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, April 2, 2013

National Poetry Month: "Coded Language" by Saul Williams

Coded Language
by Saul Williams
Whereas breakbeats have been the missing link
Connecting the diasporic community to its drum-woven past

Whereas the quantized drum has allowed the whirling
Mathematicians to calculate the ever changing distance
Between rock and stardom

Whereas the velocity of the spinning vinyl
Cross-faded, spun backwards and re-released
At the same given moment of recorded history
Yet at a different moment in times continuum
Has allowed history, to catch up with the present

We do hereby declare reality unkempt by the changing
Standards of dialog, statements such as "Keep it real"
Especially when punctuating or anticipating modes
Of ultraviolence inflicted psychologically or physically or depicting
An unchanging rule of events will hence forth be seen as retro-active
And not representative of the individually determined is

Furthermore, as determined by the collective consciousness
Of this state of being and the lessened distance
Between thought patterns and their secular manifestations
The role of men as listening receptacles is to be increased by a number
No less than 70 percent of the current enlisted as vocal aggressors

Motherfuckers better realize now is the time to self-actualize
We have found evidence that hip-hop's standard 85 rpm
When increased by a number as least half the rate of its standard
Or decreased at three quarters of its speed
May be a determining factor in heightening consciousness

Studies show that when a given norm is changed in the face
Of the unchanging the remaining contradictions will parallel the truth
Equate rhyme with reason, sun with season, our cyclical relationship
To phenomenon has encouraged scholars
To erase the centers of periods thus symbolizing the non-linear
Character of 'cause and effect reject mediocrity

Your current frequencies of understanding outweigh that
Which as been given for you to understand
The current standard is the equivalent
Of an adolescent restricted to the diet of an infant
The rapidly changing body would acquire dysfunctional
And deformative symptoms and could not properly mature
On a diet of apple sauce and crushed pears

Light years are interchangeable with years of living in darkness
The role of darkness is not to be seen as or equated with ignorance
But with the unknown and the mysteries of the unseen
Thus, in the name of
Robeson, God's Son, Hurston, Ahkenaton
Hatsheput, Blackfoot, Helen, Lennon, Kahlo
Kali, The Three Marias, Tara, Lilith, Lorde
Whitman, Baldwin, Ginsberg, Kaufman, Lumumba

Ghandi, Gibran, Shabazz, Shabazz, Siddhartha
Medusa, Guevara, Gurdjieff, Rand, Wright, Banneker
Tubman, Hamer, Holiday, Davis, Coltrane
Morrison, Joplin, Du Bois, Clarke, Shakespeare

Rachmaninov, Ellington, Carter, Gaye, Hathaway
Hendrix, Kuti, Dickerson, Riperton, Mary, Isis
Teresa, Hansberry, Tesla, Plath, Rumi, Fellini
Michaux, Nostradamus, Nefertiti, La Rock, Shiva

Ganesha, Yemaja, Oshun, Obatala, Ogun, Kennedy
King, four little girls, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Keller
Biko, Perón, Marley, Magdalene, Cosby, Shakur
Those who burnt, those still aflamed and the countless unnamed

We claim the present as the pre-sent, as the hereafter
We are unraveling our navels so that we may ingest the sun
We are not afraid of the darkness, we trust that the moon shall guide us
We are determining the future at this very moment
We now know that the heart is the philosophers' stone

Our music is our alchemy, we stand as the manifested
Equivalent of three buckets of water and a hand full of minerals
Thus realizing that those very buckets turned upside down
Supply the percussion factor of forever, if you must count
To keep the beat then count

Find you mantra and awaken your subconscious
Curve you circles counterclockwise, use your cipher to decipher
Coded Language, manmade laws, climb waterfalls and trees
Commune with nature, snakes and bees let your children
Name themselves and claim themselves as the new day, for today

We are determined to be the channelers of these changing
Frequencies into songs, paintings, writings, dance, drama
Photography, carpentry, crafts, love and love, we enlist every instrument
Acoustic, electronic every so called race, gender and sexual preference
Every person as beings of sound to acknowledge their responsibility
To uplift the consciousness of the entire fucking world

Any utterance unaimed will be disclaimed
Will be named Two Rappers Slain
Any utterance unaimed will be disclaimed
Will be named Two Rappers Slain

Copyright © Saul Williams

A leading voice on the spoken-word scene, Saul Williams began astonishing open mic audiences with his impassioned tongue-twisting verse in the mid-1990s and eventually became a grand slam champion at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. 

In 1996, he led the four-person New York team to the finals of the National Poetry Slam competition, a fierce battle of verse that was chronicled in the documentary film "Slamnation." Two years later, in a role that featured many of his own compositions, Williams played an imprisoned street poet in the award-winning film, Slam, for which Esquire magazine deemed him a "dreadlocked dervish of words."

A self-proclaimed disciple of Bob Kaufman and Amiri Baraka, Williams combines the rhythms and themes of Beat and Black Arts poets in his work. His three collections of poetry--The Seventh Octave, Sãhe, and , said the shotgun to the head--tackle difficult social and political issues as well as intangible questions about religion and spirituality. In performance, his work is full of a pulsing frenzy, which the New York Times described as "mind-twisting cosmic rumination with hallucinatory science-fiction scenarios that the poet delivers with an incantatory fervor."

The undeniable beat in the poet's work led to an inevitable transition to music. Initially, he collaborated with DJs and hip-hop artists, reciting his verse to their backbeat. In 2001, he recorded his own album, Amethyst Rock Star, co-produced by Rick Rubin, the legendary producer of Public Enemy, Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as the co-founder of the record label Def Jam with hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons. In 2004, Williams released the self-titled album Saul Williams, for which, as he explained, he approached the music as a musician, not as a spoken-word artist. "The last [album] was about poetry over beats," he said in a recent interview, "and this is about the songs."

Despite his shift toward songwriting, the words are still of utmost importance to Williams. Demonstrating a political consciousness through his poems and songs is vital. He feels the current hip-hop culture has departed from the thought-provoking work of such artists as Public Enemy and De La Soul to a more inane preoccupation with materialism and a dangerous tolerance of what he calls "bullshit lyricism." He warns against the dangerous and passive acceptance of these negative lyrics transmitted through an infectious beat: "You start building a tolerance," he explained. "Because when you nod your head to a beat, you nod your head affirmatively."

On his own records, Williams has managed to marry hip-hop beats with sober lyrics. "Amethyst Rock Star has to do with the fact that when you're tuned into your spirit you realize that we are all stars by birth," the poet has said. "That's our birthright, literally." The band accompanying him is comprised of a violinist, a cellist, a bass player, a keyboard player, a DJ, and a drummer, resulting in an album that the Times of London named "Album of the Year."

The album Saul Williams was influenced by a wide range of artists including Jimmy Hendrix, Radiohead, and the Mars Volta, and resulted in a fusion that Williams calls "industrial punk hop." Brian Orloff, writing in Rolling Stone magazine, explained: "Musically, Saul Williams matches Williams's lyrics with gritty, frittered guitar and urgent rhythms. 'List of Demands (Reparations)' finds Williams singing, "I gotta list of demands written on the palm of my hands' over a staccato guitar riff that sounds like gunfire.'"

"I'm definitely a hip-hop head by nature," Williams has said. "I'm there in the mix, so I'm turned on by the same things, nod my head to the same things. Even if I'm writing a piece of prose, there is still an intrinsic rhythm that I'm looking for, even without rhyme, even without beats, even without music and microphones." 

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