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 29, 2013

Meet Necessary Poetry: A Multimedia Arts Collective in Flagstaff, Sedona and Northern Arizona


Necessary Poetry is a collaborative effort. Our mission is to inspire creative expression - we do this by encouraging the poetry in ourselves, each other, and anyone interested in connecting to the written and spoken word.

We believe everyone has a message or story to share with the world - and that it's all poetry. We root for the underdog. We're here to promote and support the work of authors, poets, and spoken-word artists of all ages and walks of life, whose words might not otherwise see the light of day.

We believe that poetry is necessary. We believe our words have weight. We're here to share our work with others, and to inspire and empower others to do the same.

Interested in learning more? Visit us here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

"How I Miss The Days When Hip Hop Was Fun" by IN-Q


How I Miss The Days When Hip Hop Was Fun
By IN-Q

Hey yo why is it so uncool to smile?
Since when did it become hip-hop's taboo?
Cuz I would be smilin' all the time,
If I made even half of the money you do.

Frownin' like you just caught a face-full of sun.
How I miss the days when hip-hop was fun.
When DJ Quik first burst on the scene,
When Boys in the Hood was on the big screen.
When Tupac Shakur was a dancer for Humpty,
When Nasty Nas 5 mic'd in the monthly.
When MC Breed painted the white house black,
When Too $hort retired and then came back...?
When Wyclef Jean asked out Mona Lisa,
That's the era this poem will feature!

I want to go to a show and not have to front,
I'd fist-a-cuff but I'd rather you pass the blunt.
Let's just chill and enjoy the diversity,
Let's get lost in the rhythm's uncertainty.

It doesn't make you less hardcore,
If you shake your ass on the fucking dance floor!
But somewhere along this road we made rules,
And smilin' became the weakness of a fool.
And silence and anger became the norm,
And that's when the party began to lose form.

I reminisce about the glory that's gone,
When happiness wasn't looked down upon.
When EPMD crossed over with the crossover,
When Tim Hardaway still had his crossover.
I used to go to the store and buy classics,
Now I go to the store and shit's plastic.

I can't call it 'I'm fiendin' for skill',
Cuz ya'll might be dope but I don't see your will.
All I see's Suckaz pretendin they're ill,
Snappin photographs with a barbeque grill.
Well, I can't relate to this lack of humanity,
Music's as vulnerable as insanity.

I remember when Phife was a sidekick.
When gangsta rap was still on the rise kid.
When De La Sol was re-incarnated,
When Freestyle Fellowship first circulated.
When Run DMC wore Adidas sneakers,
That's the era this poem will feature!

From '86 to '95,
When hip-hop was just too thick to describe.
I strived to become it in every way,
So I practice religiously every day.
On the bus ride home folks thought I was schitzo,
In 8th grade I wore more rayon than Sisqo!

Housin was in,
And Mr. Dobalina could've caught misdemeanor,
If he faked on his friends.
See, we would rap until we were bored,
With no cash advance or grammy award.
My boys' club trophies cluttered my shelf,
We'd no other reason than reason itself.

So why's it so uncool to smile?
Since when did it become hip-hop's taboo?
Cuz I would be simlin' all the time,
If I made even half of the money you do.

Frownin' like you just caught a face-full of sun,
How I miss the days when hip-hop was fun.
How I miss the days when hip-hop was fun.
How I miss the days when hip-hop was one!



Copyright © IN-Q



Los Angeles-based writer, rapper, actor, host, teacher, and award winning spoken word artist, IN-Q, is a unique voice in performance art. His work has been featured on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, The Battle for LA, BET, ABC, NBC, A&E, Disney, and Nickelodeon.

IN-Q is a National Poetry Slam champion who has shared the stage with everyone from De La Soul, to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to President Barack Obama. IN-Q currently has a publishing deal with RMR Music Group and has collaborated with various artists including Rock Mafia, Sick Puppies, Aloe Blacc, Miley Cyrus, and Selena Gomez on her hit single, "Love You Like A Love Song," which went double platinum and reached No. 1 on the Billboard dance charts. 

Most recently, IN-Q co-wrote seven songs for the Disney hip-hop movie, "Let It Shine", including the singles, "Don't Run Away" and "Guardian Angel". His one-man show has toured nationally since 2009 and has been seen at over 50 universities across the country. His first full-length poetry CD, "When Two Worlds Collide," was released to critical acclaim. 

URB Magazine wrote, "IN-Q's brand of Hip-Hop, a penetratingly fluent account of what he's been through, paired with retro-funky sampling, is believable and heartbreaking even. His newest album puts true mastery of rhythmic-artistic-poetry on exhibit." 

An accomplished stage and screen actor, IN-Q has been seen in films like "The Magnificent Cooly-T" and "Speechless," and has television credits that include "The Cleaner," "Svetlana" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." IN-Q's unique style of inspiring self-expression has been utilized by creative writing programs across the country. He teaches workshops in high schools, junior highs, universities, libraries, and prisons around California, as well as instructing yearly poetry programs to Upward Bound students at Long Beach Community College and UCLA Young Writers at their annual conference in Lake Arrowhead. 

IN-Q founded the Los Angeles based Actors' Lounge in 2004, a monthly open mic for actors held at The Greenway Court Theatre, and starred in the run of their original musical, Hercules on Normandie, for which he was given an observership at the prestigious Actors' Studio by Martin Landau.

Most recently, IN-Q starred in the premiere theatrical run of "Jumping the Median," an original play that was performed at the Santa Monica Playhouse and was produced by television legend Norman Lear. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Poet Jack McCarthy, May 23, 1939 - Jan. 17, 2013



Jack McCarthy
Poet
May 23, 1939 - January 17, 2013
Jack McCarthy featured at the FlagSlam Semi-Final Slam on April 12, 2005. I remember he was quiet and gracious and delivered poetry in an unassuming, yet profound way.

He died Jan. 17, 2013, at the age of 73.

"He weaves wicker stories that creep slowly down the back stairs of your memory. He talks to you in your own voice." - Jim Dunn

This is still my favorite of McCarthy's poems, which can probably be said by slam poets around the country.

Careful What You Ask For
From "Actual Grace Notes," poems from 1996 to 2000

I was just old enough
to be out on the sidewalk by myself,
and every day I would come home crying,
beaten up by the same little girl.

I was Jackie, the firstborn,
the apple of every eye,
gratuitous meanness bewildered me,
and as soon as she'd hit me,
I'd bawl like a baby.

I knew that boys were not supposed to cry,
but they weren't supposed to hit girls either,
and I was shocked when my father said,
"Hit her back."

I thought it sounded like a great idea,
but the only thing I remember
about that girl today
is the look that came over her face
after I did hit her back.

She didn't cry; instead
her eyes got narrow and I thought,
"Jackie, you just made a terrible mistake,"
and she really beat the crap out of me.
It was years before I trusted my father's advice again.

I eventually learned to fight--
enough to protect myself--
from girls--
but the real issue was the crying,
and that hasn't gone away.

Oh, I don't cry any more, I don't sob, I don't make
noise, I just have hairtrigger tearducts, and always
at all the wrong things: Tom Bodett saying, "We'll leave
the light on for ya;" I cry at the last scene of
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

In movies I despise the easy manipulation
that never even bothers to engage my feelings,
it just comes straight for my eyes,
but there's not a damn thing I can do about it,
and I hate myself for it.

The surreptitious noseblow a discreet
four minutes after the operative scene;
my daughters are on to me, my wife;
they all know exactly when to give me that quick,
sidelong glance. What must they think of me?

In real life I don't cry any more
when things hurt. Never a tear at seventeen
when my mother died, my father.
I never cried for my first marriage.

But today I often cry when things turn out well:
an unexpected act of simple human decency;
new evidence, against all odds,
of how much someone loves me.

I think all this is why I never wanted a son.
I always supposed my son would be like me,
and that when he'd cry it would bring back
every indelible humiliation of my own life,

and in some word or gesture
I'd betray what I was feeling,
and he'd mistake, and think I was ashamed of him.
He'd carry that the rest of his life.

Daughters are easy: you pick them up,
you hug them, you say, "There there.
Everything is going to be all right."
And for that moment you really believe
that you can make enough of it right

enough. The unskilled labor of love.
And if you cry a little with them for all
the inevitable gratuitous meannesses of life,
that crying is not to be ashamed of.

But for years my great fear was the moment
I might have to deal with a crying son.
But I don't have one.
We came close once, between Megan and Kathleen;
the doctors warned us there was something wrong,

and when Joan went into labor they said
the baby would be born dead.
But he wasn't: very briefly,
before he died, I heard him cry.






Copyright © Jack McCarthy

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jeremiah Blue features at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Feb. 16


Jeremiah Blue features at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Feb. 16


Sedona's Studio Live hosts a poetry slam Saturday, Feb. 16, starting at 7:30 p.m. featuring Phoenix poet Jeremiah Blue and hosted by Sedona poet Christopher Fox Graham.


The Feb. 16 poetry is slam is also the qualifier for Sedona's representative to
the International Women of the World Poetry Slam
All poets are welcome to compete for the $75 grand prize and $25 second-place prize. The prize is funded in part by a donation from Verde Valley poetry supporter Jeanne Freeland.

The slam is the fourth of the 2012-13 season, which will culminate in selection of Sedona's second National Poetry Slam Team, the foursome and alternate who will represent the city at the National Poetry Slam in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., in August.

The local poets will share the stage with 300 of the top poets in the United States, Canada and Europe, pouring out their words in a weeklong explosion of expression. Sedona sent its five-poet first team to the 2012 National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C.

To compete in the slam, poets need at least three original poems, each three minutes long or shorter. No props, costumes or musical accompaniment are permitted. All types of poetry are welcome.

The slam will be hosted by Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on six FlagSlam National Poetry Slams in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2012.

Contact Graham at foxthepoet@yahoo.com to sign up to slam.

Jeremiah Blue

Jeremiah Blue features at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Feb. 16.
Jeremiah Blue is a Phoenix-based poet that has organized, hosted, and performed in the poetry slam scene since 2006. He has performed at a variety of venues throughout the country.

Currently, Blue co-hosts a weekly poetry slam in downtown Phoenix at Lawn Gnome Bookstore.

In 2007, he earned the title of Phoenix Poetry Slam Champion and has represented Phoenix twice at the National Poetry Slam. He also became the Individual Poetry Slam Champion for Phoenix in 2012, earning him the slot to represent the city at the Individual World Poetry Slam.

You can reach him on Facebook or you can email him at jsblue@gmail.com for more information or booking.

Women of the World Poetry Slam Qualifier


This slam is also the qualifier for Sedona's representative to the International Women of the World Poetry Slam, to be held in Minneapolis from March 6-9. The highest ranked female or female-identified poet from earns Sedona's WOWps slot.

Eligibility: Poets who live their lives as women are eligible to participate in the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Competitors are eligible from certified venues or as individuals from areas without certified venues (a.k.a. “Storm” poets). Certified venues have a window of time to enter before individuals not associated with certified slams are able to enter. All certified venues must have a competition to determine their contestants.

All competitors must be PSI members in good standing and must agree to participate in the event following the rules of Slam as well as the Code of Honor, and must allow for PSI to videotape their performances for PSI owned product.

What is Poetry Slam?


Founded in Chicago in 1984, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport. Poetry slams are judged by five randomly chosen members of the audience who assign numerical value to individual poets' contents and performances.

Poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.

All types of poetry are welcome on the stage, from street-wise hip-hop and narrative performance poems, to political rants and introspective confessionals. Any poem is a "slam" poem if performed in a competition. All poets get three minutes per round to entertain their audience with their creativity.

2013 Sedona National Poetry Slam Team


Competing poets earn points with each Sedona Poetry Slam performance between September and May. Every poet earns 1 point for performing or hosting. First place earns 3 additional points, second place earns 2 and third place earns 1.

Based on points, the top 12 poets in May are eligible to compete for the four slots on the Sedona Poetry Slam Team, which will represent the community and Studio Live at the 2013 National Poetry Slam in Boston. Poets can compete for multiple teams during a season and still be eligible to compete in the Sedona team.

For poetry slam standings, videos from past slams, and updates, visit foxthepoet.org.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 the day of the event, available at Golden Word Books and Music, 3150 W. SR 89A, and online at studiolivesedona.com.

Studio Live is located at 215 Coffee Pot Drive, West Sedona. For more information, call (928) 282-2688.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"The Names of Trees," by Christopher Fox Graham, music by Robert Gonzales


Music by Robert Gonzales, recorded 12-31-2012 in Flagstaff, Arizona

The Names of Trees

By Christopher Fox Graham
before we named the trees
we feared the dark
ran from the shadows
monsters stalked us
in daytime’s tall grasses
and nighttime’s nightmares

we feared fire most of all
it ate the unnamed trees alive
its breath choked the beasts we hunted
we could not hold it
and could not fight it
just fear it

but one of us
The First of us
saw an infant spark
and treated it like a child
she learned to wield it
our first tool
brought it into the caves
and taught us not to fear
but use it
to chase away the monsters

fire is always the same
because a flame is never the same
from moment to moment
by always changing
the flame never changes

with fire
we learned to control the shadows
we danced them onto cave walls
where we trapped the monsters in ocher and ash

we used the fire to keep the beasts away in the night
to cook the bounty gathered from the earth
and roast our meat from the day’s hunt

and with bellies full
in the glow of the fire
we learned language
around campfires
as our elders told stories
of their young days long passed
they told us the names of trees:
oak
ash
banyan
pine
bodhi
fir
palm
cedar
sugi
cypress
they spoke of the strong mothers who raised them
the great hunts of their brave fathers
how they leaned ways to teach us these things

they told us
of ancestors who had long since turned to bones
and were now dust
who had sprinkled themselves across the heavens
to watch over us
always
glowing in the dark
like flames in the night

when the fire in their own hearts
began to flicker
they asked us to built fires to mourn their death
help ascend their bodies
so they could watch over us from new stars
alongside their ancestors

around the fire
we learned to structure nouns and verbs
into rhythm and beat
rhyme and stanza
turning the articulation of breath
the staccato of consonants
the tone and pitch of air in living lungs
into the art of poetry
stories we could pass from generation to generation
long after the first lungs to hold them
were silent beneath the dirt
we still tell some of those stories
passing along the poetry
of heroes
who are no longer bones
no longer dust
but vapor in the wind

around the fire
we passed on what we had learned
to the children who would mourn us
consider these frail lifeless bones still sacred
because they once held them
in their infancy

long after our bones turned to dust
and the dust turned to vapor
and the vapor exhaled by something new
they would remember … us
in the stories around the fire

a ribbon of flesh and fire
tied us to the infant spark
that The First one of us
held without fear

fire is always the same
because a flame is never the same
from moment to moment
by always changing
the flame never changes

it is consumption and combustion
a moment of reaction
between earth and air
the tangible and ethereal
in a spark of life
never the same from one second the next

nothing is eternal but change
so our civilizations learn to adapt
like tongues of flame
growing together or apart
rising and falling
expanding and shrinking
dancing in a campfire

we sometimes forget that lesson
so our empires defy it
our monuments stand against it
our great cities are abandoned
for new homes
Sumeria
is now just artifacts
Assyria
has become Scrabble word
31 dynasties ruled Egypt,
each falling to the next
the dream of Rome
became a dream again
the sun never set on the British Empire
until the day it did
and young America too
will grow old into history books
but the fire will still be the same
because a flame is never the same
from moment to moment

even now
in the glow of digital screens
behind the wheel of combustion engines
or miles above the earth
in steel aircraft
or space stations
we are still mesmerized by the flame
we gather around fireplaces on holidays
remembering the ancient reasons for things
we light wax candles for dead loved ones
hoping whispered words
might rise to their ears in the heavens
where they watch us
alongside ancestors

we find ourselves
still captivated by campfires
staring into them
unable to look away sometimes
while we tell stories
just like we used to
when home
wasn’t made from stone and brick
or animal skins from last year’s hunt
but the warmest cave
on our nomadic trek
following the herds
teaching our children
the names of trees

some day
when we no longer fear the dark
a descendant of the flame that first warmed us
as we lay dreaming of stars
will help send a few of us
beyond the reach of Earth
never again to see this home
more will follow
using flickers of fire
to pass the boundaries
break the laws of gravity
that we will refuse to obey any longer
and sail across the night
unafraid of the monsters we left behind
trapped on cave walls beneath ocher and ash
they will make their homes
on marbles of every color
swirling in the dusty arms of space
and in the wildernesses of new worlds
they will name new trees
tell stories around campfires of ancestors
strong mothers
brave fathers

fire is always the same
because a flame is never the same
from moment to moment
by always changing
the flame never changes

some day
when “human”
means something else entirely
and whomever we become
sails on the winds of supernovas
finds no fear exploring black holes
the last place darkness can hide from us

they may communicate the poetry quasars and quarks
with the same beauty as verbs and nouns
but still stare at the surface of suns
and without explanation why
know the fire burning before them
is still wonderful to witness
because in the glimmer of a memory
dancing with the arithmetic of orbiting atoms
and the geometry of galaxies
they can feel something deep in their bones
tying them like a ribbon of flesh and flame across time
to a tiny world
whose name they have forgotten
or can no longer pronounce
and remember
somehow,
ancestors who wielded an infant spark
to no longer fear monsters or the dark
but listen around the first campfire
to poetry
and stories
and the names of trees