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.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Unsolicited Advice to Adolescent Girls with Crooked Teeth and Pink Hair" by Jeanann Verlee

Unsolicited Advice to Adolescent Girls with Crooked Teeth and Pink Hair
By Jeanann Verlee

When your mother hits you, do not strike back.
When the boys call asking your cup size, say A, hang up.
When he says you gave him blue balls, say you’re welcome.
When a girl with thick black curls who smells like bubble gum stops you in a stairwell to ask if you’re a boy, explain that you keep your hair short so she won’t have anything to grab when you head-butt her.
Then head-butt her.
When a guidance counselor teases you for handed-down jeans, do not turn red.
When you have sex for the second time and there is no condom, do not convince yourself that screwing between layers of underwear will soak up the semen.
When your geometry teacher posts a banner reading: “Learn math or go home and learn how to be a Momma,” do not take your first feminist stand by leaving the classroom.
When the boy you have a crush on is sent to detention, go home.
When your mother hits you, do not strike back.
When the boy with the blue mohawk swallows your heart and opens his wrists, hide the knives, bleach the bathtub, pour out the vodka. Every time.
When the skinhead girls jump you in a bathroom stall, swing, curse, kick, do not turn red.
When a boy you think you love delivers the first black eye, use a screw driver, a beer bottle, your two good hands.
When your father locks the door, break the window.
When a college professor writes you poetry and whispers about your tight little ass, do not take it as a compliment, do not wait, call the Dean, call his wife.
When a boy with good manners and a thirst for Budweiser proposes, say no.
When your mother hits you, do not strike back.
When the boys tell you how good you smell, do not doubt them, do not turn red.
When your brother tells you he is gay, pretend you already know.
When the girl on the subway curses you because your T-shirt reads: “I fucked your boyfriend,” assure her that it is not true.
When your dog pees the rug, kiss her, apologize for being late.
When he refuses to stay the night because you live in Jersey City, do not move.
When he refuses to stay the night because you live in Harlem, do not move.
When he refuses to stay the night because your air conditioner is broken, leave him.
When he refuses to keep a toothbrush at your apartment, leave him.
When you find the toothbrush you keep at his apartment hidden in the closet, leave him.
Do not regret this.
Do not turn red.
When your mother hits you, do not strike back.

Copyright © Jeanann Verlee

I met Jeanann Verlee for the first time this year at the 2010 National Poetry Slam in St. Paul, Minn. I didn't speak with her much, but I saw her before this poem with the NYC-louderARTS Team in a black box theatre during the second bout on the first night. Most awesome poem.

Jeanann Verlee is an author, performance poet, editor, activist, and former punk rocker who collects tattoos and winks at boys. Her work has been published and is forthcoming in a variety of journals, including The New York Quarterly, FRiGG, PANK, decomP, Danse Macabre, and The Legendary, among others. Her poems have also been included in various anthologies such as “Not A Muse: The Inner Lives of Women” and “His Rib: Poems Stories and Essays by Her.” Verlee’s first full-length book of poems, Racing Hummingbirds (Write Bloody Publishing, 2010), earned the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal in Poetry.

She has represented New York City three times at the National Poetry Slam under two of the most highly-regarded poetry performance series in the nation: Urbana Poetry Slam and The louderARTS Project. Verlee was the highest-scoring individual poet at the 2008 National Poetry Slam Finals, was the 2009 NYC-Urbana iWPS Champion, and represented NYC-louderARTS at the 2010 Women of the World Poetry Slam. She co-curates the Urbana Poetry Slam reading series at the Bowery Poetry Club and serves as writing and performance coach for this three-time NPS Championship venue. She has performed and facilitated workshops at schools, theatres, bookstores, dive bars and poetry venues across North America.

Educated in theatre performance and creative writing, Verlee was co-author and performing member of national touring company, The Vortex: Conflict, Power, and Choice!, has been commissioned by universities for a number of guerrilla theatre events spotlighting domestic violence under MSCD’s Theatre for Social Change, and was a charter member of New York City’s annual Spoken Word Almanac Project. A fan of letter-writing campaigns and constructing protest signs, Verlee is also an ardent animal rights and humanitarian activist who has organized and participated in numerous social actions.

Her first poem was drafted in pencil on the inside cover of a collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales at the age of 7. She won her first writing contest for a short story at the age of 11 and in the same year became the youngest recipient of Parade Magazine’s Young American Ambassadors prize for an essay contest. Hoping to echo S.E. Hinton’s young author milestone, Verlee was determined to write a novel by the age of 16. With three drafts completed by the autumn of her 15th year, she almost reached her goal. Instead, however, found herself blindsided by the insurmountable distraction of tattooed boys, the perpetual chore of dying her mohawk pink, and a life-altering diagnosis of bipolar disorder. A hardcopy of the unfinished manuscript remains in a fireproof safe in her studio apartment.

She lives in New York City with her best pal (a rescue pup named Callisto) and a pair of origami lovebirds. She believes in you.


LAlaLadyBird said...

Twas a good'n graham cracker...a goodn indeed! I can't believe you were in Minnesota and didn't visit. Jerk.
Love to ya,
the montucky leprechuan assoc.

Anonymous said...

You can face whatever has to be faced if you master your own fears and simply go on.

Accountants London Lady said...

Much of this was heart wrenching, other parts seemed humorously nostalgic. In short, it's a multifaceted portrayal of being a young person.