This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 670,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Over and Over" by Michael R. Brown

"Over and Over"
By Michael R. Brown

An aging poet and teacher born in 1940,
who fought against Vietnam at home
and for civil rights in the cities,
have I increased my chances next life
of coming back as a holy man, a woman, a gazelle?

That is progress on this wheel—
although most of us are stuck in millennial rounds
as mud-carrying coolies, mastodon bait,
spinning mill spindle girls, charcoal makers,
fast food clerks notching paper crowns for spoiled kids.

Born in 1840 I took a day and a half to die at Shiloh,
parched, blind, baked in dry rough wool, basted in my blood.

In 1740, fevered on a foul ship in foreign waters,
driven by a cutting lash to climb high spars,
I lost my grip in a yaw and fell to the wooden deck,
smashing my skull like an egg.

In Bavaria in 1640 it took me two weeks to die from blood
poisoning when an oxcart crushed my leg
and animal shit entered my blood.

In 1540 a Cossack stomped me because he was drunk and I
was not.

In 1440 large black blood-filled globules burst the skin
of my underarms and groin.

In 1340 an Asian horseman took my head for scimitar practice.

In 1240 Christians trampled me in the road.

In 1140 a fever within a week of birth.

1040 at birth.

940 at birth.

840 at birth.

740 I can't remember.

640 I can't remember.

But you can't even remember that I lived.

I was a pitch blender in the Phoenician trade,
a blood stain under a pyramid block,
scattered bones in the earth of a Yangtze dam,
torn by sharks after a typhoon,
somebody's idea of dog food.

Once in a distant historical instant, I was lifted
on murmured prayers and adored, the precious future
of a group of cousins who valued their families as much as sunlight,
but that was only in a small out-of-the-way place
before what you call civilization.

Copyright © Michael R. Brown

I met Michael R. Brown when the Save The Male Tour visited Cambridge, Mass., for a feature at the Cantab Lounge. Our feature was on par, and the slam was average, but the open mic still ranks as one of the best open mics I have ever seen.

This poem was one that I remembered specifically and in 2008, as asked Brown for a copy to show my friend Nika Levikov because I couldn't find it in any of Brown's books. He e-mailed it to me.

I worked with him at the 2003 National Poetry Slam as bout manager to one of the bouts he hosted. Incidentally, that bout was where I met Delrica Andrews and "Granma Dave" Schein from the Baltimore National Poetry Slam Team, who are wholly awesome people.

Michael R. Brown has been called the "the Jerry Garcia of performance poetry" by WBUR/NPR, "ein Dichter und Weltenbummler" by Die Welt, and a "rascal-artist-angel-wonder .. .at the same time" by Paul Stokstad of "Poets at 8." Michael R. Brown has published his poetry, fiction, travel articles and columns in wide-ranging periodicals all over the world. His fourth book of poetry, "The Confidence Man," was published by Ragged Sky in 2006.

In May 2007, Brown and his partner Valerie Lawson moved to Robbinston in Down East Maine, the easternmost point in the USA, where they have been granted the editorial and publishing privileges for Off the Coast, a poetry journal founded by Arlene and George V. Van Deventer 14 years ago.

Brown has returned to teaching, now at Shead High School in Eastport. As a correspondent for the local paper, The Quoddy Tides, his beat is the Passamaquoddy reservation at Pleasant Point.
He has also returned to the theater, acting in the Stage East production of It's a Wonderful Life and directing the Magnificent Liars Company in Mafia on Prozac.

Brown holds a Ph.D. in English and Education from the University of Michigan. His dissertation was a literary history of the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance directed by Robert Hayden. For 45 years he taught in high schools and universities from the South Side of Chicago to South Korea.

In 1999, he won the first Ronald J. Lettieri Award for Teaching Excellence at Mount Ida College.
Brown was a finalist in the 1991 individual competition of the US National Poetry Slam.

In 1991 he held the first poetry slam in Stockholm, Sweden, and lectured on African American Literature at Stockholm University.

In 1992 he organized the US national slam, and he was on the Boston slam teams that won the US Championship in 1993 and finished third in 1995. In 1998 he won the 6th International Slam in Amsterdam. Brown won the open slam at the 2000 Provincetown Poetry Festival, and he was the hit of the 2001 Rockland Jazz and Blues Festival in New York.
He has performed his poems from Jerusalem to Taipeh, Republic of China, and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Key West, Fla. For 13 years he hosted the Boston poetry slam at the Cantab Lounge, Cambridge.

Brown was co-producer of The Culture of Peace, an international exhibit of art and poetry organized under the UN mandate for a decade of the Culture of Peace. This project has created an art and poetry exhibit and resulted in four exchanges of poets between Ireland and Massachusetts. He is general secretary of the Poetry Olympics, first held in Stockholm in 1998.

Brown's first published poem appeared in the first issue of
Beyond Baroque (1969). Recently published poems have appeared in "Sensations, 100 Poets Against the War," and "Spoken Word Revolution Redux." Forthcoming will be poems in the Sacred Fools anthology "Legendary" and a biker anthology to be published by Archer Books in San Francisco. Brown conducts workshops in writing and performance. He has several times performed his poem "Chorus" as part of Beat Cafe, an original ballet choreographed by former Joffrey dancer Anthony Williams. He appeared in the documentary film SlamNation.

In the past five years he produced and directed shows by the Off-Broadway Poets and Dr. Brown's Traveling Poetry Show, an ensemble who perform their own poetry in theaters. His full-length play, The Duchess of York,was a finalist in the Cape Cod Playwrights' Competition.

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