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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review of "Song No. 5" on Decker's album "Long Days"


"Long Days" track #5. "Song No. 5"

Decker’s fifth track on “Long Days” is the aptly titled “Song No. 5.” which he calls a “croon of intensity.”

While recording “Long Days,” Decker had a short, but intense relationship with a Sedona woman who was in the midst of moving to Seattle. They connected personally and musically and spent time writing and recording music.

The middle of Song No. 5 includes a voicemail recording she left, singing a song. The recording is paired with the haunting trumpet solo by Alaskan musician Sam Cavanaugh, which forms a duet with Decker’s vocals.

Within days of her move he traveled to visit her. While walking around Vancouver, Wash., they heard a woman covering the same, relatively obscure song from a bar.

The eerie background guitarwork weaves its way through all the songs in the album’s first chapter. By the start of the fifth track, that background harmonic element finally achieves a voice of its own and retreats finally into the background as Decker confronts and exercises it from his melodic structure.

Lyrics for "Song No. 5"

well, who are you? where are you from?
oh, how you've called me with your siren song.
but if you're gone, and if you leave -
I only hope you can remember me.
here is my heart. here are my words.
what grace is this, you're in my world?
but if you're gone and if you leave -
I’ll wait for you, if you wait for me

oh, don't be gone.
I’ve waited for so long.
don't be gone too long.

you sing the song of 1,000 doves.
what could this be if it’s not love?
but if you're gone and if you leave
I’ll sing for you until you're here with me.
you put your hand upon my heart.
you move on me just like the night.
but if you're gone and if you leave
I’ll pray for you until you're here with me

don’t be gone

The CD release party for Decker's debut album "Long Days" is Friday, Oct. 2 at Ken's Creekside, 251 Hwy. 179, Sedona.
For more information, e-mail to bdeckermusic@gmail.com

Review of "Judas Kiss" on Decker's album "Long Days"


"Long Days" track #4. "Judas Kiss"

Decker’s fourth track on “Long Days” is “Judas Kiss” perhaps the deepest song on the album. The song includes an eerie harmony played on a handsaw by Leah Baggao and two vocal tracks both sung by Decker.

“Judas Kiss” accompanies “In the Same Boat” but revolves around a single character looking at himself rather than outside relationships.

“When we attack each other, we attack ourselves,” Decker said. “This song is comes from looking at the wreckage of my own life. It’s about someone looking at track mark scars on his arm and asking, ‘when am I going to be on my own side?’”

The song is partially inspired by the Bible verse Matthew 12:25, “And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (King James Version). Decker turns this back on himself, he becomes the kingdom, city and house divided against himself.

The two voices work thematically to echo the duality of two separate individuals. The emblematic kiss was the one marking Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, one of his dearest disciples. In the song, Decker’s Judas is himself.

Metaphorically, the song depicts the schizophrenic emergence of a split personality. From the start, Decker accompanies his own natural tenor register with a second vocal layer in the baritone range. This secondary baritone starts off harmonizing in unison with the primary tenor, but split as it realizes Decker’s destructive behavior patterns.

Decker’s naïve tenor voice remains stuck in the same cycle while his baritone voice develops self-critical sentience, reinterpreting the tenor’s chorus “With friends like me, who needs enemies?” to mean Decker himself.

The baritone then becomes a distinct layer. The two voices reunite when contemplating, “Where'd you get those marks upon your skinny arms?”

However, after the tenor repeats the seemingly unchanged chorus, it appears that the once-dominant can no longer grasp the weight of the situation or refuses to, at which point the baritone takes over and the tenor becomes merely an echo. The baritone seemingly sees the physical manifestation of self-destruction as the final straw and takes over the melody, effectively remaining dominant through the rest of the song.


Lyrics for "Judas Kiss"

said oh my Lord - then you clench your fist
really sealed the deal, sold out with a Judas kiss.
my, my, said it’s all so trite.
with your fingers crossed behind your back, is it still a lie?

with friends like me, who needs enemies?
with friends like these - friends like me

where'd you get those marks upon your skinny arms?
whatever happened to your hopes and dreams and all that childhood charm?
you say your best days all have come and gone (your stitches worn)
put you back on the shelf where you belong.

with friends like me, who needs enemies?
with friends like these - friends like me

when you were young, you were the light.
you were the moon and you were the stars.
you were like me.
and now you're walking in the dark.
no matter how far out you are,
you're like me.

with friends like me, who needs enemies?
with friends like these - friends like me


The CD release party for Decker's debut album "Long Days" is Friday, Oct. 2 at Ken's Creekside, 251 Hwy. 179, Sedona.
For more information, e-mail to bdeckermusic@gmail.com

Review of "In The Same Boat" on Decker's album "Long Days"


"Long Days" track #3. "In The Same Boat"

With “In the Same Boat,” the catchy drum line and guitar melody hooks the listener almost immediately before the drug-laced lyrics reveal the metaphorical intentions “Did you say, ‘it’ll never happen to me,’ then you say in all sincerity, ‘I want out, I want out.’”

As with the interlude “In Or Out,” Decker incorporates dual acoustic guitars, synthesizer, vocal echo effects and grainy overtones.

The narrative compares Decker’s life in and out of cocaine use with others who have found themselves suckered into similar self-destructive cycles of bad choices and drug use conflicting with dashed intentions.

“The lyrics are all about people who I’ve encountered that have ended up in these cycles of self-destruction, where life’s turned on you and you haven’t imagined yourself there before,” Decker said.

Of the three characters in the song: cocaine-addicted Decker, a pill-addled mother and a girl who cuts her wrists, the listener only knows that one — Decker himself — managed to escape the cycle of self-hate and destructive behavior. Perhaps it was because his desire wasn’t escapism or a long, slow suicide like the other characters but subconscious sadism, something more easily avoidable, “I’m such a sucker, a sucker for pain.”

The chorus “I want out. I want out.” echoes the unyielding desire to get out of that cycle once and for all while the stanzas pull listener back in.

The album’s most pop-sensible song, the cycles and eventual conclusion to them articulate Decker’s own struggle to pull himself away from self-destruction and become successful and artistically productive, metaphorically demonstrated in the mere existence of his debut album and clearly elucidated by the self-analytical song.

“It’s the easiest to like the first time you hear it,” Decker said. “There’s a real eerie feel influenced by female musicians like PJ Harvey, Mazzy Star and Portishead.”

Lyrics for "In The Same Boat"

Did you say, "it'd never happen to me?"
and then you say in all sincerity
"I want out. I want out."
they said, "hey boy, now don't you touch that cocaine."
I’m such a sucker, a sucker for pain.
I wanted out. I want out

want to paint a picture, of what life could be.
I look in the mirror and it's not what I see

said "hey momma don't you take all them pills.
can't you see what you do to this kid?"
you want out. I want out.
you hear that Sugar used to slit on her wrists.
ain’t that something - man, we were just kids.
she wanted out. I want out.

want to paint a picture, of what life could be.
I look in the mirror and it's not what I see


The CD release party for Decker's debut album "Long Days" is Friday, Oct. 2 at Ken's Creekside, 251 Hwy. 179, Sedona.
For more information, e-mail to bdeckermusic@gmail.com

Review of "In Or Out" on Decker's album "Long Days"

"Long Days" track #2. "In Or Out"

Decker’s second track on “Long Days,” is the contemplative interlude “In Or Out.” Decker incorporates dual acoustic guitars, synthesizer, echo effects and grainy overtones.

In following “Lose It All (Ladies and Gentlemen)” it serves as brief meditation on the previous song’s metaphorical battle over the potential choice Decker has to make between the dark or the light.

The haunting guitar sounds vaguely reminiscent of a harpsichord while eerie background effects add layers to the experience.

The CD release party for Decker's debut album "Long Days" is Friday, Oct. 2 at Ken's Creekside, 251 Hwy. 179, Sedona.
For more information, e-mail to bdeckermusic@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Review of "Lose It All (Ladies and Gentlemen)" on Decker's album "Long Days"

"Long Days" track #1. Lose It All (Ladies and Gentlemen)

Decker’s album “Long Days” opens with a richly layered ballad “Lose It All (Ladies and Gentlemen).” It is one of the musically strongest songs on album and includes the drumming talents of Sedona’s Eddy Barattini.

The song was inspired by 2007 Paul Thomas Anderson movie “There Will Be Blood.”

“First off, it’s the most tragic movie I’ve seen in my life,” Decker said. He found a particular resonance with oilman Daniel Plainview, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, a “phenomenally driven, manly” character who ends up betraying love and betraying himself and losing his mind on account of it.

Thematically, the song serves as a metaphor for the choices Decker made in his younger days through the voice of Plainview. In taking Plainview’s speeches to small towns as he tries to swindle them from their oil reserves, Decker re-imagines the lyrics into an autobiographical context.

“My relation is to the animosity he felt at the end of the movie when he’s lost his mind in regret and how it overcomes him at the end of the movie,” Decker said.

The opening voiceover echoes both Plainview’s early speeches to crowds but later eerily includes echoes of charismatic Rev. Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) faith healing scenes in the film.

The chorus offers Decker the simple choice, “You could have it all / but oh, you could lose it all.”

The final section of the song relates Decker’s interpretation of the film’s climatic scene, but with his own soul seemingly on the line, being figuratively fought over by Plainview, lost in his own greed and despair, and Sunday, a hollow man of God.

“I’ve made a lot of bad choices in my life. At some point we all have to look at what paint us into a corner. We’ll never be the same or beyond redemption,” Decker said. “I don’t think I am, but I’ve certainly lost a lot of nights of sleep.”

Lyrics for "Lose It All (Ladies And Gentlemen)"

Well, if I am a man
then give up on me now
I’ll scratch around and then
I’ll put you in the ground
these words are insincere
that come out of my mouth
but I think you will agree if I just
believe it now

you could have it all
but oh, you could lose it all

well, I don't need to look right through you
to take away just all I need
my back is strong, my will is good
but I can't get rid of these stains
I drank a lake, I drained a sea
I watched the sun just turn to gray
I’m a broken man, down on my knees
it’s not in you what's inside me

you could have it all

speak in a whisper not a shout
before I cast these demons out
you're not a prophet you’re not a saint
you’re not a healer, we're not the same
so tell me now just what you meant -
what Jesus did and what Jesus said
so tell me now you lunatic,
won't you stop your sniveling?

you could have it all

The CD release party for Decker's debut album "Long Days" is Friday, Oct. 2 at Ken's Creekside, 251 Hwy. 179, Sedona.
For more information, e-mail to bdeckermusic@gmail.com

Slam Tutorial: Using Rhetorical Strategies

Rhetorical Strategies/Devices

Elements creators of text use to put forth their arguments

Themes: Linking devices that hold a text together structurally, e.g. the battle between good and evil: the general idea or insight about life a writer wishes to express. All of the elements of literary terms contribute to theme. A simple theme can often be stated in a single sentence.

Repetition of certain words: Why, with all the words at his or her disposal, does a writer choose to repeat particular words?

Counterpoints: Contrasting ideas such as black/white, darkness/light, good/bad.

Imagery: language that evokes one or all of the five senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching.

Metaphor and symbolism: Non-literal, imaginative substitutions in which, for instance, a tree becomes a metaphor for family, or springtime symbolizes rebirth.

Characterization: The method used by a writer to develop a character. The method includes (1) showing the character's appearance, (2) displaying the character's actions, (3) revealing the character's thoughts, (4) letting the character speak, and (5) getting the reactions of others.

Plot development: Linear or fragmented, chronological or driven by a theme or some other unifying device.

Introduction and conclusion: Framing strategies.

Narrator: Usually first or third person. Is the narrator the same as the author?

Style, tone, voice: Gut reactions are useful here. Examine your own responses. What is it that makes you respond as you do? Are you the author’s intended audience? If not, who is? The attitude a writer takes towards a subject or character: serious, humorous, sarcastic, ironic, satirical, tongue-in-cheek, solemn, objective.

Analogy: The comparison of two pairs that have the same relationship. The key is to ascertain the relationship between the first so you can choose the correct second pair. Part to whole, opposites, results of are types of relationships you should find.

Example:
shells were to ancient culture as dollar bills are to modern culture OR shells: ancient culture :: dollar bills: modern culture

Flashback: Action that interrupts to show an event that happened at an earlier time which is necessary to better understanding.

Foreshadowing: The use of hints or clues to suggest what will happen later in literature.

Hyperbole: Exaggeration or overstatement.

Example:
I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate.

Personification: giving human qualities to animals or objects.

Example:
a smiling moon, a jovial sun

Allusion: A reference to something real or fictional, to someone, some event, or something in the Bible, history, literature, or any phase of culture.

Example: The author alludes to Helen of Troy when discussing women who bring about ruin.

Irony: An expression, often humorous or sarcastic, that exposes perversity or absurdity.

For example, the fact that only teams from the U. S. and Canada play in the World Series® is ironic.

Oxymoron: A contradiction in terms, such as faithless devotion, searing cold, deafening silence, virtual reality, act naturally, peacekeeper missile, or larger half.

Paradox: Reveals a kind of truth which at first seems contradictory.

Example:
Red wine is paradoxically good and bad for us.

Symbolism: is using an object or action that means something more than its literal meaning.

*The practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships.
*A system of symbols or representations.
*A symbolic meaning or representation.

Example:
the bird of night (owl is a symbol of death)

Parody: A humorous exaggerated imitation, or travesty.

The film, Airplane! is a parody of 1970’s era disaster films. Austin Powers films parody James Bond-type spy films. Kung Fu Hustle - a movie by Steven Chow parodying Chinese wuxia films, as well as gangster films in general. Some examples of parody in classic literature include "MacFlecknoe," by John Dryden ,A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift, The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, Namby Pamby by Henry Carey, and Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.



Sarcasm: A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.

A form of wit that is marked by the use of sarcastic language and is intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule.

Satire: literary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness, often with the intent of correcting, or changing, the subject of the satiric attack. One of the most interesting features of satire is that it is almost universally believed to be a persuasive writing form. In actuality, it appears that most written satire actually fools most of its readers, so that, far from being persuasive, it is often not even understood.
Aristotelian Appeals

Logos

Appeals to the head using logic, numbers, explanations, and facts. Through Logos, a writer aims at a person's intellect. The idea is that if you are logical, you will understand.

Ethos

Appeals to the conscience, ethics, morals, standards, values, principles.

Pathos

Appeals to the heart, emotions, sympathy, passions, sentimentality.

Review of Decker's album "Long Days"

My roommate, Brandon Decker will releases debut album "Long Days" on Friday, Oct. 2, at 9 p.m.

I have helped him with some of the logistical networking aspects of getting his album together and reviewing the work, so I'll be posting reviews of all 11 songs on the album leading up to the gig on Oct. 2.

Some of Sedona’s most popular performers are joining to celebrate one of their own. Brandon Cameron Parks-Decker will release his debut album "Long Days" with a concert at Ken's Creekside at 9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2.

The album will be available at the show for $10.

Jazz trio Busker Eaton, indie folk guitarist Jake Payne and the blues guitar duo Jay Fout and Keith Martini will open for Decker & the Doppelgangers.

Decker debuted at GumptionFest IV with performances during the main festival and the pre-party at Ken’s Creekside. His performance with the Doppelgangers showcased his wide-ranging talent for songwriting.

Decker’s backup band, the Doppelgangers include cellist Nanci McDonald, bassist Dylan Jung and Lou Moretti, both of Yin Yang & Zen Some and Busker Eaton, Jason Vargo, lead singer of Yin Yang & Zen Some, and trumpet player Sam Cavanaugh.

More than merely a debut album, Decker’s “Long Days” is a tale of redemption structured around a narrative framework rife with poignant lyrics.

After a rough-and-tumble life of drug abuse, colorful jaunts in rehab and halfway houses, relapse and recovery, Decker’s new album begins by confronting the lifestyle that could have ruined him. Through self-reflection in his music, Decker rose above his own darkness into a productive life of music and sobriety.

“My songs are my catharsis of everything I’ve been through, coupled with my empathy experienced from the different profound relationships I’ve had,” Decker said.

The 11 songs on “Long Days” were written over the last year-and-a-half and recorded during five months in Sedona, Ariz. The stories behind them have their history in the 10-year narrative of Decker’s tumultuous life in St. Louis, California and Arizona.

The songs delve into Decker’s life, his romantic and personal relationships and coming to terms with his sometimes checkered past.

“In every song, I’m taking a moment and trying to work through it honestly,” he said. “I think sincerity drives the lyrics. They’re kind of universal, somewhat, exploration of existential crisis and coping with the way things are and the way things could be.”

The tracks are mainly acoustic-driven, but there are synthesizers and plenty of layered harmonies to add richness to the tracks. Many of the songs have a gritty feel.

Born in Denver, Decker spent his childhood in Dallas and Louisville, Ky., before moving to St. Louis. It was there that Decker picked up the bass guitar at age 15, then moved onto the acoustic guitar at 18.

Decker attended college in St. Louis, but found himself on a darker, more self-destructive path. Although it still influences his music, he found a way out by moving to Southern California in 2002.

Growing as a musician, Decker moved to Flagstaff in 2004 and finished his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Northern Arizona University. Decker definitely put his old life behind him for good in 2005, marking a profound step forward. He began writing original songs shortly thereafter.

Decker moved to Phoenix in 2006, and became lead singer/guitarist of the band A Vacant Night Sky, which played all over the Phoenix valley. Shortly before Decker left Phoenix in late 2007, the band produced its first five-song EP. Decker wrote all of the band’s songs. Many of those songs are reworked into “Long Days” with deeper levels and more musical layers.

“It’s sincere,” Decker said. “There’s a different mood in every song.”

Decker moved to Sedona in 2007 to begin working on his solo performance. Since late 2008, Decker has been writing, recording and mixing his “Long Days.”

Decker is currently planning a West Coast tour for the spring of 2010 and a European tour in the summer accompanied by cello player Nanci McDonald.

For more information, visit www.myspace.com/brandondecker or e-mail to bdeckermusic@gmail.com.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What is rhetoric? How to use rhetoric in poetry

Define poetry:
We speak life in the colloquial tongue.
We think life to ourselves in prose.
We feel life in poetry.
Poetry is the captured sincerity of a moment.

We experience all of life's moments in poems. Because they come to us without words, we can experience them in their purity with an unlimited vocabulary.

For instance, there is no word in English or any other human language for the experience of looking through a window into the dawn sky in autumn just after waking on your day off and hoping for whole day of light drizzle because it brings back memories of rainy days during childhood. But we can feel it, envision the image, the feeling of cool air and slight moisture in the air ... but we can put ourselves there.

In poetry, we can pen the lines to reimagine that moment and the feeling of being there.
The poet's wordless feeling --> translated into a poem --> re-imagined by the reader into the wordless feeling

In prose, we can remove the magic a bit, but add the details of specificity. The beauty of the moment is replaced with accuracy. We take the prose into our understanding of language and recreate the image in our skull, effectively:
The author's wordless feeling --> summed up into a collection of poetic images --> translated into prose --> interpreted into imaging the author's specific moment --> re-imagined by the reader into the wordless feeling

In the colloquial, we do the same thing as prose, but with only our limited 1,000 word everyday vocabulary:
The speaker's wordless feeling --> summed up into a collection of poetic images --> conveyed through simple words --> interpreted by the listener --> re-imagined by the listener into the wordless feeling

Poetry is as near as we can come through language to sharing feelings short of telepathy. Poetry is the core of language that prose and everyday language clutter up for the sake of filling space and sound. In short, poetry is the Cliff's Notes of language.

Thus, understanding rhetoric, the study of how to use language most effectively, is paramount to being a good poet and a good slam poet as well.

That being said, I plan on exploring how to use rhetorical strategies in poetry over the next few weeks.

Rhetoric looms! Fear not! It is our ally, our tool, our weapon!
Most people hear "rhetoric" and cringe. That's because "empty rhetoric" has come to stand in for "'real' rhetoric."

However, once you understand the tenets of good rhetoric, you begin to understand that it's effective because it's so rational. Rhetoric is not complicated or bombastic or difficult to incorporate. It is actually quite simple, terse, and honestly beautiful.

Take a line from a film or a historical quote that you find particularly moving due just to the language and it likely incorporates a rhetorical strategy whether conscious or not.
"We shall go on to the end,
we shall fight in France,

we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,
we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,

we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender"
-Sir Winston Churchill's
"We shall fight on the beaches" speech from 4 June 1940 employing the rhetorical strategy of "anaphora" or repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses, sentences, or lines.
We remember certain film quotes, political states, corporate slogans, mnemonic devices, headlines, and romantic phrases because they naturally fit the rules of rhetoric. I started writing poetry at 18 just before college. After I became an English major and began studying rhetoric, I realized that a lot of what sounded "good" in my poetry and the poetry that moved me fit rhetorical patterns whether the poet knew it or not. Rhetoric is naturally pleasing to the ear.

In a previous blog, I analyzed Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in the context of a poem. It is a beautiful expression of rhetoric in one of its highest form. One of the most obvious lines: "... We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow ..." Just 12 words, but it uses a plethora of rhetorical strategies. It does not seem artificial in the least, but beautifully poetic. Ta-da! That's the beauty of rhetoric.

Language is essentially a complex mathematical problem. We're trying to express an idea by using a series of words like numbers and grammar like operations to most closely equal it. We use collections of the these sentence equations to add, subtract, multiply and divide from each other to move our audience through a mathematical proof from theory to solution.

The thing is that we often know that certain strategies work in a poem or story but not often why. Rhetoric is the why.

So what is rhetoric?

Plato: Rhetoric is “the art of winning the soul by discourse.”

Aristotle: Rhetoric is “the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion.”

Cicero: “Rhetoric is one great art comprised of five lesser arts: inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, and pronunciatio.” Rhetoric is “speech designed to persuade.”

Quintillian: “Rhetoric is the art of speaking well.”

Francis Bacon: "Rhetoric is the application of reason to imagination “for the better moving of the will.”

George Campbell: “[Rhetoric] is that art or talent by which discourse is adapted to its end. The four ends of discourse are to enlighten the understanding, please the imagination, move the passion, and influence the will.”

A. Richards: “Rhetoric is the study of misunderstandings and their remedies.”

Kenneth Burke: “Rhetoric is rooted in an essential function of language itself, a function that is wholly realistic and continually born anew: the use of language as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols.” “Wherever there is persuasion, there is rhetoric, and wherever there is rhetoric, there is meaning.”

Richard Weaver: "Rhetoric is that “which creates an informed appetite for the good.”

Erika Lindemann: “Rhetoric is a form of reasoning about probabilities, based on Assumptions people share as members of a community.”

Andrea Lunsford: “Rhetoric is the art, practice, and study of human communication.”

Francis Christensen: “Grammar maps out the possible; rhetoric narrows the possible down to the desirable or effective.”
“The key question for rhetoric is how to know what is desirable.”

Sonja and Karen Foss: “Rhetoric is an action human beings perform when they use symbols for the purpose of communicating with one another . . , [and it] is a perspective humans take that involves focusing on symbolic processes.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are you ready for "GumptionFest: The Movie"?


This is the trailer for a documentary film shot at GumptionFest IV. Filmmaker Gregg Ensminger is currently editing the final cut, but yes, we're in cinema now. Do you know any other Sedona festival that has a film about it?

I'll wait ....

Thought so. We rock.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rules of Poetry Slam ... Animated

For the love of all things holy, someone, please animate me.

Mike Henry, the subject of this awesome little animation is the former president of Poetry Slam Inc., the organization governing the National Poetry Slam, the International World Poetry Slam (iWPS).

He's been a longtime member of the Austin, Texas, slam scene, specifically 1995 Team Member, 1996 Slam Team Coach, 1997 Team Coach, 1998 National Poetry Slam Organizer and 1999 Team Member.

He spent the next few years running the madness that is PSi.

Again, this video is awesome.

Slam Tutorial: Having Fun With Sex


Objectifying a body part of the opposite sex can sometimes be a difficult thing to do in poetry. Between lovers, behind closed doors, we all often spend hours discussing anatomy, what they like, what they don't how things feel or how things can feel with the right stimulation.
That aside, Rock Baby's sheer enthusiasm for breasts is what sells this poem. Imagine performing this poem in a cover reading at your local open mic or poetry slam and you can see the inherent difficulty unless you are so over-the-top with the humor to truly sell it.
And yes, in person, Rock Baby is hysterical. I met him at the National Poetry Slam in Chicago in 2003 and I distinctly remember one breakfast morning where he had three tables in stitches talking about the van trip from Texas.

Titty Man
By Roderick "Rock Baby" Goudy

Warning, warning
This poem is not suitable for those who take life too serious
And lack a sense of humor.

Titty man gone wild
Titties, titties, titties!
I love me some titties
Big titties, small titties, skinny titties
Tall titties, titties sagging down
Titties juicy and round.

I love me some titties
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle
I like those titties with a dark nipple in the middle
And ohhh! When they jiggle
Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle
Iggle, iggle, iggle, iggle
Iggle, iggle, iggle.

Breasts-ises
B-R-E-A-S-T-S--ISES
Just another name for those titties
You see they come in all shapes and sizes and forms
The average person don't know 'em like I know 'em
This goes for the ladies, too
Who've had titties
All their life.

I can tell the difference between a real titty, a fake titty
A too-young titty
And a titty that's ready and ripe
'Cause I'm a titty man
Hell, I could tell your future
If you just let me hold those titties in my hands.

You see, it does something to me when I see and hear a bra snap
When those titties stand out
It makes a brother like me
Moan and groan and slooooobber at the mouth
Especially when they're naked and pressed up against my chest
It makes it difficult to choose the type of titty that I love the best.

It could be old titties, swoll titties, titties hanging loose
Titties that look like fruits
Titties fully grown
Titties made of silicone
Tittes that make you always wanna hold her
Titties that you can throw over your shoulders.

Titties, difference colors, and I need them
Tittes on people who don't need them
Mean titties, sad titties
Titties that make you wish you had titties
Perfect titties squeezed together
And pushed to the front.

Now if I had a pair of titties
Those would be the type of titties that I'd want
Because I looooove me some titties.

I like 'em on the beach
In the sand
And when it's hot at home
I like to lick those titties in front of a fan
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh..

Whether in a regular, laced or fuzzy bra
I like those tittes that belongs to super stars
And for those ladies with those titties swoll like 2 balloons
I like to stick my face between 'em and go.

Bur-bur-bur-burrrrrrrrr!

Because I loooooove me some titties
LORD!


A native of Hattiesburg, Miss., Roderick Goudy, aka Rock Baby, is a seasoned performance poet, comic and writer. Widely considered a natural performer with an unique, eclectic and clever style, Goudy has delighted, educated and entertained people of various ages and ethnicities across America, quickly making him a crowd favorite within the "chitin circuit" of spoken word.
Appearing twice on HBO’s Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam in 2003 and 2005, Rock Baby offered television explosive performances with his distinct style of comedic poetry.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sedona Poetry Slam victory poem by Ryan Brown and Frank O'Brien


Ryan Brown won the July 17 Sedona Poetry Slam. As a member of the 2009 Flagstaff National Poetry Slam Team, he (left) invited teammate Frank O'Brien (right) on stage to perform a O'Brien's duo piece as his victory poem. The Flagstaff Team made semi-finals at the National Poetry Slam less than three weeks later.

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. Brown represented the Flagstaff Nationals Team at the National Poetry Slam.

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. He traveled to Madison, Wis., in 2008 and to Orlando, Fla., in 2009 as a member of the Flagstaff National Slam Team. O'Brien is now an active poet and administrator of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam in Flagstaff.

Markus Eye video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3


Markus Eye is a Sedona poet and photographer. Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #11, July 17, 2009

Wendy Davis video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3


Wendy Davis is Creative Director of W-Fun TV, a certified yoga instructor and vocal coach in Sedona.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #10, July 17, 2009

Bert Cisneros video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3


Norberto "Bert" Cisneros is a Cottonwood poet and jazz trumpet player. He has slammed in Sedona and FlagSlam and regularly reads at the Sedona Poetry Open Mic.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #9.

Photo by Jon Pelletier/Kudos

Mikel Weisser video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3


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.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #7, July 17, 2009.

Gary Every video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3


Gary Every's career has followed many diverse paths including geology exploration, carpenter, chef, piano player, punk rocker, dishwasher, photographer, mountain bike instructor, soccer coach, bonfire storyteller and just a general bad example to society as a whole.

It is perhaps as an author that Mr. Every has gained the most fame. Published nearly a thousand times, he has four books to his credit and more on the way.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #6, July 17, 2009.

Photo by Jon Pelletier/Kudos

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Maple Dewleaf video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3


Maple Dewleaf is a psychedelic street poet who often makes the trek from Flagstaff to read poetry in Sedona. He read at the GumptionFest IV pre-party at Ken's Creekside.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #4, July 17, 2009.

Frank O'Brien video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3


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. He traveled to Madison, Wis., in 2008 and to Orlando, Fla., in 2009 as a member of the Flagstaff National Slam Team.
O'Brien is now an active poet and administrator of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam in Flagstaff.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #3.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Guadarrama

Ed Mabrey video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3


Ed Mabrey is a two-time Haiku National Slam Champion and 2007-2008 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion.
He has been a member of and coached several winning Rust Belt Regional Poetry Slam Teams out of Columbus, Ohio. Mabrey has released two books, "From the Page to the Stage and Back Again" to critical acclaim and "Revoked:My GhettoPass(ivity)" which was a limited release item.Maybrey has released two CDs of his own work, and has been on projects with other artists and DJs.

He is the founder of Black Pearl Poetry based in Phoenix.

Ryan Brown video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3


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 National Poetry Slam.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #1, July 17, 2009.

Nika Levikov video of "My Country"


For the past two weekends, my friend Nika Levikov has trekked down the hill from Flagstaff to Sedona for poetry events. She read a few poems at the GumptionFest IV pre-party at Ken's Creekside, then read the Cabaret Tent at GumptionFest IV Day One on Saturday.

This last weekend, she came down to keep score at the Sept. 11 slam I hosted at Studio Live.

We hiked to Devil's Bridge the next day.

Among the components of our friendship is critiquing each other's poetry. My favorite slam poem of hers is the identity poem "My Country," which I was glad she performed at both GumptionFest and as a calibration poem at the July 17 slam.

My Country
By Nika Levikov


Babushka likes to tell me about communism
the days when Ukraine was Russia.
The Soviet Union,
a name that has prevented me
from understanding who I really am.
Who I really am?
and sometimes I fear that stories
are the only things left to give me an insight.
Papa would always tell me how he dreamed of leaving.
life was rough and somewhere out there
America,
was an easier path
and that was really all he said,
his words flowed from his mouth like Matryoshka dolls,
never opened
and the layers upon layers of stories
he chose not to speak of.
And here I am, sitting in front of these faces
trying to explain why I must go there.

Dedushka laughs,
aside from my youth he says,
there is an identity that stays with you
before any Russian label.
And they aren’t ready for you yet.
They aren’t ready for you Jew.
They can see it in your face,
it’s written in your hair
and can’t you see how the letters are bolded across your jawline?
Jew, and they will hate you for it.

But I’m wondering how long
can you hide me from the ignorance of other’s.
How long papa,
will you shelter me from the judgment
that has slept under your very pillow
since the day you learned the meaning?
And can’t you see, mama
I’m not afraid anymore.
my only fear
is never getting the chance to understand,
to see you streets where I am certain
the sun still casts your shadow.

I want to go there
and feel your sweat, papa
that leaked from your hands
as you stood in line for days, waiting for your freedom.

I have heard other stories
and I am convinced that my eyes will burn
from shattered hearts still hanging on windowsills
and my ears will scream,
from the sound of tattered orange flags
still flapping from the signs that say “welcome”.
but I am also convinced,
that beauty thrives here still,
in the language whose voice cascaded over every Russian text,
in the dance
that has always broken free from Russian song.

mother, I come for you
and I do not forget you.
my family, born from you
my traditions, my tongue awakened by your distant breathes.

I want to see you.
I want to sleep in your skin
till the culture of my ancestors
becomes the air I’m breathing.
in you, rests a side of my family I have never known
and please, let me get on my knees,
bury my hands in their soil
and say “esvenee, esvenee mena”
sorry, for not having come sooner.

mother, I may not have been raised under your skies,
but I don’t think it’s too late to start learning.
to learn about your language, your song, your food,
and your independence.
I know that you will accept me
regardless of the blood that flows
with rituals of a different kind.
you have always been a part of me.
so I guess this isn’t an act of rebellion
against my family,
this isn’t for the justification that I am who I am,
I say to the world,
to my family,
this, is for my country.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mikel Weisser video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 2


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.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #2, Poet #11, July 17, 2009.

Ed Mabrey video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 2


This poem was my particular favorite at this slam because of its lyricism, because it captures our seemingly futile despiration to halt genocide despite seeing it and because my mother was in the audience. I almost imagined he was writing it about her because she sometimes still scares the bejeezus out of me.

Ed Mabrey is a two-time Haiku National Slam Champion and 2007-2008 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion.
He has been a member of and coached several winning Rust Belt Regional Poetry Slam Teams out of Columbus, Ohio. Mabrey has released two books, "From the Page to the Stage and Back Again" to critical acclaim and "Revoked:My GhettoPass(ivity)" which was a limited release item.Maybrey has released two CDs of his own work, and has been on projects with other artists and DJs.

He is the founder of Black Pearl Poetry based in Phoenix.

Markus Eye video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 2


Markus Eye is a Sedona poet and photographer. Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #2, Poet #9, July 17, 2009

Gary Every video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 2


Gary Every's career has followed many diverse paths including geology exploration, carpenter, chef, piano player, punk rocker, dishwasher, photographer, mountain bike instructor, soccer coach, bonfire storyteller and just a general bad example to society as a whole.

It is perhaps as an author that Mr. Every has gained the most fame. Published nearly a thousand times, he has four books to his credit and more on the way.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #2, Poet #8, July 17, 2009.

Photo by Jon Pelletier/Kudos

Frank O'Brien video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 2


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. He traveled to Madison, Wis., in 2008 and to Orlando, Fla., in 2009 as a member of the Flagstaff National Slam Team.
O'Brien is now an active poet and administrator of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam in Flagstaff.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #2, Poet #7.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Guadarrama

Wendy Davis video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 2


Wendy Davis is Creative Director of W-Fun TV, a certified yoga instructor and vocal coach in Sedona.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #2, Poet #6, July 17, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bert Cisneros video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 2


Norberto "Bert" Cisneros is a Cottonwood poet and jazz trumpet player. He has slammed in Sedona and FlagSlam and regularly reads at the Sedona Poetry Open Mic.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #2, Poet #5.

Photo by Jon Pelletier/Kudos

Ryan Brown video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 2


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 National Poetry Slam.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #2, Poet #4, July 17, 2009.

Maple Dewleaf video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 2


Maple Dewleaf is a psychedelic street poet who often makes the trek from Flagstaff to read poetry in Sedona. He read at the GumptionFest IV pre-party at Ken's Creekside.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #2, Poet #3, July 17, 2009.

Obama with lightsaber on White house lawn

For nearly a year, I have attempted to prove that Barack Obama is not just the president, but he is, indeed a Jedi knight. I know have undeniable proof (from a tip by Danielle Gervasio), this photo of Barack Obama with a lightsaber in hand, in a Shii-Cho or Makashi pose (although based on his campaign and governing style, I think Obama would likely be a Soresu practitioner):
To see previous commentary on my theories, see Alternative Weekly Covers, President Obama-Wan Kenobi, John Williams composes a presidential "score 'for the inauguration'" and "'not' a score for a Jedi," Further Proof that Obama is Jedi, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is related to Queen Padme Amidala and some Obama Jedi Haiku.

"We Call Him Papa" video from the Sedona Poetry Slam





We Call Him Papa
for Frank Leslie "Buster" Redfield
May 14, 1925 - Oct. 31, 2004

we call him Papa
and he could move mountains with his silence

he fathered a family of artists
who knew the value of labor
the efficiency of expression
if it is unclear, rephrase it
if it is unusable, remove it
if it is imperfect, rework it
until it is as much a part of you
as a limb
he never said this
but his life implied it

his stone eyes
edited lies from our speech
before we could speak them
his hands held me tight once
after I sinned
they held me soft
when my father translated himself
into a mythology
I've since ceased believing in
his hands were the tools
with which he spoke through his silence

he carved and crafted rifles
like Stradivarius made violins
and the first recoil
was a symphony
compressed to a split second
he brought wood to life
as though generations of forests grew
to make the right grain
the right feel worthy of his talent

he did not build airplanes,
he built aircraft with the precision of a heart surgeon
knowing a loose screw, one misaligned wire
could transform a craft of beauty
into a coffin
and wife like his into a widow
he made no widows
except one

he crafted art that soared like mechanical angels
and made us feel
how he must have felt with Grandma

even in his absence he scares me
because he was so much more
of what a man should be
than the men I see around me
than the man who fathered me

he was sometimes the machine moving me
he was sometimes the monster under my bed
keeping me from going gently into the night
without fighting the darkness
he was sometimes a giant
stretching hands from horizon to horizon
holding down the sun and moon
and dictating their rising

I am convinced that eastern Montana
is so perfectly flat
in awe of him

we call him Papa
and he could move mountains with his silence

I never heard him say he loved her
not in words
not in a way I could steal
not in a way that the cheap poet in me
could have plagiarized into a stanza
for some mediocre poem unworthy of his memory

I never heard him say he loved her with words

he said it with his eyes

he said it in the stories my mother would tell me
about how he would raise armies and wage wars
just to bring her flowers

he said it with the way he told me
about driving across New York and Pennsylvania every weekend
just to see her for two hours between college classes and curfews

he said he loved her by playing "waltzing matilda" on a harmonica
like he was asking her to dance for the first time,
even after all these years

he said he loved her
by showing us how good man
should love a woman right

we call him Papa
and he could move mountains with his silence

he is the poet
me, his eldest grandson,
I am just his microphone

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monkeys, Ninjas, Zombies, Robots, Pirates

For years, the debate has raged about the balance of power between Monkeys, Ninjas, Zombies, Robots, Pirates.

Any questions?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Antranormus video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 1


Antranormus is a hip-hop artist who 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.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #1, Poet #10, July 17, 2009

Maple Dewleaf video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 1


Maple Dewleaf is a psychedelic street poet who often makes the trek from Flagstaff to read poetry in Sedona. He read at the GumptionFest IV pre-party at Ken's Creekside and has represented FlagSlam at several regional competitions.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #1, Poet #9, July 17, 2009.

Ryan Brown video, 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 National Poetry Slam.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #1, Poet #8, July 17, 2009.

Bert Cisneros video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 1


Norberto "Bert" Cisneros is a Cottonwood poet and jazz trumpet player. He has slammed in Sedona and FlagSlam and regularly reads at the Sedona Poetry Open Mic.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #1, Poet #7.

Photo by Jon Pelletier/Kudos

Monday, September 14, 2009

Frank O'Brien video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 1


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. He traveled to Madison, Wis., in 2008 and to Orlando, Fla., in 2009 as a member of the Flagstaff National Slam Team.
O'Brien is now an active poet and administrator of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam in Flagstaff.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #1, Poet #5.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Guadarrama

Gary Every video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 1


Gary Every's career has followed many diverse paths including geology exploration, carpenter, chef, piano player, punk rocker, dishwasher, photographer, mountain bike instructor, soccer coach, bonfire storyteller and just a general bad example to society as a whole.

It is perhaps as an author that Mr. Every has gained the most fame. Published nearly a thousand times, he has four books to his credit and more on the way.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #1, Poet #4, July 17, 2009.

Photo by Jon Pelletier/Kudos

Markus Eye video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 1


Markus Eye is a Sedona poet and photographer. Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #1, Poet #3, July 17, 2009.

Ed Mabrey video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 1


Ed Mabrey is a two-time Haiku National Slam Champion and 2007-2008 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion.
He has been a member of and coached several winning Rust Belt Regional Poetry Slam Teams out of Columbus, Ohio. Mabrey has released two books, "From the Page to the Stage and Back Again" to critical acclaim and "Revoked:My GhettoPass(ivity)" which was a limited release item.Maybrey has released two CDs of his own work, and has been on projects with other artists and DJs.

He is the founder of Black Pearl Poetry based in Phoenix,
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #1, Poet #2

Mikel Weisser video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 1


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.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #1, Poet #1, July 17, 2009.