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 28, 2011

2010 Southwest Shootout Poetry Slam


Group piece recorded live at The Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff on June 12, 2010, The poets are, from left, Christian Drake, Damien Flores, Joe Romero and Jessica Helen Lopez

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"They Held Hands" at GumptionFest VI Poetry Open Mic



Christopher Fox Graham performs the poem "They Held Hands" at the GumptionFest VI Poetry Open Mic on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. The poem was written in 2003 for the 200 people who jumped or fell to the deaths from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Happy Dirt plays "I Got It On With the P.E. Teacher" at GumptionFest VI



Happy Dirt plays "I Got It On With the P.E. Teacher" at the Oak Creek Brewing Co. stage at GumptionFest VI

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vamp Syllabus at GumptionFest VI



Photo by Beth Robbins Nelson
Vamp Syllabus with Mike Leibowitz, left, Dylan Jung, Matt Barlow and Philip Robbins playing GumptionFest VI on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011.

Monday, September 19, 2011

"So Beautiful" sung by Amelia Melody



Amelia Melody, daughter of Jason Vargo and Amy Lienhart sings the song "So Beautiful" at GumptionFest VI athe Best of Show Stage on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

If the Beastie Boys Were Narcoleptic Haiku



Teresa Newkirk performs the best (and most painful) haiku at the third annual GumptionFest Haiku Death Match. Teresa went on to win the haiku slam.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Need more inspiration before GumptionFest's third annual Haiku Death Match?

GumptionFest VI's Haiku Death Match, aka GF6HDM

As in past years, we will hold a Haiku Death Match, aka Head-to-Head Haiku Slam, at GumptionFest VI: Return of the Art. GumptionFest VI will be Friday to Sunday, Sept. 16 to 18, along Coffee Pot Drive in West Sedona.

The Haiku Death Match will be held Sunday, Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. at the Best of Show Stage, on the corner of Yavapai and Coffee Pot drives.

Challenge last year's champion, The Klute,
and vie for the
Grand Prize of $17

More haiku to inspire you:

first, five syllables
then seven more syllables
five more, then you're done

Your mom's so ugly
she makes onions go cry
ha,ha ha, ha ... burn.

Dancing with the stars,
you left, on a gust of wind...
I used to hold you.
-- Jade Maestas

Solitary crow
atop tree's bare bones
standing watch on shore.
-- C.J. Almeten

Leaves fall and twigs snap
Branches sway and trunk decays
But the roots stay strong
--Tim Yu

Tropical Whirlwind
Rain lash and wind blows non stop
moving off and gone
-- Edward J. Neary

Email Subject Line Haiku
Viagra again!
Can there really be that much
Penile dysfunction?
-- Colleen A. Mayowski

Email leaves the leaves
on the trees; it connects and
saves our world at once
--Sarah Hatch

A sucker is born
every minute they say
which keeps SPAM alive.
--Kris Dougherty

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

GumptionFest's third annual Haiku Death Match nears, so start writing

GumptionFest VI's Haiku Death Match, aka GF6HDM

As in past years, we will hold a Haiku Death Match, aka Head-to-Head Haiku Slam, at GumptionFest VI: Return of the Art. GumptionFest VI will be Friday to Sunday, Sept. 16 to 18, along Coffee Pot Drive in West Sedona.

The Haiku Death Match will be held Sunday, Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. at the Best of Show Stage, on the corner of Yavapai and Coffee Pot drives.

Challenge last year's champion, The Klute,
and vie for the
Grand Prize of $17

Having trouble creating haiku? You can try this, Everypoet.com's Haiku Generator. While the haikus fit the 5-7-5 format, some are incoherent, but others form some creative images. You could take the suggestion and make something better, too. A few:

unaided laughter
sagging stones ringing cows scowl
intently riding

razors blush, pumpkins
emerge frigidly, mist
jingles, ruby hums

rippling limply, cow
excretes, lion ringing cheap
dolphins emerge

bewitched hyena
emerges loudly, heron
saddens, stream moaning

dumb cruel sick birch slides
blindly, retreating, moving
cruel enemy hides

thundershower cries
cries, hobbling
inanely, drily

firstborns spray, breasts leap
hardening, moping, archly
lewdly, decaying

There are 7.62 duodecillion possible combinations, or 7,620,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 which would take 241,463,229,142,900,600,806,144,953,988,900 years to read if you clicked one per second.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

National Poetry Slam 2011 cypher, Mark Palos, Slam Free Or Die



Poet Mark Palos from Slam Free Or Die, (Manchester, N.H.), performs during a cipher at on the street in Cambridge, Mass., during the 2011 National Poetry Slam, Aug. 8-14 - after the Cambridge Police politely advise the poets to not applaud or cheer.

Shot in on the street outside 496 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass.

Monday, September 12, 2011

National Poetry Slam 2011 cypher, poet #7



A poet in a cypher from 2011 National Poetry Slam, Aug. 8-14.

Shot in on the street outside 496 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass.

If you can help me identify the poets in some these clips, please comment.

National Poetry Slam 2011 cypher, poet #6



A poet in a cypher from 2011 National Poetry Slam, Aug. 8-14.

Shot in on the street outside 496 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass.

If you can help me identify the poets in some these clips, please comment.

National Poetry Slam 2011 cypher, poet #5



A poet in a cypher from 2011 National Poetry Slam, Aug. 8-14.

Shot in on the street outside 496 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass.

If you can help me identify the poets in some these clips, please comment.

National Poetry Slam 2011 cypher, poet #4



A poet in a cypher from 2011 National Poetry Slam, Aug. 8-14.

Shot in on the street outside 496 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass.

If you can help me identify the poets in some these clips, please comment.

National Poetry Slam 2011 cypher, poet #3



A poet in a cypher from 2011 National Poetry Slam, Aug. 8-14.

Shot in Le Meridian Hotel, Cambridge.

If you can help me identify the poets in some these clips, please comment.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"They Held Hands," for those who fell from the World Trade Center

"They Held Hands"
For the 200 people who jumped or fell to the deaths
from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.


On a commonplace Tuesday morning,
not unlike that Sunday morning
60 years before, destined for infamy
they held hands as they fell

It was a working Tuesday
a date on the calendar
a morning like the morning before
but now they found themselves
standing on the window sill
of the 92nd floor
overlooking the city
and they felt weightless

They were not thinking
about the cause-and-effect history
of textbooks and CNN sound bytes
they weren’t debating the geopolitical ramifications leading up to that morning
he had decaf
she had a bearclaw and an espresso
and they talked about Will & Grace

jets impregnated buildings with infernos
and now the fire was burning
and the smoke was rising
and it was getting hard to breathe
even after they smashed the window out
the inferno was swelling
it had reached their floor
their stairwells were gone
and the options now
were to burn
or to fall

when the human animal realizes death is inevitable
psychologists say we want control
over those final moments
choosing suicide over surrender is a healthy reaction
because we choose to accept annihilation
rather than letting it choose us

So on one side
is unbearable heat
roaring flames
acrid smoke
and screams of the suffering
On the other side
fresh air
suicide is the final act of free will
that keeps the consciousness intact
even as it is destroyed

but they were not thinking about psychology
they were not thinking about terrorism
the debate about responsibility,
retalaiation,
wars, flags, and Patriot Acts
can wait until September 12th
this morning belongs to them
because they did not have a tomorrow
the true terror of that morning
is to know what they were thinking
as they decided then whether
to burn
or to fall
now, imagine having that conversation
with the stranger
sitting next to you:
The barricade at the door is on fire
the extinguisher is empty
we are blinded by the smoke
and on the windowsill of the 92nd floor
we wait until flames lick our clothes
before we lean forward
and choose that moment to fall
others who fell were scrambling
or screaming or on fire
but we held hands as we fell

survivors of falls from extreme heights report
that falls are slow-motion transcendence
and the experience is almost “mystical”

I don’t know if they felt “mystical”
I know it takes
1 …
2 …
3 …
4 …
5 …
6 …
7 …
8.54 seconds to fall 1,144 feet

just enough time to say a prayer
or regret a memory
or ask forgiveness
or say goodbye
or wonder how the sky can be so perfectly blue
on such a beautiful morning

Saturday, September 10, 2011

National Poetry Slam 2011 cypher, poet Brando Chemtrails



Poet Brando Chemtrails from Denver's SlamNuba performs during a cypher from 2011 National Poetry Slam, Aug. 8-14. Shot in on the street outside 496 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass.

SlamNuba won the 2011 National Poetry Slam. Brando is one reason why.

National Poetry Slam 2011 cypher, poet #2



A poet in a cypher from 2011 National Poetry Slam, Aug. 8-14.

Shot in Le Meridian Hotel, Cambridge.

If you can help me identify the poets in some these clips, please comment.

National Poetry Slam 2011 cypher, poet J.G. The Jugganaut



Poet J.G. The Jugganaut performs during a cypher at Le Meridian Hotel in Cambridge, Mass., during the 2011 National Poetry Slam, Aug. 8-14.

National Poetry Slam 2011 cypher, poet Electric Jon from the Toronto Slam Team



Electric Jon from the Toronto Slam Team performs during a cipher at Le Meridian Hotel in Cambridge, Mass., during the 2011 National Poetry Slam.

Photo by Matt Toth/Toronto Poetry Slam

Electric Jon from the Toronto Poetry Slam

National Poetry Slam 2011 cypher, Gray Brian Thomas



Gray Brian Thomas performs a a poem outside Le Meridian Hotel in Cambridge, Mass., during the 2011 National Poetry Slam.

I met Gray Brian Thomas at the home of Jesse Parent in Salt Lake City, a few hours before we faced off in the team slam at the Utah Arts Festival in June. He opened the slam with "Life in Reverse," a brilliant poem about reversing time.


An excerpt:
"... Fathers would pour gallons of themselves
into small square bottles, then take the bottles
to local liquor stores
and place them on crude shelves


the liquor store owners
would give the fathers back their paychecks 
in small
but gracious increments ..."


I got to know him better at the afterparty in the hotel where he performed in the cypher.


At NPS 2011, the Salt Lake City team made semi-finals and Thomas quickly produced a small chapbook, "A Better Word is Needed" which I proudly acquired.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Challenge 2010 champion The Klute for title of GumptionFest Grand Haikuster

GumptionFest VI's Haiku Death Match, aka GF6HDM

As in past years, we will hold a Haiku Death Match, aka Head-to-Head Haiku Slam, at GumptionFest VI: Return of the Art. GumptionFest VI will be Friday to Sunday, Sept. 16 to 18, along Coffee Pot Drive in West Sedona.

The Haiku Death Match will be held Sunday, Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. at the Best of Show Stage, on the corner of Yavapai and Coffee Pot drives.

Challenge last year's champion, The Klute,
and vie for the
Grand Prize of $17

A Haiku Death Match is a competitive poetry duel that is a subgenre of poetry slam. The Haiku Death Match is a prominent feature at the annual National Poetry Slam, replete with full costume for the host, Jim Navé from Taos, N.M. or Daniel Ferri.

At GumptionFest VI, we will attempt to hold a Haiku Death Match as similar to the NPS version as possible.

Can you beat The Klute, last year's GumptionFest Grand Haikuster?
What is haiku?
Haiku (俳句) is a form of Japanese poetry consisting of 17 syllables in three metrical phrases of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.

Japanese haiku typically contain a kigo, or seasonal reference, and a kireji or verbal caesura. In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line, while haiku in English usually appear in three lines, to parallel the three metrical phrases of Japanese haiku.

What is slam haiku?
Slam haiku used in a Haiku Death Match is far simpler: Use of three or fewer lines of 17 syllables. Slam haiku can be anything from a single 17-syllable line or simply 17 words.

A standard Haiku Death Match is conducted thus:
The host randomly draws the names of two poets, known as haikusters, from the pool of competitors.
The haikusters adorn headbands of two colors: Red and Not-Red (white).
Red Haikuster and Host bow to each other.
Not-Red Haikuster and Host bow to each other.
Red Haikuster and Not-Red Haikuster bow to each other.
Red Haikuster goes first.
The Red Haikuster reads his or her haiku twice. The audience does not clap or make noise (usually, though, they laugh or vocalize, but, of course, we must pretend that this is completely unacceptable).
The Not-Red Haikuster reads his or her haiku twice. Again, the audience does not clap or make noise.
The host waits for the three judges to make their choice for winner, then signals them to hold aloft their Red or Not-Red flag.
Simple majority (3-0 or 2-1) determines the winner.
The host asks the audience to demonstrate “the sound of one hand clapping,” i.e., silence, then “the sound of two hands clapping,” at which point they can finally applaud. The mock ceremony involving the audience is half the fun.
The winning haikuster then goes first.
Depending on the round, the winner will be best 3 of 5, 4 of 7, best 5 of 9, etc., of a number determined beforehand for each round.
After the duel, Red Haikuster and Not-Red Haikuster bow to each other and shake hands. The next duel begins.
Rules for the GumptionFest VI Haiku Death Match:
  • Titles: Haikusters can read their haiku titles before they read the haiku. (This gives the haikusters technically more syllables to put the haiku in context, but the haiku itself must still be only 17 syllables. While this is not “pure” Haiku Death Match rules, it’s much more fun for the audience.

  • Originality: Poets must be the sole authors of the haiku they use in competition. Plagiarized haiku are grounds for disqualification. We all love Matsuo Bashō, but he’s 300 years too dead to compete.

  • On-page or memorized?: Poets can read from the page, book, journal, notepad, etc.

  • Preparation: Poets can have haiku written beforehand or write them in their head while at the mic. As long as the haiku are 17 syllables, we don’t care how, when or from where the haiku originates.

  • Rounds: Will be determined by the number of haikusters who sign up to compete.

  • Quantity of haiku needed: Depends on the number of rounds. 30 haiku will likely be enough for poets who push rounds to the last haiku needed and go all the rounds, but 50 to 100 gives haikusters enough material to be flexible in competition. Most veteran haikusters have several hundred to compete with.

  • Censorship: Adult themes and language are acceptable. There may be children present so you may have to deal with their parents afterward, but that’s your call.

  • Register: E-mail me at foxthepoet@yahoo.com or GumptionFest at GumptionFest@gmail.com.
What’s the Best Strategy to Win?
  • A winning haikuster is flexible.

  • If your opponent reads a serious or deep haiku, read one that is more serious or more profound, or go on the opposite tack and read something funny.

  • If your opponent reads a funny haiku, read one that is funnier, or go on the opposite tack and read something serious or deep.

  • If your opponent makes fun of you, make fun of yourself even bigger or make fun of them. A good head-to-head haiku can work wonders and often wins a Haiku duel. For instance, my “Damien Flores Haiku,” “Easy way to win: / Damien is 20, Officer, / and he's drunk."

  • If you’re on stage and you get an idea for a haiku, feel free to write it down immediately. That might be the next round’s haiku that wins you the duel.

  • Have a good time. Even if don't get past the first round, it's still a great time for all.

Flyers for GumptionFest VI: Return of the Art

Feel free to print, post and pass out these flyers, GumptionFesters

The official logo for GumptionFest VI: Return of the Art

4 ups. You can print 4 to a page

One ol' big page

Friday, September 2, 2011

"Ragnarok" or how Mathias Rust saved the world, by Christopher Fox Graham


West German Mathias Rust, 19, lands his Cessna on Red Square on May 28, 1987

Ragnarok
By Christopher Fox Graham

Ragnarok is the end of the world

The Norse Gods
no matter how bravely they fought
believed their doomsday was inevitable

"Odin and Fenrir," by Hélène Adeline Guerber, 1909
on Ragnarok
the Earth would tremble
as Sirtr, the King of the Fire Giants,
split open the skies with a sword brighter than the sun
his army would break Bifröst,
Odin's rainbow bridge
and cover the earth in fire

as the gods fought to their doom
Fenrir the wolf in his death-throes
would swallow the sun
leaving the world to freeze in an endless winter

but Mathias Rust stopped Ragnarok

he's not a Norse god
or found on comic book pages
and in blockbuster films
and if he wears a viking helmet
it's in the privacy of his living room

Mathias stopped Ragnarok
at age 19, he saved the world

at the University of Chicago
the Doomsday Clock
counts down the minutes until the world ends
35 atomic detonations
could cover Earth in a decade of nuclear winter
in 1982, the human race had 20,000 warheads
"Battle of the Doomed Gods" by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine, 1882
because Ronald Reagan and Leonid Brezhnev
couldn't stop counting
reasons to kill each other
in 1984 the Doomsday Clock was 3 minutes to midnight
Mutual Assured Destruction was just a matter of time

in May 1987, Mathias Rust flew his small Cessna
from West Germany to Iceland
he visited Hofdi House
where negotiators from NATO and the Warsaw Pact failed to believe
the other side loved their own children
more than they hated the other's

Mathias Rust flew to Finland and left Helsinki for Stockholm
with visions of how the Norse gods
saw their inevitable doomsday

somewhere over the smooth Baltic Sea
he couldn't help but notice
how the the forests in Sweden on his right
and those in Russia on his left
were beautiful
and identical
somewhere over the sea
terrified by the thought
of those trees burning at Ragnarok
he turned east toward Moscow

at 19 years old
Mathias wanted to become a rainbow bridge
Reagan, Gorbachev and the Norse gods
didn't how easy peace could be

Mathias parted the Iron Curtain
into the most well-defended skies in the Cold War
three surface-to-air missile sites immediately locked on

two MiG-23 interceptors rose with
weapons bristling for the easy kill
while in the cockpit
Mathias heard pilots
asking for permission to shoot him down
they saw the West German flag on the tail
and made eye contact
but no one on the ground believed

the Soviet air force
thought Mathias
was just an lost Russian
who forgot to turn his radio on

for five hours
missile sites locked on
but tagged him a "friendly"
and three more pairs of MiGs
intercepted his plane
but generals on the ground
were blinded by a rainbow

in the the Ring of Steel around Moscow
missile sites built to shoot down the American air force
weren't built to fire on Mathias
and he landed in Red Square

Mathias Rust after his illegal landing on May 28, 1987near Red Square
in Moscow. As an amateur pilot, he flewfrom Finland to Moscow, being
tracked several times by Soviet air defense and interceptors. Soviet
fighters never received permission to shoot him down, and several
times he was mistaken for a friendly aircraft. He landed on Vasilevski
Spusk next to Red Square near the Kremlinin the capital of the Soviet
Union.
Russians visiting the mummified body of Vladimir Lenin
the man who began the Cold War
crowded to see the 19-year-old boy
who would end it

for their failure to stop a boy
landing a dream for peace in Red Square
warhawk Soviet generals were fired faster than Stalin's purges
and Mikhail Gorbachev stood unopposed
he signed a missile treaty
and one-by-one
let former republics declare their freedom

sent back west,
Mathias watched the Berlin Wall fall
and at the University of Chicago
the Doomsday Clock
measuring how close we are to suicide
tick, tick, ticked back time
pushing Ragnarok away

our children doesn't have to worry about Fenrir
swallowing the sun in the 12 minutes
between missile silo mistake and nuclear impact

because Mathias
was just a little bit crazy
and whole lot of lucky

never let anyone tell you
"you're too young change the world"
it doesn't take a Norse god
just a dreamer like Mathais or you
risking your life
to become a rainbow

if we leave it to the gods
the world may still end in fire on Doomsday
but if you sacrifice yourself into a rainbow
Ragnarok may still come
but not today