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.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Despite misquotation, Jared Lee Loughner is no 'slam poet'

I wish people would stop referring to alleged Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner as a "slam poet."

That apparently comes from this quote in an Associated Press news story:

"'He made a lot of the people really uncomfortable, especially the girls in the class,' said Steven Cates, who attended an advanced poetry writing class with Loughner at Pima Community College last spring. Though he struck up a passing friendship with Loughner, he said a group of other students went to the teacher to complain about Loughner at one point.

"Another poetry student, Don Coorough, said Loughner read a poem about bland tasks such as showering, going to the gym and riding the bus in wild 'poetry slam' style - 'grabbing his crotch and jumping around the room.'

"When other students, always seated, read their poems, Coorough said Loughner 'would laugh at things that you wouldn't laugh at.' After one woman read a poem about abortion, 'he was turning all shades of red and laughing,' and said, 'Wow, she's just like a terrorist, she killed a baby,' Coorough said.

"'He appeared to be to me an emotional cripple or an emotional child,' Coorough said. 'He lacked compassion, he lacked understanding and he lacked an ability to connect.'

"Cates said Loughner 'didn't have the social intelligence, but he definitely had the academic intelligence.'"

As an Arizona slam poet, one who legally owns several guns and a concealed weapons permit, going on a shooting spree isn't on my list of things to do. Part of the reason poets write poetry is because any frustration with have with the system, society or our personal lives already has a means of release, our words.

Be wary of the people who don't write poetry is all I'm saying. Who knows what's bottled up in there. At least with poets, you clearly know what special species of asshole we are by the end of a poem.

Being in a poetry class and performing poetry in a crazy fashion does not necessarily make one a slam poet. Going to a poetry slam and competing does. To my knowledge, none of the Tucson poets have said, "shit, we knew that Loughner guy, he slammed once!"

As such, we do not claim him.

(However, I have met poets to which this applies: "'He appeared to be to me an emotional cripple or an emotional child,' Coorough said. 'He lacked compassion, he lacked understanding and he lacked an ability to connect.'" You know who you are.)

Additionally, it seems as though both the Left and Right have jumped on this shooting for their own ends. The Right claims he was a crazed communist lefty nutcase who read The Communist Manifesto while the Left claims it was Sarah Palin's gunsight poster and the Right's "vitriolic" rhetoric.

Neither. Motha-fuckin' crazy is motha-fuckin' crazy.

To whit:
1) Have you ever know anyone who posts on a social networking site that one of their favorite book is The Community Manifesto to have actually read The Community Manifesto (unless they actually live in a commune and regularly attend Communist Party meetings)? No. And you haven't either.
2) Loughner's YouTube videos make no sense. Watch them. They are full of nonsensical, rambling syllogisms. You'll see someone who was not thinking rationally.
3) There's no evidence that Loughner tried to assassinate anyone because of what he saw, heard, or read. He had a lack of connection to the outside world; there's little evidence that what was going on outside would have made it into his skull; if so, he would have been more coherent in his communication in reverse, back toward us through his YouTube videos, a suicide note or manifesto.
4) Assassinations and political attacks are done for reasons, even if just to gain fame. Even Al-Qaida posts videos following suicide bombings. John Hinckley Jr. shot Reagan to impress Jodie Foster. Otherwise political attacks have no meaning outside of any random attack on any random person.

When the trial is over, if he's even ruled competent to stand trial, I feel we'll see Loughner's motives are more aligned with someone like Mark David Chapman - who shot John Lennon because voices in his head said he was the "Catcher in the Rye" - than because Sarah Palin made a lame poster or because Glen Beck has a potato for a brain.

That being said, all my best to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other survivors. My condolences to the familes of the six victims.

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