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.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Appletrees" by Caroline Harvey



I fell in love with Caroline Harvey and her work in Austin in 2005. She still ranks up there with of the strongest female poets I've met on the national poetry slam scene.

Committed to a life's work of cultivating creativity, awareness and vibrant health, Caroline Harvey is an artist, educator and somatic therapist in Boston.

Caroline laughs when recalling that her imaginary friend as a little girl was the moon. One of her other earliest memories is of leading a meditation about "floating on the ocean" for a group of first grade friends at a slumber party, and she still has the feather collection she began in preschool.

A passionate communicator with a natural fascination for words and expression, Caroline began writing and performing plays, poetry and short stories as a child. Also a lover of movement, Caroline enjoyed formal dance classes for many years and continues to dance as often as she can. Her parents remind her that she was never very good at following the rules she didn't agree with; she skipped past both the third grade and her last two years of high school and at 16 she left home to follow the Grateful Dead around the country. Caroline then relocated to England where she studied creative writing, art history and philosophy at Oxford Tutorial College.

In 2002 Caroline was awarded a master’s degree in dance from University of California Los Angeles' Department of World Arts and Cultures where she wrote and performed a thesis about somatic healing, the witnessed and felt embodiment of intuition and a cross-cultural examination of sacred art. She dove into her studies, exploring anatomy, movement therapy, choreography and site-specific performance, the politics of the body, and many movement techniques including the sacred practices of Afro-Cuban dance and drumming. Both the renowned movement artist/choreographer Simone Forti and the celebrated theater revolutionary Peter Sellars sat on her thesis committee. While at UCLA she also studied at the Department of Theater, Film and Television where she served as a choreographer for films and was the Teaching Assistant for many of the "movement for actors" courses.

Additionally, Caroline holds a BFA in theater from Boston University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and won the Dean's Award for Academic Excellence. Caroline is a devoted student of health and yoga pioneer Ana Forrest and is a graduate of her Foundational, Advanced, and Continuing Educational Forrest Yoga Teacher Trainings.

She feels incredibly lucky and wholeheartedly indebted to the many pilgrims, elders, family members and mentors who have led the way and lit her path.

A dedicated teacher, professional artist and health practitioner for over a decade, Caroline currently works as a yoga, dance and meditation instructor & workshop leader, a doula (birth attendant), and is in private practice as a somatic Therapist in Boston, specializing in Craniosacral Therapy. She is the creator of Sacred Groove, an ecstatic dance practice, Awakening the Yogini: Extraordinary Yoga and Education for Women, and CranioYoga, the artful synthesis of Restorative Yin Yoga and CranioSacral Therapy. Caroline also teaches two voice curricula, Free Your Voice and Embodied Poetics.

Caroline also teaches and performs poetry nationwide. She was featured in two documentaries and appeared on Season 5 of HBO’s Def Poetry. A past member and coach of multiple Poetry Slam Teams and currently the Poetry Mentor at Berklee College of Music, Caroline has been a part of victories on both national and regional stages. She is especially committed to facilitating creative writing classes for at-risk youth, survivors of trauma and those working to get free from drug and alcohol addiction and she recently completed a poetry and visual arts project, in conjunction with The Attleboro Arts Museum, for teens in foster care called "Between The Lines." She is honored to have been featured at schools and organizations such as YouthSpeaks, The Esalen Institute, Bristol Community College, Northeastern University, UC Berkeley and UCLA.

Caroline's writing, which tracks her belief that even the fiercest traumas contain within them the capacity for profound healing and beauty, has been published in various literary journals and anthologies including the 2005 National Poetry Slam Anthology
"High Desert Voices" and the Harvard publication "The Charles River Review." She is currently working on a new collection of poems based on the women Salvador Dali painted and a book about her most recent travels in Asia and Central America.

She continues to collect feathers, to be curious, questioning, pioneering and wild, and she hopes never to stop talking to the moon.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Golden Boy" by Caroline Harvey



I fell in love with Caroline Harvey and her work in Austin in 2005. She still ranks up there with of the strongest female poets I've met on the national poetry slam scene.

Committed to a life's work of cultivating creativity, awareness and vibrant health, Caroline Harvey is an artist, educator and somatic therapist in Boston.

Caroline laughs when recalling that her imaginary friend as a little girl was the moon. One of her other earliest memories is of leading a meditation about "floating on the ocean" for a group of first grade friends at a slumber party, and she still has the feather collection she began in preschool.

A passionate communicator with a natural fascination for words and expression, Caroline began writing and performing plays, poetry and short stories as a child. Also a lover of movement, Caroline enjoyed formal dance classes for many years and continues to dance as often as she can. Her parents remind her that she was never very good at following the rules she didn't agree with; she skipped past both the third grade and her last two years of high school and at 16 she left home to follow the Grateful Dead around the country. Caroline then relocated to England where she studied creative writing, art history and philosophy at Oxford Tutorial College.

In 2002 Caroline was awarded a master’s degree in dance from University of California Los Angeles' Department of World Arts and Cultures where she wrote and performed a thesis about somatic healing, the witnessed and felt embodiment of intuition and a cross-cultural examination of sacred art. She dove into her studies, exploring anatomy, movement therapy, choreography and site-specific performance, the politics of the body, and many movement techniques including the sacred practices of Afro-Cuban dance and drumming. Both the renowned movement artist/choreographer Simone Forti and the celebrated theater revolutionary Peter Sellars sat on her thesis committee. While at UCLA she also studied at the Department of Theater, Film and Television where she served as a choreographer for films and was the Teaching Assistant for many of the "movement for actors" courses.

Additionally, Caroline holds a BFA in theater from Boston University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and won the Dean's Award for Academic Excellence. Caroline is a devoted student of health and yoga pioneer Ana Forrest and is a graduate of her Foundational, Advanced, and Continuing Educational Forrest Yoga Teacher Trainings.

She feels incredibly lucky and wholeheartedly indebted to the many pilgrims, elders, family members and mentors who have led the way and lit her path.

A dedicated teacher, professional artist and health practitioner for over a decade, Caroline currently works as a yoga, dance and meditation instructor & workshop leader, a doula (birth attendant), and is in private practice as a somatic Therapist in Boston, specializing in Craniosacral Therapy. She is the creator of Sacred Groove, an ecstatic dance practice, Awakening the Yogini: Extraordinary Yoga and Education for Women, and CranioYoga, the artful synthesis of Restorative Yin Yoga and CranioSacral Therapy. Caroline also teaches two voice curricula, Free Your Voice and Embodied Poetics.

Caroline also teaches and performs poetry nationwide. She was featured in two documentaries and appeared on Season 5 of HBO’s Def Poetry. A past member and coach of multiple Poetry Slam Teams and currently the Poetry Mentor at Berklee College of Music, Caroline has been a part of victories on both national and regional stages. She is especially committed to facilitating creative writing classes for at-risk youth, survivors of trauma and those working to get free from drug and alcohol addiction and she recently completed a poetry and visual arts project, in conjunction with The Attleboro Arts Museum, for teens in foster care called "Between The Lines." She is honored to have been featured at schools and organizations such as YouthSpeaks, The Esalen Institute, Bristol Community College, Northeastern University, UC Berkeley and UCLA.

Caroline's writing, which tracks her belief that even the fiercest traumas contain within them the capacity for profound healing and beauty, has been published in various literary journals and anthologies including the 2005 National Poetry Slam Anthology
"High Desert Voices" and the Harvard publication "The Charles River Review." She is currently working on a new collection of poems based on the women Salvador Dali painted and a book about her most recent travels in Asia and Central America.

She continues to collect feathers, to be curious, questioning, pioneering and wild, and she hopes never to stop talking to the moon.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"How to Write a Political Poem" by Taylor Mali



You can bet money you're going to hear a political poem when a white poet starts singing "Amazing Grace," or a black poet begins with a Negro Spiritual tune; they won't finish the song, because, "Stop in the middle of a song that everyone knows and loves / This will give your poem a sense of urgency."

The best tip for anyone who wants to write a political poem is to read and listen to Taylor Mali's "How to Write a Political Poem" ... then not write that way.

A little satire is good for the soul. It makes us better writers.

How to Write a Political Poem
By Taylor Mali


However it begins, it's gotta be loud
and then it's gotta get a little bit louder.
Because this is how you write a political poem
and how you deliver it with power.

Mix current events with platitudes of empowerment.
Wrap up in rhyme or rhyme it up in rap until it sounds true.

Glare until it sinks in.

Because somewhere in Florida, votes are still being counted.
I said somewhere in Florida, votes are still being counted!

See, that's the Hook, and you gotta' have a Hook.
More than the look, it's the hook that is the most important part.
The hook has to hit and the hook's gotta fit.
Hook's gotta hit hard in the heart.

Because somewhere in Florida, votes are still being counted.

And Dick Cheney is peeing all over himself in spasmodic delight.
Make fun of politicians, it's easy, especially with Republicans
like Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell, and . . . Al Gore.
Create fatuous juxtapositions of personalities and political philosophies
as if communism were the opposite of democracy,
as if we needed Darth Vader, not Ralph Nader.

Peep this: When I say "Call,"
you all say, "Response."

Call! Response! Call! Response! Call!

Amazing Grace, how sweet the—

Stop in the middle of a song that everyone knows and loves.
This will give your poem a sense of urgency.
Because there is always a sense of urgency in a political poem.
There is no time to waste!
Corruption doesn't have a curfew,
greed doesn't care what color you are
and the New York City Police Department
is filled with people who wear guns on their hips
and carry metal badges pinned over their hearts.
Injustice isn't injustice it's just in us as we are just in ice.
That's the only alienation of this alien nation
in which you either fight for freedom
or else you are free and dumb!

And even as I say this somewhere in Florida, votes are still being counted.

And it makes me wanna beat box!

Because I have seen the disintegration of gentrification
and can speak with great articulation
about cosmic constellations, and atomic radiation.
I've seen D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation
but preferred 101 Dalmations.
Like a cross examination, I will give you the explanation
of why SlamNation is the ultimate manifestation
of poetic masturbation and egotistical ejaculation.

And maybe they are still counting votes somewhere in Florida,
but by the time you get to the end of the poem it won't matter anymore.

Because all you have to do is close your eyes,
lower your voice, and end by saying:

the same line three times,
the same line three times,
the same line three times.


Taylor Mali is one of the most well-known poets to have emerged from the poetry slam movement and one of the few people in the world to have no job other than that of poet. Eloquent, accessible, passionate, and often downright hilarious, Mali studied drama in Oxford with members of The Royal Shakespeare Company and puts those skills of presentation to work in all his performances. He was one of the original poets to appear on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry and was the "Armani-clad villain" of Paul Devlin's 1997 documentary film SlamNation.

Born in New York City into a family some of whose members have lived there since the early 1600s, Taylor Mali is an unapologetic WASP, making him a rare entity in spoken word, which is often considered to be an art form influenced by the inner city and dominated either by poets of color or those otherwise imbued with the spirit of hip-hop.

Mali is a vocal advocate of teachers and the nobility of teaching, having himself spent nine years in the classroom teaching everything from English and history to math and S.A.T. test preparation. He has performed and lectured for teachers all over the world, and his New Teacher Project has a goal of creating 1,000 new teachers through "poetry, persuasion, and perseverance."

He is the author of two books of poetry, The Last Time As We Are (Write Bloody Books 2009) and What Learning Leaves (Hanover 2002), and four CDs of spoken word. He received a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant in 2001 to develop Teacher! Teacher! a one-man show about poetry, teaching, and math which won the jury prize for best solo performance at the 2001 Comedy Arts Festival.

Formerly president of Poetry Slam, Inc., the non-profit organization that oversees all poetry slams in North America, Taylor Mali makes his living entirely as a spoken-word and voiceover artist these days, traveling around the country performing and teaching workshops as well as doing occasional commercial voiceover work. He has narrated several books on tape, including The Great Fire (for which he won the Golden Earphones Award for children's narration).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Like Lilly Like Wilson" by Taylor Mali



I just spent Tuesday teaching poetry in Terrin Musbach's English and theater classes at Mohave High School in Bullhead City, thanks to an in with teacher and poet Mikel Weisser. Students ranged in age between 14 and 18, so Taylor Mali's famous slam poem, "Like Lilly Like Wilson" holds a particular resonance for me right nownot because of the use of filler words, but because of the lines, "And the eighth-grade mind is a beautiful thing / Like a new-born baby's face, you can often see it / change before your very eyes."

This poem carries similar elements as another Mali poem, "Totally like whatever, you know?"

As a standalone poem, its strength comes in using an everyday situation as a narrative to demonstrate the power of teaching someone a new way of thinking, essentially a transformation poem. The use of humor keeps the audience interested while the narrative structure allows the poet to teach the audience the same bit of knowledge vicariously through the vehicle of Lilly Wilson.

Like Lilly Like Wilson
By Taylor Mali


I'm writing the poem that will change the world,
and it's Lilly Wilson at my office door.
Lilly Wilson, the recovering like addict,
the worst I've ever seen.
So, like, bad the whole eighth grade
started calling her Like Lilly Like Wilson Like.
Until I declared my classroom a Like-Free Zone,
and she could not speak for days.

But when she finally did, it was to say,
Mr. Mali, this is . . . so hard.
Now I have to think before I . . . say anything.

Imagine that, Lilly.

It's for your own good.
Even if you don't like . . .
it.

I'm writing the poem that will change the world,
and it's Lilly Wilson at my office door.
Lilly is writing a research paper for me
about how homosexuals shouldn't be allowed
to adopt children.
I'm writing the poem that will change the world,
and it's Like Lilly Like Wilson at my office door.

She's having trouble finding sources,
which is to say, ones that back her up.
They all argue in favor of what I thought I was against.

And it took four years of college,
three years of graduate school,
and every incidental teaching experience I have ever had
to let out only,

Well, that's a real interesting problem, Lilly.
But what do you propose to do about it?
That's what I want to know.

And the eighth-grade mind is a beautiful thing;
Like a new-born baby's face, you can often see it
change before your very eyes.

I can't believe I'm saying this, Mr. Mali,
but I think I'd like to switch sides.

And I want to tell her to do more than just believe it,
but to enjoy it!
That changing your mind is one of the best ways
of finding out whether or not you still have one.
Or even that minds are like parachutes,
that it doesn't matter what you pack
them with so long as they open
at the right time.
O God, Lilly, I want to say
you make me feel like a teacher,
and who could ask to feel more than that?
I want to say all this but manage only,
Lilly, I am like so impressed with you!

So I finally taught somebody something,
namely, how to change her mind.
And learned in the process that if I ever change the world
it's going to be one eighth grader at a time.


Taylor Mali is one of the most well-known poets to have emerged from the poetry slam movement and one of the few people in the world to have no job other than that of poet. Eloquent, accessible, passionate, and often downright hilarious, Mali studied drama in Oxford with members of The Royal Shakespeare Company and puts those skills of presentation to work in all his performances. He was one of the original poets to appear on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry and was the "Armani-clad villain" of Paul Devlin's 1997 documentary film SlamNation.

Born in New York City into a family some of whose members have lived there since the early 1600s, Taylor Mali is an unapologetic WASP, making him a rare entity in spoken word, which is often considered to be an art form influenced by the inner city and dominated either by poets of color or those otherwise imbued with the spirit of hip-hop.

Mali is a vocal advocate of teachers and the nobility of teaching, having himself spent nine years in the classroom teaching everything from English and history to math and S.A.T. test preparation. He has performed and lectured for teachers all over the world, and his New Teacher Project has a goal of creating 1,000 new teachers through "poetry, persuasion, and perseverance."

He is the author of two books of poetry, The Last Time As We Are (Write Bloody Books 2009) and What Learning Leaves (Hanover 2002), and four CDs of spoken word. He received a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant in 2001 to develop Teacher! Teacher! a one-man show about poetry, teaching, and math which won the jury prize for best solo performance at the 2001 Comedy Arts Festival.

Formerly president of Poetry Slam, Inc., the non-profit organization that oversees all poetry slams in North America, Taylor Mali makes his living entirely as a spoken-word and voiceover artist these days, traveling around the country performing and teaching workshops as well as doing occasional commercial voiceover work. He has narrated several books on tape, including The Great Fire (for which he won the Golden Earphones Award for children's narration).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"The Crickets Have Arthritis" by Shane Koyczan



Shane Koyczan performs at the Words Aloud 4 Spoken Word Festival in Durham, Ontario, Canada, November 2007. DVDs of Words Aloud performances and interviews available at www.wordsaloud.ca

The Crickets Have Arthritis
By Shane Koyczan


it doesn’t matter why I was there, where the air is sterile and the sheets sting.
it doesn’t matter that I was hooked up to this thing that buzzed and beeped every time my heart leaped, like a man whose faith tells him:
gods hands are big enough to catch an airplane

or a world,

doesn’t matter that I was curled up like a fist protesting death,
or that every breath was either hard labor or hard time,
or that I’m either always too hot or too cold
it doesn’t matter because my hospital roommate wears star wars pajamas,
and he’s nine years old

His name is Louis

and I don’t have to ask what he’s got, the bald head with the skin and bones frame speaks volumes. The Gameboy and feather pillow booms like, they’re trying to make him feel at home ‘cuase he’s gonna be here a while

I manage a smile the first time I see him and it feels like the biggest lie I’ve ever told.
so I hold my breath
cuase I’m thinking any minute now he’s gonna call me on it
I hold my breath
cuase I’m scared of a fifty seven pound boy hooked to a machine, becuase he’s been watching me, and maybe I’ve got him pegged all wrong, like

maybe he’s bionic or some shit.
so I look away.

like I just made eye contact with a gang member who’s got a rap sheet the length of a lecture on dumb mistakes politicians have made. I look away like he’s gonna give me my life back he minute I’ve got something to trade, I damn near pull out my pack and say

Cigarette?

but my fear subsides in the moment I realize Louis is all about show and tell. he’s got everything from a shot gun shell to a crows foot and he can put them all in context like:

See, this is from a shooting range and

see, this is from a weird girl

I watch his hands curl around a cuff link and a tie tack and realize that every nick knack is a treasure and every treasure’s got a story and every time I think I can’t handle more he hits me with another story. says:

See, this is from my father. see, this is from my brother. see, this is from that weird girl. see this is from my mother. it took me two days to figure out that

that weird girl, is his sister.

took him about two hours today after she left for him to figure out he missed her.

they visit every day and stay well passed visiting hours. because for them that term doesn’t apply. but when they do leave Louis and I are left alone and he says the worst part about being sick is you get all the free ice cream you ask for. and he says the worst part about that is realizing that there’s

nothing more they can do for you. he says:

Ice Cream can’t make every thing ok.

and there’s no easy way of asking and I already know what he’s gonna say, but maybe he just needs to say it so I ask him any way. Are you scared? Louis doesn’t even lower his voice when he says

Fuck yeah.

I listen to a nine year old boy say the word Fuck, like he was a thirty year old man with a nose bleed being lowered into a shark tank, he’s got a right to it and if it takes this kid a curse word to help him get through it, I want to teach him to swear like the devil was sitting there taking notes with a pen and a pad but before I can forget that Louis is nine years old he says:

please don’t tell my dad.

he asks me if I believe in angels,

and before I realize I don’t have the heart to tell him, I tell him Not lately, and I just lay there waiting for him to hate me. but he doesn’t know how to, so he never does.

Louis loves like a man who lived in a time before god gave religion to men and left it to them to figure out what hate was.

He never greets me with silence. only smiles. and a patience I’ve never seen in someone who knows they’re dying. and I’m trying so hard not to remind him, I’ll be out of here in a couple of days, smoking cigarettes and taking my life for granted. and he’ll still be planted in this bed like a flower that refuses to grow, I’ve been with him for five days and all I really know is Louis loves to pull feathers out of his pillow, and watch them float to the ground, almost as if he was the philosopher inside of the scientist ready to say that its gravity that’s been getting us down. but the truth is

there’s not enough miracles to go around kid,

and there’s too many people petitioning god for the winning lotto ticket. and for every answered prayer there’s a cricket with arthritis, and the only reason we can’t find answers is the search party didn’t invite us, and Louis right now the crickets have arthritis

so there is no music.

no symphony of nature swelling to crescendos, as if we bent halo’s into melodies that could keep rhythm with the way our hearts beat.
so we must meet silence with the same level of noise that the parents of dying nine year old boys make when they take liberties in talking with heaven. we must shout until we shatter in our own vibrations then let our lives

echo, and grow
echo, and grow
echo, and grow

Grow distant.

grow distant enough to know that as far as our efforts go we don’t always get a reply. but I swear to whatever god I can find in the time I have left I’m gonna remember you kid. gonna tell your story as often as every story you told me, and every time I tell it I’ll say see,

there’s bravery in this world

there’s 6.5 billion people curled up like fists protesting death, but every breath we take has to be given back, a nine year old boy taught me that.

so hold your breath. the same way you’d hold a pen when writing thank you letters on your skin to every tree that gave you that breath to hold.
then let it go. as if you understand something about getting old and having to give back
let it go like a laugh attack in the middle of really good sex

the black eye will be worth it.

because what is your night worth without a story to tell, and why wield a word like worth if you’ve got nothing to sell. people drop pennies down a wishing well as if the cost of a desire is equal to that of a thought. but if you’ve got expectations expect others have bought your exact same dream for the price of the hard work, hang in, hold on mentality, like I accept any challenge so challenge me
like

I’ve brought a knife to this gun fight, but other night I mugged a mountain so bring that shit I’ve had practice.

Louis and I cracked this world wide open and found the prize inside because we never lied to ourselves, never told ourselves it would be easy or undemanding.
so we sing in our own vibration and dare angels to eavesdrop and stop midflight to pluck feathers from their wings and write demands on gods hands

take the time to catch you

so that even if god doesn’t, it wasn’t because we didn’t try.

I don’t often believe in angels, but on the day I left Louis pulled a feather from his pillow and said this is for you,

I half expected him to say

See, this is the first one I grew.

© Shane Koyczan

Shane L. Koyczan (born 22 May 1976) is a Canadian poet and writer. Born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Koyczan grew up in Penticton, British Columbia.

In 2000, he became the first Canadian to win the Individual Championship title at the U.S. National Poetry Slam. Together with Mighty Mike McGee and C.R. Avery, he is the co-founder of spoken word, "talk rock" trio, Tons of Fun University, aka TOFU. In August 2007, Koyczan and his work were the subject of an episode of the television documentary series "Heart of a Poet," produced by Canadian filmmaker Maureen Judge for broadcaster Bravo!.

Koyczan has published two books, poetry collection "Visiting Hours," and "Stickboy," a novel in verse. Visiting Hours was selected by both the Guardian and Globe and Mail for their 2005 Best Books of the Year lists.

Koyczan’s "We Are More" and Ivan Bielinski’s "La première fois", commissioned by the Canadian Tourism Commission, were unveiled at Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on 1 July 2007. Koyczan performed a variation on his piece at the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Koyczan also collaborated on Vancouver-based musician Dan Mangan's Roboteering EP on the track "Tragic Turn of Events - Move Pen Move."

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Totally like whatever, you know?" by Taylor Mali



Totally like whatever, you know?
By Taylor Mali


In case you hadn't noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you're talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you're saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)'s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren't, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences - so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not -
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don't think I'm uncool just because I've noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It's like what I've heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I'm just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we've just gotten to the point where it's just, like . . .
whatever!

And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we've become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

© Taylor Mali


I first met Taylor Mali at the 2001 National Poetry Slam in Seattle. I, like many other beginning slam poets, had first seen him in the documentary "Slam Nation." Team Flagstaff had a rented minivan, a Kia Sedona oddly enough, which we had taken to Seattle. I saw Mali on the sidewalk at the hotel getting ready to head to a venue to host a slam. I offered him a lift, along with a few of our poets and we rode down to the venue.

I saw him later during one of the many NPS slam parties at the hotel. I wandered into a hotel room with a dozen or so slam poets drinking, smoking cigarettes and hanging out. That year, I carried a backpack with handles of rum, vodka, tequila and two bottles of wine, refilling poets' glasses whenever needed. I think a number of poets probably fell off the wagon that week thanks to me.

I wandered in, refilled some drinks, poured myself and sat down on a heavily occupied bed filled with chatting poets. On the other bed, I looked up to see Daphne Gottlieb and Mali's then-girlfriend Marty McConnell making out. I then found Mali sitting next to me. He recognized me, passed a bottle of wine to me, looked at the other bed and said, "I love Nationals."

Mali is one of the major figures in poetry slam. His skill on the stage and in strategy is legendary. He is a consummate professional and a polished performer.

Slamming against him or on his team would be awesome, but I rather have a choice team of four slammers face off against four of his and strategize against him toe-to-toe.

Taylor Mali is one of the most well-known poets to have emerged from the poetry slam movement and one of the few people in the world to have no job other than that of poet. Eloquent, accessible, passionate, and often downright hilarious, Mali studied drama in Oxford with members of The Royal Shakespeare Company and puts those skills of presentation to work in all his performances. He was one of the original poets to appear on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry and was the "Armani-clad villain" of Paul Devlin's 1997 documentary film SlamNation.

Born in New York City into a family some of whose members have lived there since the early 1600s, Taylor Mali is an unapologetic WASP, making him a rare entity in spoken word, which is often considered to be an art form influenced by the inner city and dominated either by poets of color or those otherwise imbued with the spirit of hip-hop.

Mali is a vocal advocate of teachers and the nobility of teaching, having himself spent nine years in the classroom teaching everything from English and history to math and S.A.T. test preparation. He has performed and lectured for teachers all over the world, and his New Teacher Project has a goal of creating 1,000 new teachers through "poetry, persuasion, and perseverance."

He is the author of two books of poetry, The Last Time As We Are (Write Bloody Books 2009) and What Learning Leaves (Hanover 2002), and four CDs of spoken word. He received a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant in 2001 to develop Teacher! Teacher! a one-man show about poetry, teaching, and math which won the jury prize for best solo performance at the 2001 Comedy Arts Festival.

Formerly president of Poetry Slam, Inc., the non-profit organization that oversees all poetry slams in North America, Taylor Mali makes his living entirely as a spoken-word and voiceover artist these days, traveling around the country performing and teaching workshops as well as doing occasional commercial voiceover work. He has narrated several books on tape, including The Great Fire (for which he won the Golden Earphones Award for children's narration).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I Already Know You

Azami and I wrote this poem together based on a poem she started writing about me. We performed it for kids at Mohave High School in Bullhead City.

I Already Know You
a duo poem written by Azami and Christopher Fox Graham

Azami

CFG

Maybe I should have warned him

Maybe I should have warned her

that I’ve been through this before



that this is unfamiliar territory

because I knew from that first moment

but I knew from that first moment

everything about him

everything about her

without having to know anything about him


“I already know you”

“I already know you”

is what slipped from my lips



I felt it in her hips

but those four simple words



the way she looked at me

can’t begin to gauge the familiarity

can’t begin to gauge the familiarity

so I stayed

so she stayed

parting with old friends


and being welcomed by new ones


as has become so routine



moving in within days


like she belonged here


and I was the stranger

of my solitary lifestyle

of my solitary lifestyle

to know that I was in love with her mind

to know that I was in love with his mind

it also took one look at the Star Wars painting



mounted above the bed

and lightsaber adoring his wall



I bought her one, too

to know that he was a geek



and she loved it

I don’t have to catch him saying “frak”


to know he’s seen every episode


of Battlestar Galactica



limited edition box set with deleted scenes


and director’s commentary


worth every penny

I had chosen loneliness

I had chosen loneliness


one-night stands to pass the years

constantly falling in love


knowing that wanderlust


would eventually steal me away



but she wanted to stay


wrap her arms around me


and sleep like tangled vines

so while


I was familiar with the heartache

I was familiar with the heartache

of love lost and found



of love found, then lost

by the fourth day


I woke up in his arms listening


to the comedic ramblings


of Billy Collins



Sushi Haiku:


“Midsummer evening


alone at the sushi bar


just me and this eel”

and while we laughed together

and while we laughed together

I silently counted the minutes


wondering how long it would take him


to realize that which


I already knew

I already knew

but I think he figured it out


I think he figured it out

I think I figured it out

when I jokingly asked him to


“please regale me tales of ‘Star Wars’”


and while

I rolled my eyes

OK, Han shot first,

Jar-Jar is a racial stereotype

and while we

cuddled skin to skin

and they didn’t show it,

but Luke and Leia were conceived

on some lazy Saturday morning

on some lazy Saturday morning



I don’t have to believe in prophesies



I believe in prophesies

to understand my human nature

to understand my human nature

so I begin my relationships

so I begin my relationships

with apologies and explanations these days


hoping that if I cover my tracks


it will soften the blow for later


so I begin my relationships

so I begin my relationships


with coffee and a countdown


hoping that if she leaves by sunrise


I prevent the blow from ever landing

realizing that if you live in the moment

realizing that if you live in the moment

you’ve got nothing to fear

you’ve got nothing to fear

besides, I hear broken hearts


make for great poetic inspiration anyways



my poems about broken hearts


could fill libraries

so maybe I should have warned him

so maybe I should have warned her

that I fall in love often



that I never fall in love

and that I’ve seen Battlestar Galactica, too


in the arms of a boy who reminds me of you


I’ve been through this before



I’ve seen this before

and that same force that brought me


into your life like a hurricane



breaking all of my rules

will someday bring me to the doorstep of


someone new



someone new


will one day fill your shoes


we can only last so long


before time parts our paths


onto diverging roads

the time we share

the time we share

is to learn and teach each other

is to learn and teach each other

learn to love and live in the moment

learn to love and live in the moment

all of this has happened before

all of this has happened before

and all of this will happen again

and all of this will happen again