Confirming ballistics from double murder outside SedonaThe morning of Friday, Jan. 6, James Johnson, 63, from Jaffrey, N.H., and Carol Raynsford, 63, from Nelson, N.H., were found shot to death in an idling late-model red Subaru wagon around 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 6, at an overlook between Sedona and Cottonwood. There hasn't been a murder inside Sedona city limits since 2003.
|Photo by ABC15 News|
The suspect, Drew Ryan Maras, 30, fired 29 rounds at police, two of which killed Coleman. Deputies fired 41 rounds, killing Maras.
The weapons that killed Jaffrey, Raynsford and Coleman were all .223-caliber rounds.
We, at the Sedona Red Rock News, were trying to get confirmation of a ballistics match between the two shootings, but the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office couldn't confirm it.
A tragedy, like this, means something different to a journalist. While we feel compassion for the victims of violent crimes or bank frauds and assaults and identify as fellow humans to those in feature stories or obituaries, reporting the news is our job. Reporting this story, and doing it before anyone else in the Verde Valley means I was doing my job for my community.We went to press suggesting there might be a relation, but 15 minutes to deadline on Tuesday, Jan. 10, I happened across a Twitter post from a New Jersey news site confirming the connection. My editor was out of the office, so the onus fell on me. I shouted "stop the presses!" had my photojournalist Tom Hood checking my email every 20 seconds while I called MCSO over and over until I got verbal confirmation and Hood got a press release from MCSO verifying the ballistics. I rewrote the lead with just a minute to spare and sent the plate the press, effectively breaking the story locally connecting the two shootings.
There is still no motive in the two deaths near Sedona.
May photo shootIn May, following a Sedona Poetry Slam, a got a group of my best poets to stay overnight.
Photo by Tara GraeberJosh Wiss, Spencer Troth, me, Brian Walker, Azami, Nodalone, Valence and
Lauren Hanss, left to right, helped encapsulate Arizona's Wild West and sci-fi
Hikers to the site came across a dozen armed poets and artists adjacent to the trailhead. Seeing there reaction to poets like Josh Wiss with three pistols and Valence wearing heterochromic sunglasses, my trenchcoat and a wielding a rusty shotgun must have been terrifying, then hilarious.
Of course, readers of my blog have seen the results of these pics as they are my favorites.
Publishing my first bound book, "The Opposite of Camouflage"In late May, I started working on my first bound book of poetry, publishing it through Lulu.com, a print on demand service.
16 poems in a 52-page bound book, available for $9.99.
- Welcome to the Church of the Word
- Manifesto of an Addict
- We Call Him Papa
- Spinal Language
- The Peach
- Breakfast Cereal
- In the Corners of This Room
- Three Minutes for Dylan
- Do You Have a Baseball Bat?
- My Hands are in the Mail
- The Devil’s Gardens
- Revolution 2.0
- Staring at the Milky Way with One Eye Closed
- Dear Pluto
- They Held Hands
Winning the FlagSlam Grand Slam in May
In 2010, I was added to my fifth Flagstaff team because I had competed and happened to be going to Nationals as a volunteer and the team's fourth poet bailed.
But in 2012, after a year of competing every week, despite living 40 minutes away in Sedona, I won the FlagSlam Grand Slam, making the team with Ryan Brown, Tara Pollock and Nodalone, and our alternate Jackson Morris, who we almost immediately made a fifth member of the team, as permitted by Poetry Slam Inc. rules.
The team was super supportive and incredibly talented, probably the strongest team of poets since the inaugural team in 2001.
First Sedona Grand Slam in June; performing with AzamiIn 2011, The Klute suggested I send a team from Sedona to the National Poetry Slam.
I scrambled in to get in six poetry slams between December and May, meeting the threshold to qualify for inclusion in the National Poetry Slam, paid venue registration and certification for Studio Live and set up a point system to encourage poets to participate.
- Evan Dissinger is one of the preeminent voices in the Flagstaff poetry scene. A skateboard rat in Flagstaff, Dissinger is one of the most sincere poets in Arizona with a knack for making conventional experiences sublime.
- Lauren Hanss is one of the strong female voices in Flagstaff. An early education and creative writing student at NAU, Hanss is respected for her honest, confessional poetry.
- Known for his political savvy and humorous poetry, The Klute performs all over the United States and Canada and featured at the Poetry Slam and the Sedona Public Library. A seasoned veteran, The Klute has been to the National Poetry Slam seven times, for the Mesa Slam Team in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006, and the Phoenix Slam Team in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He also won the grand slams in 2005 and 2010.
- A poet’s poet, Frank O’Brien writes with a profound simplicity. O’Brien won the 2008 and 2009 Flagstaff Grand Slams, and competed at three national poetry slams from 2008 to 2010.
- A veteran national competitor, Lauren Perry competed at the National Poetry Slam with the Mesa Poetry Slam Team in 2006, 2009 and 2010. She also proudly represented Sedona at the 2012 Women of the World Poetry Slam in Denver.
- Austin Reeves is an up-and-coming voice in both Sedona and Flagstaff. A coffee-loving creative writing student at NAU, Reeves has already made an impact, taking second at the last Sedona Poetry Slam in May.
- Beginning in Flagstaff in 2005, Rowie Shebala has slammed all over Arizona. After graduating from NAU with a Bachelors of Science in Theater and a minor in English, she hosted the poetry slam in Gallup, N.M. On the national level, she competed at the 2009 Women of the World Poetry Slam in Detroit and as a member of the Mesa Slam Team in 2011.
- Tyler Sirvinskas aka Valence, was a member of the 2011 Flagstaff National Poetry Slam team. He is the top-ranked poet competing in the Sedona grand slam.
- A political science student at NAU, Spencer Troth’s introspective work brings compassion to his views of current events, such as a poem touching on the double murder outside Sedona in January. Troth will be taking his poetic voice overseas as a political science student in France next year.
- Mikel Weisser is a school teacher from Kingman, an Occupy activist and a 2012 candidate for Arizona’s Congressional District 4. In conjunction with his congressional campaign and activist activities, Weisser schedules poetry performances all over the state.
- Joshua Wiss’ infectious enthusiasm for life is evident in his energetic performances. A recent graduate of NAU with a degree in creative writing, Wiss performed at every Sedona Poetry Slam this season and is currently ranked No. 2.
|Part of the performance included a duo poem featuring me |
performing "[The Dust] In the Corners of this Room" with my
then-girlfriend Azami dancing to the piece.
That was awesome.
The 2012 Sedona National Poetry Slam Team members were chosen: Valence, Evan Dissinger, Josh Wiss, Frank O'Brien and Spenser Troth
Desert Rocks Music FestivalThe Apocalypse Slam, The Dust and Whiskey Slam,The Hunger Slam, whatever the 12 poets who participated wanted to call it, it was a struggle but awesome when all was said and done.
|Notice the lack of green on the underlying map. The festival was dust, just |
Hanging out with Seth Walker, Solomon Schneider and some of the best slam poets in the country was worth all the heartache of going and competing:
- Karen Neverland was a member of the Salt City Slam Team in 2010 and has featured at many venues around the Salt Lake area with her poetry and motivational speaking. She has been featured on KRCL’s RadioActive and City Weekly’s Zionized and has recently completed a full-length philosophy book (unpublished). Karen has also self-published three chapbooks of poetry and often performs under the nickname “Karo”. In her free time she runs Salt Lake City’s most successful open microphone at Greenhouse Effect and enjoys creating music.
- Amy Everhart has been called one of "America's most refreshing Poetic Voices", a whirling-dervish of a performer whose voice sucker punched itself into the National Consciousness when she made history in Berkley California on October 10th, 2009 by being the first Woman to ever win the Individual World Poetry Slam, the most highly coveted title in United States performance poetry.
- Will Stanford is co-founder of Sparrow Ghost Publishing and Collective, a hair-stylist in training, hst of Portland Poetry Slam, Word-Out and Broetry. I write poems and do hoodrat stuff with my friends. Also, he performed a poem naked.
- Jackhammer Serenade is composed of Dre Johnson and Patrick Ohslund and was born of fire and incalculable odds as these two poets converged from vastly different backgrounds on the 2009 poetry team Life Sentence. Since then they have given themselves entirely to multi voice work in order to further the human experiment of melding consciousness.
Their work is at once tongue and cheek combined with a biting no-nonsense social commentary on the unseen suffering going on in the urban world.
- Jesse Parent is a poet, an improviser, a former mixed martial arts fighter, a computer nerd, a husband, a father, and, above all, a human being. According to the results of the 2010 and 2011 Individual World Poetry Slams, he is also the 2nd ranked slam poet in the world.
- Jordan Ranft loves poetry. He loves writing it, and he loves performing it. In the few years he has been practicing his craft he has taken the scene by storm. First starting performance career out in Colorado Jordan placed several times at the Mercury Cafe Slam in Denver. Now residing in northern California he has performed all over the bay area, won multiple slams, and has featured at several big name events including the Northbay Poetry Slam and the San Francisco How Weird Street Fair.
- Lauren Zuniga is a nationally touring poet, teaching artist and activist. She is one of the top 5 ranked female poets in the world, the 2012 Activist-in-Residence at the OU Center for Social Justice and the founder of Oklahoma Young Writers. MoveOn.org, called her poem "The most riveting message on the war on women in under three minutes." Her work has also featured in On the Issues Magazine, Daily Kos, Crooks and Liars, Being Liberal, RH Reality Check, Muzzle Magazine, The Good Things About America and The Gayly.
- Gray Brian Thomas is a performance poet born and raised in Salt Lake City Utah. Graduating cum laude with a B.A. in English in 2012 from the University of Utah where he was editor of enormous rooms, the undergraduate literary journal, Gray has been writing and performing poetry for several years. He was a member of the 2007, and 2011 Salt City Slam teams, and is a current member of the 2012 Salt City Slam team. He helped found the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational team for the University of Utah, which sent it's first ever representatives to the 2012 CUPSI tournament. Gray is also the 2012 Individual World Poetry Slam representative for Salt Lake City, which will take place later this year in Fayettville, Ark.
- Lacey Roop is a nationally recognized and touring poet placing 6th in the 2011 Women of the World Poetry Slam (WOWPS), was the Austin, TX Individual World Poetry Slam (IWPS) representative, and has been a two-time member of the renowned Austin Poetry Slam.
What is far more interesting about Lacey, however, is that she has an uncanny ability to get hit by cars while biking, finds the fact that we are all made of stars both fascinating and comforting, and wears a key around her neck that unlocks the bottom of the ocean. Really, it does.
- The rapper Progress.
- Lilly Fangz
|Slam scores posted during the Desert Rock Music Festival.|
Copperstate Poetry Slam
|Valence, Josh Wiss, Evan Dissinger, and |
Frank O'Brien show off the 2012 Copperstate
Poetry Slam trophy they won as the Sedona
National Poetry Slam Team.
My Sedona boys, however, rocked it and took home the trophy.
Spenser Troth was in Los Angeles getting visa from the French consulate for a future study abroad course and coun't attend. The rest of the 2012 Sedona National Poetry Slam Team Valence, Evan Dissinger, Josh Wiss, Frank O'Brien
After Nationals, the team chose to give me the trophy as the Sedona SlamMaster, which now sits on my entertainment unit, proudly overlooking all the slams of the 2012-2013 slam poetry season.
Whatever team I'm on in 2013 will be gunning for the next trophy.
The FlagSlam Team at Nationals in August and peforming nothing but duo poems.I have always loved Ryan Brown's poetry.
Being able to perform a duo poem with him at the National Poetry Slam was awesome. We had performed my poem "Dear Pluto" flawlessly at the Copperstate Poetry Slam and I was looking forward to slamming it at Nationals.
|FlagSlam 2012: nodalone, Ryan Brown, Jackson Morris, myself and Tara|
Pollock outside our venue at the National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C.
We killed it in the first and second rounds of the National Poetry Slam and gave the powerhouse Nuyorican Poets' Cafe a run for its money, leading them for two rounds before they and Hawaii slam pushed out some great poems and pushed us to third place.
Slamming with such a talented team was a great experience.
Having been to nationals as a solo performer so many times, I looked forward to an odd anomaly this year; I perform on the nationals stage three times, none of which were solo. My first poem was with Ryan, my second was "Babies" with nodalone, and my third was a duo poem with Tara Pollock dancing.
I also got trashed at nationals, no surprise there, and handed out nearly every copy of
My newest poetry book "The Opposite of Camouflage"
GumptionFest VIIYep, seven years of providing free art for the community.
This was the first year without our founders Dylan Jung and Danielle Gervasio. There was some complaints about shifting the location of the venue from Coffee Pot Drive to the Old Marketplace and a lot of headaches between organizers who had some difficulty getting along. There were also complaints about so many out of town acts and so few locals on the stages. But the economy has been weak, and there are fewer full-tme and amateur performers in Sedona,
Splitting sites was admittedly troublesome as a lot of people didn't realize the festival was as large as it was. The stage at Sun Signs suffered the most, which is real shame because Mark Jacobson has been one of biggest, longest supporters.
GumptionFest is always an experiement and we learned from this one. As we say every GumptionFest, next year will be better.
On the plus side, I fought for my poets to be treated as equals on the programs, website and promotional materials. Poets The Klute, Tara Pollock, Evan Dissinger, Josh Wiss, Taylor Hayes, John Q, Batman (Biance Luedecker) and Geoff Jackson all had a turn on the microphone with The Klute winning the annual GumptionFest Haiku Death Match, reclaiming the title from his 2010 victory.
Get ready for GumptionFest VIII in September.
Death of Chris Lane in AugustEver since Christopher Lane's death, people have asked me my reaction, or been afraid to. This is as near as I get to an official statement.
The reason I moved to Sedona in March 2004 was to help Chris Lane run NORAZ Poets.
Despite being friends from the 2001 Flagstaff National Poetry Slam Team through our years living together as slam poets in Sedona, he kicked me off the 2006 NORAZ Poets Slam Team after Meghan Jones had a temper tantrum over some angry emails and quit in a tizzy about two weeks before the National Poetry Slam.
The fact Lane created a previously nonexistent "ethics of email correspondence" rule and tried to send me a certified letter telling me I was off the rather then call me or stop by -- we lived in the same small town after all -- was a bullshit move on his part I felt and I never forgave him for the coldness with which he behaved toward his friendly rival and one of his oldest in Northern Arizona.
|This staged photo of Chris Lane in Jerome in 2004 and me would later prove |
to be our de facto relationship from 2006 until his death in Aug. 2012.
In February 2007, Sedona Monthly ran an article of Lane's franchise of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project and accidently ran my name in the story and photo captions, to which I took great delight. The reporter had never met me.
On March 12, 2007, he called for a truce and we met in a neutral location at a restaurant to discuss the terms. We negotiated a code of conduct for NORAZ, the terms of which he changed when he sent a final draft on March 27, 2007, adding in a whole series of rules about drug and alcohol use, which in a poetry scene or any civil setting were superfluous and unnecessary for a simple nonprofit. After all, I held a poetry open mic at a Sedona bar and banning minors from entering was the job of the bar and the bouncers, not Nix and myself.
At the same time, Nix and I were hosting the Sedona Poetry Open Mic, an event which Lane wanted to put the NORAZ Poets logo, but which Nix and I declined as long as the alcohol portion of the code of conduct was still in question. In any case the dialogue fell apart by mid-April.
In 2007-2008, Aaron Johnson stepped down as FlagSlam Slam Master. NORAZ. The new FlagSlam had little to do with NORAZ afterward, and in late 2008, the FlagSlam poets asked me to feature. That marked the end of Lane's involvement with the adult slam as he turned to Brave New Voices, the youth slam teams, and one for which there was more grant money to be had to run the nonprofit. I made a point to fill the void for all ages slams in the Verde Valley, first hosting a team slam at the Old Town Center for the Arts in Cottonwood, then later starting the Sedona Poetry Slam in 2009.
By 2009, the civil war had become a cold one; he didn't attend or support any of my events and I didn't attend or support any of his; the exception being one Sedona Poetry Slam featuring a former 2001 teammate, Josh Fleming, which he attended but did not speak to me.
I stylized the Sedona Poetry Slam to be what NORAZ Poets had began as, and opposite of what it evolved into. I wanted Sedona Poetry Slam to be open to all without regard to poets' personal lives, democratic, supportive both artistically and financially, and I set the ground rule that under no circumstances would I make any profit from poetry slams. All money from the slam returns to the poets via prize money, feature poets' pay, or team registration. In the intervening years, I heard stories from other poets and arts organizers about questionable financial and personal behavior; money or support for programs promised, then retracted, then promised again, then retracted or renegotiated, and various poets in Northern Arizona had falling outs over projects he supported then backed off from.
Lane also began to refer to himself as Ya'ir, a Hebrew word meaning "he who enlightens," and putting "Christopher" into quotes. Lane was raised Catholic, but had become a Buddhist by the time I met him in Sedona. He converted to Judiasm before marrying his wife, but the name change was a bit much. I mean, we used to make fun of poets with stage names, going so far as suggesting he starting slamming under the stage name "Moniker" and I start slamming as "Pre-10-Shus" (pretentious). Toward the end, I suppose someone in the scene should have seen the decline, but his charisma just made him seem like he was getting more and more eccentric.
On Aug. 19, 2012, at 7:05 a.m., Lane was pronounced dead at his home from benzodiazepine and narcotic intoxication, according to the Coconino County Medical Examiner's Office. I received word from a mutual friend later that morning and got a copy of the autopsy in September. Reading an autopsy is a odd experience -- an antiseptic description of a person's body you once used to share conversation and meals.
I always expected that at some point, Lane would have apologized and our years of enmity would have come to an abrupt end. I'm not vindictive without cause and I'm quick to forgive when I believe in the sincerity of an apology. With his accidental overdose, we never had the luxury of repairing our friendship, but deep down I always thought it was inevitable.
The civil war -- a melodramatic title but one I like, being a poet -- did make me into a better organizer and public figure simply because I tried to be his opposite. In the end, knowing him longer than nearly anyone outside of his family, and seeing both his light side and dark side, I feel like I knew him better than most and I hope in the end, he respected me as only a rival could. Coming to terms with his death was difficult because few people understood what having a sincere arch-rival or arch-nemesis is like. One mutual friend asked if I felt like Superman, Batman, or Obi-wan Kenobi hearing Lex Luthor, the Joker or Anakin Skywalker had died, but another said it was more like Iron Man and Captain America: we were rivals and didn't get along, but in the end, we were on the same side, promoting poetry and inspiring other poets to take the stage.
That poem will one day be written.
Saul Williams on NovemberThere are a few Greats in poetry slam every slammer should see in the flesh at least once. Marc Smith. Mike McGee. Derrick Brown. Shane Koyczan. Patricia Smith. Marty McConnell. Rachel McKibbons. Beau Sia. Taylor Mali. and Saul Williams.
Instead, he came to Phoenix and performed a feature at Lawn Gnome, the bookstore performance space owned by my old friend and FlagSlam teammate Aaron Johnson.
He performed new poems as well as his signature poems, ", said the Shotgun to the Head," "Sha-Clack-Clack," "Black Stacey" "S/he" and a big portion of "The Dead Emcee Scrolls."
I got all my books signed, too.
November ElectionAs a news junkie, I was obsessed with the 2012 elections, both on the state and national levels. I interviewed Congressional District 1 Democratic primary candidate Wenona Benally Baldenegro, Republican primary candidate Doug Wade and the eventual winner, Ann Kirkpatrick.
I installed Nate Silver's 535 app so I could watch the daily poll changes as they came across every morning.
The reelection of Barack Obama seemed more or less inevitable as the opposition put forth only mediocre candidates unloved by the party running on an anti-Obama campaign rather than putting forth a real plan for any worthwhile changes.
Gay marriage was approved in four states and recreational marijuana use was approved in two states, and while I have no vested personal interest in either, I am happy to see American move to sanity on progressive social issues.
The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell means we're moving toward an America where I can one day go to a gay friend's wedding which will have the same legal standing a straight one. “The arc of the moral universe Is long, but it bends toward justice,” minister Theodore Parker said in an 1853 sermon. One day I will, with great difficulty, attempt to explain to my children how their country could think one group of people could be denied their civil rights based on whom they love.
I expect puzzled looks at the absurdity during that conversation.
Winning the Dylan Thomas Award in December
|Mary Heyborne won the Christopher Lane Memorial Award. I won the Dylan|
Thomas Award for Excellence in the Written and Spoken Word, Eric Haury
and Barbara tied for third and Josh Wiss won second place.
Poet and playwright Mary Heyborne won the Christopher Lane Memorial Award.
The Pumphouse Prose and Poetry Project is sponsored by Gary Every, author of 11 books who acted as presenter at the readings, Dr. Elizabeth Oakes, award winning poet and former Shakespeare professor, Cynthia Tuck, owner of Ageless Pages Bookstore and Ann Fabricant, owner of Cocopah North. The project will resume reading in the spring.
It's the culmination of all the art we're created over the last few months coming to life thanks to Verbal Kensington's motivation and organization.
That's my focus for 2013.