!
Aaron Johnson hitchhikes
facing oncoming traffic
GumptionFest 4 will host a Haiku Death Match. Poets will need roughly 20-50 haiku in order to compete.

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

www.martyoutloud.com


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

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Slam Tutorial: Before I Start this Poem ... I'll Read You a Political Poem

Before I Start this Poem, I'll Read You the Poem

This "sneaky" tactic takes advantage of the sometimes irritating habit of reading a disclaimer before reading a poem. However, the disclaimer winds up being the poem itself. This is sometimes used very briefly as a hook, as in "Before I start this poem / I'll like to say that the first three lines / you won't think are the poem / but by line four you know I've started"

This strategy has several species:

Before I Start this Poem ... I'll Read You a Political Poem
"A Moment of Silence Before I Start This Poem"
The beauty of this poem is built around the hook of a moment of silence. In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, moments of silence became more commonplace than normal and found their places everywhere.

The concept of hijacking a moment of silence disclaimer is not a new one, but Ortiz' version ranks as one of the most politically edgy given the environment following the Sept. 11 attacks.

"A Moment of Silence Before I Start This Poem"
By Emmanuel Ortiz

Before I start this poem, I'd like to ask you to join me
In a moment of silence
In honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last Sept. 11th.
I would also like to ask you
To offer up a moment of silence
For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared,
tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes,
For the victims in both Afghanistan and the US

And if I could just add one more thing...

A full day of silence
For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of US-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation.
Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year US embargo against the country.

Before I begin this poem,

Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa,
Where "homeland security" made them aliens in their own country.
Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin
And the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam - a people, not a war - for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives' bones buried in it, their babies born of it.
A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of a secret war .... ssssshhhhh....
Say nothing ...
we don't want them to learn that they are dead.
Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia,
Whose names, like the corpses they once represented,
have piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem.

An hour of silence for El Salvador ...
An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua ...
Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos ...
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.
45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas
25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky.
There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.
And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west...

100 years of silence...

For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears.
Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness ...

So you want a moment of silence?

And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust.

Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won't be.
Not like it always has been.

Because this is not a 9/11 poem.
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.

This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written. And if this is a 9/11 poem, then:
This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971.
This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa, 1977.
This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison, New York, 1971.
This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.

This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told
The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored.
This is a poem for interrupting this program.

And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit.

If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window of Taco Bell,
And pay the workers for wages lost.
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses and the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton's 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence
Then take it NOW,
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
But take it all... Don't cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime.
But we, tonight we will keep right on singing...
For our dead.

Emmanuel Ortiz is a third-generation Chicano, Puerto Rican, Irish-American community organizer and spoken word poet in Minneapolis, Minn.

Ortiz is the author of a chapbook of poems, "The Word is a Machete," and his poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including two books published in Australia: "Open Boat - Barbed Wire Sky" an anthology of poems to aid refugees and asylum-seekers, and "Passion for Peace: Exercising Power Creatively."

Ortiz currently serves on the board of directors for the Minnesota Spoken Word Association, and is the coordinator of Guerrilla Wordfare, a Twin Cities-based grassroots project bringing together artists of color to address sociopolitical issues and raise funds for progressive organizing in communities of color through art as a tool of social change.

Slam Tutorial: Before I Start this Poem ... I'll Read You the Title

Before I Start this Poem, I'll Read You the Poem

This "sneaky" tactic takes advantage of the sometimes irritating habit of reading a disclaimer before reading a poem. However, the disclaimer winds up being the poem itself. This is sometimes used very briefly as a hook, as in "Before I start this poem / I'll like to say that the first three lines / you won't think are the poem / but by line four you know I've started"

This strategy has several species:

Before I Start this Poem ... I'll Read You the Title
This poem, inspired by one by former Arizona poet Scott Huntington Gamble, essentially has a romantic and fanciful disclaimer, although masked, which pivots on the hook "that was just the title / this is the poem."

"The Cost of Dynamite"
By Christopher Fox Graham


magic lurks in her shrouded shoulders
that only her few lovers have tasted
although scores claim her lips hold her enchantments
I've been touched by neither,
though her temptations keep me up at night
in the half-conscious imaginings
of our skin dances
her limbs have teased her proximity
and her anticipatory warmth
enlivens our thighs

caged horses feel this way
when they see open fields beyond the fences
but words like these
hungrily dripping ink on untouched pages
are best hidden on the unread bookshelves
lest they betray the thousand sins
we would visit on each other
should the skies ever see them

and to Dante,
who cataloged all our predecessors,
Virgil neglected to reveal the 10th level of Dis
reserved solely for the lustful un-inhibitions
destined to be enumerated in epic detail
by some future poet,
about the nights when she and I
unlock the inevitable collision of hips and skins

evangelical preachers will base sermons on our rhythms
to terrify parishioners toward good behavior
expect presidential campaigns to stump legislation
to combat the passions we would release
and slam poets to spit verses
in pale comparison to the erotic hip-hop hips
of our beat-box breathing

sinners have their new saints
and Screwtape has new letters
to write to Our Father Below

when our moment comes,
expect the fire department
and the local police
to secure the scene
while Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt
thumb wrestle to the death
to secure the rights
prognosticators and prophets will claim
they saw the end coming in our coming
in poetry critics will cite this poem
claiming it a talentless rehash
of all slam poem to have come before

while my reply is simply
that those who must rely on these words
have yet to hear the earthquakes
when she lets loose her inhibitions
to her anticipations
and takes me along for the ride
rocking her hips to the stories
held between her shoulders

dreamers, you have heard us
in all your aimless wanderings
wondering how you could've lived your lives
before you knew of the chemistry
between skins locked
in the exasperated expression
of all that is holy

we are dying, but in our echo
the pageantries of our passions
will spill forth into the divine archetypes
to rebuild a new civilization as yet unimagined

that was just the title,
this is the poem:

in the lonely nights like these,
I wait for a lover I've never kissed
imagining that all these years of waiting for a meaningful lover
aren't in vain
my fear is to look back in old age
knowing that when the time was right
I'd let her slip away into the history and memory
too fearful of giving into the game we played:
always aiming for a checkmate
and afraid to lose I’ll play too harsh
she'll step back from the board
leaving my pieces in forever-stalemate with the absence,
seeking someone less serious and self-absorbed

if one of us can’t win the teasing test
of how far we can push the bounds
then these days and calculations
aren't worth the weight of numbers we measure

and lofty words aside,
I want to drift to sleep alongside her
in awake unashamedly unalone,
the way all great poets seem to do

but I'm too old to write about longing anymore
my poems of unrequited lovers
could kill passersby if dropped from high stories
yearning has its limits
and the ones that should plague my pages
would be best concluded with
“she's come again”

my words and would be better spilled
recounting ways to enumerate nuances
so that thousands could learn them
but so that they wouldn't forget the value of lonely moments
and if some student should find them in years hence
know that longing pains only focus so far
in the prophetic knowledge
that there is a light beaconing the end
I’d rather spend my days penning trivial sonnets at her side
then scribbling the epic of the ages in a studio apartment
made for one

illiteracy is inevitable and in time
all our silly words will become old,
understandable only in classes where academics
teach the ancient tongues of Aristotle and Chaucer

no poem retains its immediacy
when the poet is ash
but descendents can carry the fire
in their blood through the ages
long after the poem is obsolete
and its author is a grad school essay question
in her embrace its locks on
as if to a sinking ship’s life raft,
pen and paper yards away
the greatest poems of my fingers
will dance in her skin
and those that may find their way
through the sheets
to the floor
to the pages
they’ll merely echo those moments
when we erased our knowledge
of spelling and consonants
instead relying on vowels and the language of skins
to speak for us

these verses would I rather have annotate my days
in the press of her breath
and our secret words
would publish the best of me
while all the rest
can take the place when the moment suits
and the critics push aside their trivial jealousies
of not being born poetic
to pencil in a few pages
of their doctoral thesis

for them but me insert bits of profanity
a wayward curse
a gratuitous “fuck”
so they don't choose this piece
for its nonoffensive cleanliness
a well-placed “ass” can ruin a safe poem from publication
pun intended

these poems aren't for them anyway
they're just the thoughts of a boy
close enough to touch her
yet far enough away
to measure her distance from him
in multiples of the length of her shadow
and the geography of heartbeats and unspoken words
erects mountains between us
and the cost of dynamite
is bleeding my pockets dry

Slam Tutorial: Before I Start this Poem ... I'll Say Who This Poem is For

Before I Start this Poem, I'll Read You the Poem

This "sneaky" tactic takes advantage of the sometimes irritating habit of reading a disclaimer before reading a poem. However, the disclaimer winds up being the poem itself. This is sometimes used very briefly as a hook, as in "Before I start this poem / I'll like to say that the first three lines / you won't think are the poem / but by line four you know I've started"

This strategy has several species:

Before I Start this Poem ... I'll Say Who This Poem is For


This poem takes the conceit and adapts it to quantify who the poem is for. However, the poem quickly becomes for the entire crowd. It almost works as a reverse argumentum ad hominem, in which the audience systemically include themselves in the groups that she includes. It begins with groups the audience would like not include themselves in, "the pathetic," "the lame," "the loser," then expands to more readily identifiable subgroups, "this poem is for all those who wish to say 'I’m sorry'" and "for all the humans with love for those who aren’t their lovers."

"I Love You" By Tennessee Mary Fons
www.maryfons.com


this poem is for the pillow clutchers
for those looking into the imaginary eyes of the person who fills their mind with sugarplum smiles
for those who have a cannon of dreams ready and waiting to blossom
for the men and the women who want to be understood in that way that only someone who kisses you can understand you
this poem is for you.

this poem is not for the desperate
the pathetic
the lame
the loser
not for the one who hasn’t gotten laid in awhile
not for the one who says they’re “choosing not to date” for a while
there is no such thing
this poem is for the people who cannot bring themselves to admit that they would give their right leg for any length of time with the person on their mind.

forgive me
I am not a brave woman
I do not know what lurks in the hearts of humans and I don’t really want to know
if what’s there mirrors memories I show in my face on bad days it holds kisses that are long gone
people who have disappeared
and passions that have faded into the ether of the past
nothing lasts
that is the one lesson this coward can say she is able to teach.

this poem is for all those who wish to say “I’m sorry”
I’m sorry I couldn’t love you
you deserve love
I’m sorry I couldn’t give something to you
you deserve to be given to
I’m sorry that for every person that loves somebody
another person just doesn’t want to
and sometimes we’re the lucky ones
right
we get to feel sweet truth in the night
the bodies we reach out to are miraculously there
but I know the despair that comes when they are not
I know the long nights and the doubt and the fear and that crawling back to a womb that just isn’t there
I know intensity’s address and the letdown that rents there
I’m sorry for it
it takes years off your life and it cannot be avoided.

and some times these little words are crutches for the crush that we feel
so this poem is a pathetic vehicle for me to tell you
each one of you
that I love you
in so many ways
in the same ways that stay up nights and days
dreaming up the perfect way to be there for someone
meals you would cook for them
poems you would write for them and the things you plan to say when they say no
well, I love you
and you will never know how in the slight of a magician’s hand we could’ve been lovers and grandly in love
could’ve changed the whole game
written words on the horizon
changed the compromise
but you will know something else instead
bitter as bitter ever gets
more bitter than a rotten peach pit
more bitter than a child’s most terrifying nightmare at night
you will know that I don’t reflect what I see in your eyes
will will share some banal recognition
some cordial understanding but have I mentioned that I love you for not lying
so many people lying all the time
I hate them
so I love you
and you will still go home alone
and that is very hard to do.

for all the humans with love for those who aren’t their lovers
I love you.

and so the poem ends because we know that it will
but before it slips away like everything else
I will attempt the only words I can think of that are a fraction as good as a kiss: when you reach out at night and find not someone
but the cold grey light of day that wakes you up like a slap
like a curse
like an insult
I love you
when you stay at home thinking of those who are long gone or those who are getting kisses from someone that is not you
I love you
for those who want what they probably need and whose bodies are starving not for food
for me and for you and for all the people who never knew or understood what you would do for them
I love you
I love you
I love you

“Tennessee Mary" Fons, an Iowa native, has been writing and performing her poetry and other solo works around the country for the better part of 6 years. She has been the featured performer in over 30 poetry slam venues.

Tennessee Mary represented the Green Mill at the National Poetry Slam in 2003 and represented Chicago again in 2005 as a member of the Mental Graffiti-Wicker Park team. She served for three years as Poetry Coordinator for Chicago’s Bucktown Arts Fest (2004-2007) and was a founding member of the Speakeasy Ensemble, a performance poetry group currently gigging in and around the Chicago.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Slam Tutorial: What do you believe? Declare it with a narrative

One of the 12 Olympians of Slam, Taylor Mali is known for many poems, not least of which is "What Teachers Make?"

"What Teachers Make?" is a great example of two slam poetry topics.

First, it is essentially a Declaration Poem -- about being a teacher -- wrapped in a loose narrative. Declaration poems espouse a value for a belief others may not have. A good slam poem can push your belief and make others see that value where they didn't before.

Second, ever wanted to say just the right thing to a jerk at a dinner party but it wasn't until you got home to say it? Known as an "espirit de l'escalier" or "spirit of the staircase," that witty one-liner, comeback, or diatribe comes only too late. However, your audience doesn't know that. With an "Espirit de l'escalier" slam poem, you can make it seem that not only did your response come instantly, you said it to the jerk's face in front of everyone. Now, you just need to repeat it the audience.

Essentially a revenge poem, the comeback can but full of humor, rage, and "putting the jerk (in this case, a lawyer) in his place."



Aside from the text of the poem itself, what makes this piece work so well is irritating traits Mali adds to his "foe:" he's a lawyer, he disregards the importance of teachers and, most obviously, he has an irritating laugh, which just adds to the reasons to hate the foe. Note that Mali uses this in both performed versions.



"What Teachers Make?" or "Objection Overruled," or "If things don't work out, you can always go to law school"
By Taylor Mali

www.taylormali.com


He says the problem with teachers is, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"
He reminds the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about
teachers:
Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the temptation to remind the other dinner guests
that it's also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we're eating, after all, and this is polite company.

"I mean, you're a teacher, Taylor," he says.
"Be honest. What do you make?"

And I wish he hadn't done that
(asked me to be honest)
because, you see, I have a policy
about honesty and ass-kicking:
if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor
and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won't I let you get a drink of water?
Because you're not thirsty, you're bored, that's why.

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
I hope I haven't called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.
Billy said, "Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don't you?"
And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write.
And then I make them read.
I make them spell "definitely beautiful," "definitely beautiful," "definitely beautiful"
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math.
And hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you got this (brains)
then you follow this (heart)
and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make,
you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you,
so you know what I say is true:
I make a goddamn difference! What about you?

As a slam poetry performer, Taylor Mali has been on seven National Poetry Slam teams; six appeared on the finals stage and four won the competition (1996 with Team Providence; 1997, 2000 and 2002 with Team NYC-Urbana).
Mali is the author of "What Learning Leaves," has recorded four CDs, and is included in various anthologies. He is perhaps best known for the poem "What Teachers Make."
He appeared in Taylor Mali & Friends Live at the Bowery Poetry Club and the documentaries "SlamNation" (1997) and "Slam Planet" (2006).
He was also in the HBO production, "Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry," which won a Peabody Award in 2003. Mali is the former president of Poetry Slam Incorporated, and he has performed with former U.S. Poet Laurette Billy Collins and Beat Poet Allen Ginsberg. Although he retired from the National Poetry Slam competition in 2005, he still helps curate NYC-Urbana Poetry Series, held weekly at the Bowery Poetry Club.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Facebook Chat Haiku

Facebook Chat Haiku
Into the ether
of the Internet she went
questions unanswered

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Where the Wild Things Are"

"Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak is a children's picture book originally published by Harper & Row. "Where the Wild Things Are" is an upcoming 2009 film adaptation. The film is directed by Spike Jonze and written by Jonze and Dave Eggers.

This was one of my favorite books growing up as a kid, mainly because I remember being sent to my room a lot by my father. I really want to go see this movie with my mom. I'm 30 years old, but this is a kid's movie and I should see it with her. If I didn't, something would really seem out of whack.

In the "real" world, the film features Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Cooper and, fittingly, Max Records as Max. The Wild Things' voices are supplied by Lauren Ambrose, James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, Tom Noonan, Paul Dano as Alexander and Angus Sampson.

The book is about the wild adventure of a boy named Max who is sent to his room without his supper by his mother as punishment for talking back. Max wears a distinctive wolf suit during his adventures and encounters various mythical creatures, the "wild things." Although just ten sentences long, the book is generally regarded as a masterpiece of American illustrated children's literature.

The film combines live action, suitmation, animatronics, and CGI. Its release is currently scheduled for Oct. 16, 2009. The trailer features the song "Wake Up" by The Arcade Fire.

"Somethin' filled up
my heart with nothin',
someone told me not to cry.

But now that I'm older,
my heart's colder,
and I can see that it's a lie.

Children wake up,
hold your mistake up,
before they turn the summer into dust.

If the children don't grow up,
our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We're just a million little gods causin' rain storms turnin' every good thing to
rust.

I guess we'll just have to adjust.

With my lightnin' bolts a glowin'
I can see where I am goin' to be
when the reaper he reaches and touches my hand.

With my lightnin' bolts a glowin'
I can see where I am goin’
With my lightnin' bolts a glowin'
I can see where I am, go-go, where I am

You'd better look out below"


Written in 1963, it was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1964. It also won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and was an ALA Notable Book.

And if the book can be read by President Barack Obama, it's got to be good, because anything that man touches turns to gold. Obama reads "Where The Wild Things Are" to kids at the White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday 13 April 2009.

Monday, July 20, 2009

How Deeds Gervasio saved my slam and ass

Half the reason the poetry slam went off without much of a hitch, despite the mic dying from a dead battery midway through round three, was due to Deeds showing up in my moment of desperation to keep score and time.
My other scorekeeper simply never showed nor called.

I texted half a dozen people people before I heard back from Danielle. She showed up just before 7:00 p.m. and worked the whole slam, keeping score and time, and heckling me when the time was right.

Which, of course, makes her even more awesome.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Results from the Sedona Poetry Slam

Results from the Sedona Poetry Slam

Friday, July 17, 2009, Studio Live, Sedona, Arizona, 7:30 p.m.

Calibration poet and host Christopher Fox Graham, "To the Girl Riding Shotgun"

Round 1
Mikel Weisser, 26.5 (1:55)
Ed Mabrey, 29.3 (3:08)
Markus Eye, 24.5 (1:04)
Gary Every, 27.5 (1:55)
Frank O'Brien, 27.4 (2:40)
Wendy Davis, 26.4 (3:02)
Norberto Cisneros, 24.3 after -2.0 time penalty (3:49)
Ryan Brown, 29.9 (3:05)
Maple Dewleaf, 27.9 (2:00)
Antranormus, 28.1 (2:13)
Jack the Mick, 28.0 (2:48)
---intermission---

Sorbet poet and host Christopher Fox Graham "We Call Him Papa"

Round 2
Jack the Mick, 27.2 (2:38), 55.2
Antranormus, 28.1 (2:27), 56.2
Maple Dewleaf, 28.4 (1:32), 56.3
Ryan Brown, 29.8 (3:03), 59.7
Norberto Cisneros, 27.9 (3:02), 52.2
Wendy Davis, 23.6 after -5.0 time penalty (4:49), 50.0
Frank O'Brien, 29.7 (2:37), 57.1
Gary Every, 28.6 (2:53), 56.1
Markus Eye, 25.4 (0:42), 49.9
Ed Mabrey, 30.0 (2:56), 59.3
Mikel Weisser, 29.6 (2:28), 56.1

Sorbet poet Nika Levikov, "My Country"

Round 3
Ryan Brown, 29.3 after -0.5 time penalty (3:13), 89.0
Ed Mabrey, 29.5 after -0.5 time penalty (3:16), 88.8
Frank O'Brien, 57.1 (30:0), 87.1
Maple Dewleaf, 29.8 (1:49), 86.1
Antranormus, 29.4 (2:30), 85.6
Gary Every, 28.6 (2:12), 84.7
Mikel Weisser, 28.0 (2:48), 84.1
Jack the Mick, 29.0 (1:28), 84.2
Norberto Cisneros, 28.3 (2:03), 80.5
Wendy Davis, 26.8 after -2.0 time penalty (3:41), 76.8
Markus Eye, 25.5 (1:35), 75.4

Final scores
1st: Ryan Brown, 89.0, $50

2nd: Ed Mabrey, 88.8

3rd: Frank O'Brien, 87.1

Maple Dewleaf, 86.1
Antranormus, 85.6
Gary Every, 84.7
Jack the Mick, 84.2
Mikel Weisser, 84.1
Norberto Cisneros, 80.5
Wendy Davis, 76.8
Markus Eye, 75.4

Slam staff
Scorekeeper and Timekeeper: Danielle "Deeds" Gervasio
Host: Christopher Fox Graham
Organizers:
Susan Schomaker, April Holman Payne, Jenn Reddington, Studio Live
Christopher Fox Graham, Sedona 510 Poetry

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My dream sequences

This is typical dream sequence that was able to extract from my head. And yes, I speak Hindi in my dreams. What of it?
<a href="http://www.grapheine.com">Agence web Graphéine</a>

Christopher Fox Graham rant


My delightful little rant about how poetry is cool and why people should support the Flagstaff National Poetry Slam Team get to the National Poetry Slam held in West Palm Beach, Fla., from Aug. 4 to 8. The two easiest ways are with direct donations of cash, material support, or plane tickets. Contact Ryan Brown at ryanplease@hotmail.com.

The other way is to attend the second fundraising Sedona Poetry Slam at Studio Live at 7:30 p.m., Friday, July 17.

Photo: Frank O'Brien, left, Ryan Brown, Antranormus, John Cartier and Jessica Guadarrama.)

The Flagstaff Poetry Slam Team:

Jessica Guadarrama is a Sedona Red Rock High School alumna and current Northern Arizona University student. Guadarrama describes herself as a bilingual Mexican-American. She started writing in eighth grade but it wasn't until ninth grade that she discovered slam poetry when NORAZ Poets held a slam at the SRRHS auditorium.

Ryan Brown stated that he is a kid from Phoenix who spends most of his time posing as a writer and poet. He now goes to school and lives in Flagstaff, where he is the SlamMaster of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam.

Frank O'Brien is a 20-year-old student at Coconino Community College, focusing in the general studies and pre-nursing. Originally from Phoenix, O'Brien entered the slam poetry scene in fall 2007. In August 2008, he traveled with Cartier, Brown and Guadarrama to Madison, Wis., as a member of the 2008 Flagstaff National Slam Team. O'Brien is now an active poet and administrator of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam in Flagstaff.

Antranormus is a hip-hop artist who stated that he constantly seeks to redefine or blur completely the boundaries between hip-hop, poetry and absolute absurdity. Known for his complex, multisyllabic rhyme schemes and controversial subject matter, he has shared the stage with members of the Wu Tang Clan, Jurassic 5, Abstract Rude, Illogic, and Sole.

John Cartier helped revitalize Flagstaff's poetry slam scene two years ago and is on his second nationals team. Cartier is well-known for his politically savvy and socially edgy performance poetry.

The team will represent Northern Arizona against more than 80 other teams from around the country.

John Cartier, Sedona Poetry Slam victory poem


John Cartier helped revitalize Flagstaff's poetry slam scene two years ago and is on his second nationals team. Cartier is well-known for his politically savvy and socially edgy performance poetry. John Cartier represented the Flagstaff Team Jade Conscious at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009. Following the slam, John Cartier performed the victory poem on behalf of the Flagstaff Nationals Team.

Christopher Fox Graham, "Spinal Language"


Christopher Fox Graham performs the poem "Spinal Language." Christopher Fox Graham hosted the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Ryan Brown, Sedona Poetry Slam round 8


Ryan Brown is a kid from Phoenix who spends most of his time posing as a writer and poet. He now goes to school and lives in Flagstaff, where he is the SlamMaster of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam.
Ryan Brown represented the Flagstaff Nationals Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Aaron Levy, "Emo Love" Sedona Poetry Slam round 8


Aaron Levy is a longtime veteran of the Flagstaff poetry slam scene.
"I am an Anarchist. I believe that the capitalist fairy tale is killing us all. What's great is that it seems to be killing itself right now I love a great deal but I have no room in my life for dogmatic and destructive religions that are destroying this world through patriarchal heterosexist privilege constructs."
Aaron Levy represented the Sedona Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.
The poem ran 4:36, earning Aaron Levy a -4.5 time penalty. The humor of the poem, however, was totally worth that point loss.

Maple Dewleaf, Sedona Poetry Slam round 8


Maple Dewleaf represented the Flagstaff Team Jade Conscious at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Kayt Perlman, Sedona Poetry Slam, round 7


Vermont slam veteran Kayt Perlman.Just in from Southern Vermont, Perlman aka Kayt Pearl, has recently relocated to Sedona with a deep sigh of relief. The north is cold. Co-founder of Women Divine Acapella & Rhyme, a traveling collaborative installment of all-women expression; Finder/Founder of Sound Foundation, an organization/movement for universal connection and cross cultural understanding through word and sound; northeastern regional slam poetess and co-master and founder of Martial Poetry Slams, the local slam scene in Brattleboro, Vt., local vocaless singer/songwriter and otherwise unknown human just trying to commun-i-kayt with the rest of us.
Kayt Perlman represented the Sedona Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Jessica Guadarrama, Sedona Poetry Slam round 7


Jessica Guadarrama is a Sedona Red Rock High School alumna and current Northern Arizona University student. Guadarrama describes herself as a bilingual Mexican-American. She started writing in eighth grade but it wasn't until ninth grade that she discovered slam poetry when NORAZ Poets held a slam at the SRRHS auditorium.
Jessica Guadarrama represented the Flagstaff Nationals Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Taylor Kayonnie, Sedona Poetry Slam round 7


Taylor Kayonnie is a 16-year-old poet from Flagstaff who has already made a name for herself competing against poets in college, their 20s and 30s. Tay represented the Flagstaff Team Jade Conscious at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Sorbet poet Markus Eye 2


Sedona poet Markus Eye was a sorbet poet at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Frank O'Brien, Sedona Poetry Slam round 6


Frank O'Brien is a 20-year-old student at Coconino Community College, focusing in the general studies and pre-nursing. Originally from Phoenix, O'Brien entered the slam poetry scene in fall 2007. In August 2008, he traveled to Madison, Wis., as a member of the 2008 Flagstaff National Slam Team. O'Brien is now an active poet and administrator of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam in Flagstaff.
Frank O'Brien represented the Flagstaff Nationals Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

John Cartier, Sedona Poetry Slam round 6


John Cartier helped revitalize Flagstaff's poetry slam scene two years ago and is on his second nationals team. Cartier is well-known for his politically savvy and socially edgy performance poetry. John Cartier represented the Flagstaff Team Jade Conscious at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Fun Yung Moon, Sedona Poetry Slam round 6


MC Fun Yung Moon represented the Sedona Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Maple Dewleaf, Sedona Poetry Slam round 5


Maple Dewleaf represented the Flagstaff Team Jade Conscious at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Recalibration poet Mikel Weisser


Son of a nightclub singer, Kingman slam poet Mikel Weisser spent his teens as a hitchhiker. Since then Weisser has gone on to receive a masters in literature and a masters in secondary education, published hundreds of freelance magazine and newspaper articles and political comedy columns, along with seven books of poetry and short fiction. A former homeless shelter administrator, contestant on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," and survivor of his first wife's suicide, Weisser teaches junior high history and English in Bullhead City. He and his wife, Beth, have turned their So-Hi, Ariz., property into a peace sign theme park.
Mikel Weisser recalibrated the stage after intermission at the Sedona Poetry Slam on June 27.

"In the Corners of this Room" at the Sedona Poetry Slam


I performed the poem "In the Corners of This Room" while hosting the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009. After seeing myself on video, I am surprised by three things:
1) That I ever get laid. Seriously? How could a woman with working eyesight be attracted to that?
2) That I ever win slams. How can you listen when I look like a flesh version of Gumby.
3) That people don't hit me in the face with a brick more often. I mean, I want to right now.

In the Corners of this Room

In the corners of this room,
the dust is centuries thick
accumulated from the hundreds of thousands
of footfalls that have shaken the hardwood floors

in the corners, the dust narrates stories
of surviving the earthquake that leveled the city of Lisbon
in 1755 but left this building standing

its tiled walls still echoes the voices
of the men from the 16th century
who filled this library
whispering to each other
the truths that they gleaned from illuminated books

this dust heard Napoleon at the gates
held safe the patriots that resisted him
the vaulted arches comforted both factions
in the civil war without choosing sides
to further divide the brothers already at war

the dust in this room withstood the revolution,
the coup d'état, the book-burners,
the two world wars
and the end of an empire

the dusted lasted all these years
but never has it seen anything
as beautiful as her

she, the dancer, glides across this hardwood floor
on bruised and battered toes
her arms ache from repeating the movements
until they are flawless

she takes the train
the bus, the metro
to come here
suffer the abuse of a teacher demanding no less
than perfection
she is intimidated by her own passion
yet will not surrender

she, the dancer, is artistry in motion,
skimming over the hardwood
with every limb, every ounce of her
articulating all the poetry that used to fill this room

books are no longer necessary
define beauty
watch her
what is art?
watch her
is there a god?
watch her

speak to me a radiant poem about a sun rise
watch her and the poem
will spill from lips like breath

she does not move like us
her muscles are an army
every part, an instrument
combining the chorus of her feet
with the brass of her legs
the strings of her arms
the percussion of her chest
beating her heart drum
in rhythm to the symphony of her presence
if the tiles had eyes
they would not blink
fearing that she would wisp away like a dream
in the sunrise streaming through the windows

fill this space with the memory of your movements
dance across these wood floors that creak underfoot
and ache to hold your steps
for a moment,
like a lover would

as she dances at the center of the world
the dust, in the corners of this room,
forgets all the years
forgets the wars, the blood, the books, the whispers
and she,
at this moment
is why this building ever stood

Frank O'Brien, Sedona Poetry Slam, round 4


Frank O'Brien is a 20-year-old student at Coconino Community College, focusing in the general studies and pre-nursing. Originally from Phoenix, O'Brien entered the slam poetry scene in fall 2007. In August 2008, he traveled to Madison, Wis., as a member of the 2008 Flagstaff National Slam Team. O'Brien is now an active poet and administrator of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam in Flagstaff.
Frank O'Brien represented the Flagstaff Nationals Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

John Cartier, Sedona Poetry Slam, round 4


John Cartier helped revitalize Flagstaff's poetry slam scene two years ago and is on his second nationals team. Cartier is well-known for his politically savvy and socially edgy performance poetry.
John Cartier represented the Flagstaff Team Jade Conscious at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Jessica Guadarrama, Sedona Poetry Slam, round 3


Jessica Guadarrama is a Sedona Red Rock High School alumna and current Northern Arizona University student. Guadarrama describes herself as a bilingual Mexican-American. She started writing in eighth grade but it wasn't until ninth grade that she discovered slam poetry when NORAZ Poets held a slam at the SRRHS auditorium. Jessica Guadarrama represented the Flagstaff Nationals Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Frank O'Brien, Sedona Poetry Slam round 6


Frank O'Brien is a 20-year-old student at Coconino Community College, focusing in the general studies and pre-nursing. Originally from Phoenix, O'Brien entered the slam poetry scene in fall 2007. In August 2008, he traveled to Madison, Wis., as a member of the 2008 Flagstaff National Slam Team. O'Brien is now an active poet and administrator of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam in Flagstaff.
Frank O'Brien represented the Flagstaff Nationals Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dana Michelle Sakowicz, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3


Dana Michelle Sakowicz is a Sedona Red Rock High School alumna who has been a poet and official scorekeeper at FlagSlam. Dana represented the Flagstaff Team Jade Conscious at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Fun Yung Moon, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3


MC Fun Yung Moon represented the Sedona Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sorbet poet Markus Eye


Sedona poet Markus Eye was a sorbet poet at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Maple Dewleaf, Sedona Poetry Slam, round 2


Maple Dewleaf represented the Flagstaff Team Jade Conscious at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Kayt Perlman, Sedona Poetry Slam, round 2


Vermont slam veteran Kayt Perlman.Just in from Southern Vermont, Perlman aka Kayt Pearl, has recently relocated to Sedona with a deep sigh of relief. The north is cold. Co-founder of Women Divine Acapella & Rhyme, a traveling collaborative installment of all-women expression; Finder/Founder of Sound Foundation, an organization/movement for universal connection and cross cultural understanding through word and sound; northeastern regional slam poetess and co-master and founder of Martial Poetry Slams, the local slam scene in Brattleboro, Vt., local vocaless singer/songwriter and otherwise unknown human just trying to commun-i-kayt with the rest of us.
Kayt Perlman represented the Sedona Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Aaron Levy, Sedona Poetry Slam round 1


Aaron Levy is a longtime veteran of the Flagstaff poetry slam scene.
"I am an Anarchist. I believe that the capitalist fairy tale is killing us all. What's great is that it seems to be killing itself right now I love a great deal but I have no room in my life for dogmatic and destructive religions that are destroying this world through patriarchal heterosexist privilege constructs."
Aaron Levy represented the Sedona Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Ryan Brown, Sedona Poetry Slam round 1


Ryan Brown is a kid from Phoenix who spends most of his time posing as a writer and poet. He now goes to school and lives in Flagstaff, where he is the SlamMaster of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam.
Ryan Brown represented the Flagstaff Nationals Team at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Taylor Kayonnie, Sedona Poetry Slam round 1


Taylor Kayonnie is a 16-year-old poet from Flagstaff who has already made a name for herself competing against poets in college, their 20s and 30s.
Taylor Kayonnie represented the Flagstaff Team Jade Conscious at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Kingman slam poet Mikel Weisser


Son of a nightclub singer, Kingman slam poet Mikel Weisser. spent his teens as a hitchhiker. Since then Weisser has gone on to receive a masters in literature and a masters in secondary education, published hundreds of freelance magazine and newspaper articles and political comedy columns, along with seven books of poetry and short fiction. A former homeless shelter administrator, contestant on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," and survivor of his first wife's suicide, Weisser teaches junior high history and English in Bullhead City. He and his wife, Beth, have turned their So-Hi, Ariz., property into a peace sign theme park.
Mikel Weisser was the calibration poet and scorekeeper at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

We Met in Sevastopol


Sevastopol (Ukrainian: Севастополь) is a port city in Ukraine, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea peninsula. It has a population of 342,451. The city, formerly the home of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, is now a Ukrainian naval base mutually used by the Ukrainian Navy and Russian Navy. One of the most notable events involving the city is the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855) carried out by the British, French, Sardinian, and Turkish troops during the Crimean War, which lasted for 11 months. Despite its efforts, the Russian army had to leave its stronghold and evacuate over a pontoon bridge to the north shore of the inlet. The Russians had to sink their entire fleet to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy and at the same time to block the entrance of the Western ships into the inlet. When the enemy troops entered Sevastopol, they were faced with the ruins of a formerly glorious city.

We Met in Sevastopol
For Nika Levikov

We meet in Sevastopol
I discuss the politics of the place
while she talks about zoology
and a recent trip to Israel
I relate details of Dublin
to sound more worldly than I am

somewhere beneath the heavy jazz
and the lingering cigarette smoke
she takes my friend’s hand
and they dance hip-hop and salsa
to a song foreign to their footsteps
somewhere above,
Celia Cruz, Miles Davis,
and Saul Williams’ dead emcee
meet for the first time
smile and wonder why
they never met before
while down below
she ties my tongue with questions
I used to easily evade like a matador
but her horns clip my cape
and waking up in the ICU
I ask how she got so close so quickly
punched a hole in my chest
where my heart should be
I thought the cage I built around it
was impervious to impetuous inquisitors
but tin isn’t steel
and bruises with every beat

outside, I tell her tales
of peaches and breakfast cereal
to demonstrate that my grasp of romance
matches my skill in the kitchen:
wildly, absurdly reckless
and likely to leave bystanders sick

we pass letters of light
brief and instant
across the miles between us
condensing thoughts into seventeen syllables
and I still can’t say it right

“I like you but I
have no idea what I’m doing
please forgive me”

yet all the moments and words
seem right somehow
despite all my
over-thinking
stumbling awkwardly perfectly
toward wherever we’re meant to be:
friends or lovers
or poetic equals or forever strangers
or somewhere in between
and somewhere above,
Anaïs Nin, Anne Sexton,
and Simone de Beauvoir
meet for the first time,
smile and wonder
in whose footsteps she’ll follow me

from Sevastopol, she visits my city
the desert gallery soaking her to the bone
we traipse to Guadalajara suburbs
then travel to Chengdu
trading stories the way penpals trade letters
and I taste our future in the sweet and sour
on a mountain top freezing in the night air,
we search for Pluto among the stars
knowing they found it right here decades ago
I head home with my foolishness
as the only passenger

she visits when times are slow
and she needs someone to fill her loneliness
I bite my lip with the anticipatory heart-skipping pulse
of seeing her
of sharing poetry and stories
but bite my tongue near her
I need a smaller mirror or flexible camera lens
to see what’s written between tastebuds
it’s scrawled in Russian
but I forgot how to read Cyrillic alphabets
when my paternal bloodline said farewell
to the Ukrainian-Polish border
I would ask her to translate
but “you can’t say what you feel”
can only be read by her kiss
and
“you don’t know what you feel”
can only be read by her eyes on a page
and to ask her answer one way or another
would only ruin it all
it’s a fifty-fifty chance that I can’t afford to lose

this paradox of Russia has doomed men in uniform
since Napoleon visited Moscow
during the tourist off-season
with a million spring-breakers in tow
and a hundred years later when Hitler did the same
they both brought back postcards of dead boys my age
frozen in the snow
and the wisdom that a land war in Asia
only leads to failure in Risk

she hooks me like a fish
right through the lip
so that my words spill out sloppy
and any tricks I might use to move her
one way or another
only tear my skin wide open
so I just follow in her footsteps
try to lead her where’s she likely to follow
hope that her pet puppy remembers
the friendly familiarity of my scent
longing to treat her life kindly
bring along enough water to quench her thirst

somewhere in Sevastopol
echoes etched into brick walls
remember that on one Saturday during the siege
her great-great-grandfather and mine
saluted Nakhimov side-by-side
after hers returned from Shabbat
and before mine went to Mass
stood side-by-side bearing polished Warsaw muskets
that would fail to stop the citadel from falling
in the night, in the cold,
they shared Cossack and gypsy fiddle tunes
while watching Raglan’s troops shiver in the dark
and the scuttled Black Sea fleet sink into the harbor

two centuries later
I find the same ambiguity between us
as the muddled history between
Tatar, Ukrainian, Russian, Krymchak and Karaite
who can all call Eduard Bagritsky,
Taras Shevchenko and Hayim Bialik their poets
Leon Trotsky or Moshe Dayan their generals
make them their patriots
depending on context

I don’t know what to make of her
ally, lover, friend or stranger
but the poetry between us binds us
Anton Chekhov, Isaac Asimov,
and Vladimir Nabokov
meet for the first time
smile and wonder
in whose footsteps I’ll follow her
and through the haze I see her near
somewhere in Sevastopol
in the shadows of our fathers’ fathers tombs
beneath the dates that bookended their lives
in the whispers the grass
the answer lies
but Cyrillic is not my native script
so I must stumble onward
take note of the shape of characters
and play the cards she deals
wondering myself
if somewhere above
she and I will meet again
like it’s the first time
then smile and wonder
why it took so long
to learn who we were
meant to become