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.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sedona Arts Center hosts Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Dec. 16

The Sedona Poetry Slam returns Saturday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m. at the Sedona Arts Center, 15 Art Barn Road, Uptown Sedona.

Lauren Perry, of Phoenix, won the Sedona Poetry Slam on Nov. 4. She has represented Phoenix at the
Utah Poetry Festival, several National Poetry Slams, the Individual World Poetry Slam and the
Women of the World Poetry Slam. The next Sedona Poetry Slam will be held at 7:30 p.m.,
Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Sedona Arts Center, 15 Art Barn Road, Uptown.
A poetry slam is like a series of high-energy, three-minute one-person plays. Slam poetry is an art form that allows written page poets to share their work alongside theatrical performers, hip-hop artists and lyricists. 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 and inspire the audience with their creativity.

All poets are welcome to compete for the $75 grand prize and $25 second-place prize. To compete in the slam, poets will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted. The poets are judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam.

Poets in the Sedona Poetry Slam come from as far away as Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, competing against adult poets from Sedona and Cottonwood, college poets from Northern Arizona University, and youth poets from Sedona Red Rock High School.

The first slam of the season was held Nov. 4 at the Sedona Arts Center. The next five slams move to the Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. SR 89A, Suite A-3, in West Sedona, on Saturdays, Dec. 30, Feb. 3, April 7, May 5 and May 26.

Tickets are $12. For tickets to the Sedona Arts Center slams, call 282-3809 or visit sedonaartscenter.org. For tickets to the Mary D. Fisher Theatre slams, call 282-1177 or visit SedonaFilmFestival.org

The 2017-18 season will culminate in selection of Sedona’s seventh National Poetry Slam Team, the foursome and alternate who will represent Sedona and the Verde Valley at the National Poetry Slam in Chicago in August.

The Last Chance Slam on May 26 will be the final opportunity for poets who want to qualify for the 2018 Grand Slam. With every regular slam, poets earn points toward a slot in the Grand Slam, on Saturday, June 9. The poets who make the Sedona National Poetry Slam Team at the final contest will represent Sedona and share the stage with 350 of the top poets in the United States, Canada and Europe at the week-long National Poetry Slam in Chicago in August.

Sedona sent its first team to the 2012 NPS in Charlotte, N.C., its second to the 2013 NPS in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., and its third and fourth to Oakland, Calif., its fifth to Decatur, Ga., and its sixth to Denver. For more information, visit foxthepoet.blogspot.com.

The prize money is funded in part by a donation from Verde Valley poetry supporters Jeanne and Jim Freeland.

Contact host Christopher Fox Graham at foxthepoet@yahoo.com to sign up to slam early by Friday, Dec. 15, or arrive at the door by 7 p.m. to sign up the day of the slam. Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive. The Sedona Poetry Slam will be hosted by Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on 10 FlagSlam National Poetry Slams in 2001, 2004-06, 2010 and 2012-17. Graham has hosted the Sedona Poetry Slam since 2009.

What is Poetry Slam?
Founded at the Green Mill Tavern in Chicago in 1984, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport designed to get people who would otherwise never go to a poetry reading excited about the art form when it becomes a high-energy competition. 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. Slam poets have opened at the 2010 Winter Olympics, performed at the White House and at the United Nations General Assembly and were featured on "Russell Simmon's Def Poets" on HBO.

For more information, visit poetryslam.com or the PSi channel on YouTube.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Sedona Poetry Slam season kicks off on Saturday, Nov. 4

The Sedona Poetry Slam begins its slam season on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Sedona Arts Center, 15 Art Barn Road, Uptown Sedona. 

A poetry slam is like a series of high-energy, three-minute one-person plays. Slam poetry is an art form that allows written page poets to share their work alongside theatrical performers, hip-hop artists and lyricists. 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 and inspire the audience with their creativity.

All poets are welcome to compete for the $75 grand prize and $25 second-place prize. To compete in the slam, poets will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted. The poets are judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam.

Poets in the Sedona Poetry Slam come from as far away as Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, competing against adult poets from Sedona and Cottonwood, college poets from Northern Arizona University, and youth poets from Sedona Red Rock High School.

The second slam will be at the Sedona Arts Center on Saturday, Dec. 16. The following five slams will take place at Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. SR 89A, Suite A-3, in West Sedona, on Saturdays, Dec. 30, Feb. 3,  April 7, May 5 and May 26.

Tickets are $12. For tickets to the Sedona Arts Center slams, call 282-3809 or visit sedonaartscenter.org. For tickets to the Mary D. Fisher Theatre slams, call 282-1177 or visit SedonaFilmFestival.org

The 2017-18 season will culminate in selection of Sedona's seventh National Poetry Slam Team, the foursome and alternate who will represent Sedona and the Verde Valley at the National Poetry Slam in Chicago in August. 

The Last Chance Slam on May 26 will be the final opportunity for poets who want to qualify for the 2018 Grand Slam. With every regular slam, poets earn points toward a slot in the Grand Slam, on Saturday, June 9. The poets who make the Sedona National Poetry Slam Team at the final contest will represent Sedona and share the stage with 350 of the top poets in the United States, Canada and Europe at the week-long National Poetry Slam in Chicago in August.

Sedona sent its first team to the 2012 NPS in Charlotte, N.C., its second to the 2013 NPS in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., and its third and fourth to Oakland, Calif., its fifth to Decatur, Ga., and its sixth to Denver. For more information, visit foxthepoet.blogspot.com.

The prize money is funded in part by a donation from Verde Valley poetry supporters Jeanne and Jim Freeland.

Contact host Christopher Fox Graham at foxthepoet@yahoo.com to sign up to slam early by Friday, Nov. 3, or arrive at the door by 7 p.m. to sign up the day of the slam. Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive. The Sedona Poetry Slam will be hosted by Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on 10 FlagSlam National Poetry Slams in 2001, 2004-06, 2010 and 2012-17. Graham has hosted the Sedona Poetry Slam since 2009.

What is Poetry Slam?
Founded at the Green Mill Tavern in Chicago in 1984, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport designed to get people who would otherwise never go to a poetry reading excited about the art form when it becomes a high-energy competition. 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. Slam poets have opened at the 2010 Winter Olympics, performed at the White House and at the United Nations General Assembly and were featured on "Russell Simmon's Def Poets" on HBO.

For more information, visit poetryslam.com or the PSi channel on YouTube.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

40 years ago today, Voyager 1 left Earth, never again to return home.


The entirety of our species may be this one golden record. This is the entirety of the recording.



This audio recording of Bulgarian folk sing Valya Balkanska performing “Izlel e Delyu Haydutin,” is one of several songs on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes.

"The Golden Record"
A poem for the Voyager 1 & 2 spacecraft
By Christopher Fox Graham

Valya Balanska
in 60,000 years
when the human race is extinct
racing at a geologic pace to fossilize ourselves
next to dinosaurs
Valya Balkanska will still be singing
she may be the last
and only voice
the galaxy knows of our species

to tell her story
I must begin at the beginning:
we all shared the same neighborhood once
when matter didn’t matter so much
but FLASH-BANG! scattered us
like children
from doors of school
on the last day before summer
some stayed close to home
while others wanted to see how far away they could run

and when they began to pick up the pieces
they clung to each other so tightly
you could feel the gravity of it all
but these rocky asteroids and gas giants
comets of ice and terrestrials covered in methane or argon
stare across the vacuum playing telephone with each other
and wonder if they’ll ever touch again

can you hear them?
they speak slow
some syllables take millions of years to finish
but out in the black
are so many lost marbles
they number a billion billion for each one of us here
they, too, were born blind in the dark
wondering, “what is this place”“
and “where did I come from?”
they cling to the nearest glowing stars
like lost children
terrified to be alone

The Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977.
among the sea
in a stretch of nebula
on one of those marbles
unremarkable in its ordinariness
a thump-pulse of moving things speaks so fast
the planets can’t understand the gibberish
but they love the sound of it all
it reminds them of a split moment in lost memory
when we all were dancing on the head of a pinprick

those creatures, they say,
have sent ambassadors into the stars
riding radio waves in images and sounds
but we have no way to answer, just to listen
a few constructions of metal
have sailed into the dark bearing their dreams
like messages in bottles
so if they annihilate themselves
in a flash of fire
or by eating up all the matter on which they survive
something will remain to prove
there was some magic once

The Golden Record with encoded messages about how to play it,
Earth's location triangulated with 14 pulsars, and information about
the hydrogen atom to give a point of measurement reference.
on one of those lost satellites called Voyager
now 18 billion miles away from a home
it will never see again
is a golden record
and instructions to play it
so if, in eons hence
on some other marble, wiser life sprouts
and in their wild youth,
breaks the laws of gravity
they may find it floating wandering in the dark
and hear the sounds

of us

those alien discoverers may not get past the wonder
of greetings in 55 different human languages
saying in Begali “Hello! Let there be peace everywhere.”
or in Indonesian “Good night ladies and gentlemen.” and
“Goodbye and see you next time.”

after hearing “Johnny B. Goode”
they may crusade the stars
searching for Earth
and more Chuck Berry
they may listen over and over
to the perfect precision of Beethovan’s 5th symphony

or the unleased joy in the Peruvian wedding song

1½ tons of metal
weighing nothing in the ether
carries our billion conversations
every love story
every epic poem
every genocide and celebrity wedding
every nation to rise and fall
every miracle
manmade or otherwise

1½ tons of metal
carries the weight of 10,000 years of human history
on a record barely an hour long

But when they hear Valya Balkanska sing“Izlel e Delyu Haydutin,”
our evolution and extinction will not have been in vain

those alien discoverers
may not have tears
but they will know we did
they may not understand grief
but the first sound they utter afterward
will become it
they will understand
why we could not bear to be alone
when there were so many lost marbles
aching to feel footsteps
the touch of stargazing strangers
they will know there was good in us
and they may even call us 
“brothers”

to the creatures who find Voyager:
you may not have a song to mourn your dead
but as Valya’s haunting melody
and the Bulgarian pipes
retch all the sorrow of a million human generations 
into the stars one last time
you have a mourning song now

and Valya,
Valya will sing it for us







Bulgarian lyrics

Излел е Делю хайдутин,
хайдутин ян кеседжия
с Домбовци и Караджовци.
Зароча Дельо пороча
Дериденските аяне,
айяне, кабадаие:
- Две лели имам в селоно,
да ми ги не потурчите,
да ми ги не почърните,
че кога флезем в селоно,
млого щат майки да плачат,
по-млого млади нивести,
дете ще в корем проплака.

Гюлсюме Делю заръча:
- Варди са, Делю, чувай са,
канят са да та примажат,
деридеренски аяне,
аяне, кабадаие:
сребърен куршум ти леят,
та ще та, Делю, удрият.
- Гюлсюме, любе Гюлсюме,
не са е родил чилякън,
дену ще Деля примаже.

English translation

Deljo the hayduk went out,
the hayduk, the rebel
with the Dumbovi and the Karadjovi clans.
Deljo gave the following orders
to the brazen-faced governors of Zlatograd:
- "There are two aunts of mine in the village.
Do not make them Turks,
do not besmirch them,
because when I come back
a lot of mothers will cry,
a lot of young brides,
and unborn children."

Gyulsume told Deljo:
- "Beware, Deljo, beware,
you are being threatened, Deljo
the Zlatograd rulers,
the brazen-faced governors,
they cast a silver bullet
for you, Deljo, to kill you."

- "Gyulsume, my love Gyulsume,
not yet is born a man
who could kill me."

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"Home" by Warsan Shire

Photograph by Daniet Etter/New York Times/Redux /eyevine.
Syrian refugee Laith Majid cries tears of joy and relief that he and his children have made it to Europe.

"Home" by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles traveled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here





Warsan Shire is a 24-year-old Kenyan-born Somali poet, writer and educator based in London. Born in 1988, Shire has read her work extensively all over Britain and internationally - including readings in South Africa, Italy, Germany, Canada, North America and Kenya- and her début book, 'Teaching my Mother How to Give Birth," was published in 2011. Her poems have been published in Wasafiri, Magma and Poetry Review and in the anthology "The Salt Book of Younger Poets." She is the current poetry editor at SPOOK magazine. In 2012 she represented Somalia at the Poetry Parnassus, the festival of the world poets at the Southbank, London. She is a Complete Works II poet. Her poetry has been translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Shire is also the unanimous winner of the 2013 inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize.

Monday, January 9, 2017

"I am echoes of empty moments" by Christopher Fox Graham




I am echoes of empty moments
the days with you:
drunk-night glimmers
flashing into sober mornings
reminding what was when;

you are 200-proof moon-shine moonshine
the press of your sleeping hips
hangovering me
headaches of your smile
body aches of your kisses
AA means something else
and there are twelve-hundred steps
to recovery
I cannot piss your DNA out from my liver
it’s deeper than my bones
shotgunning kegstands of your arms around me

I want you, summer lemonade
sweet-and-sour kick in the teeth
burrowing corkscrew cavities into molars
your mint-julep biceps holding me down
your voice a gazebo piano ballad
earworming a melody the rest of me misharmonizes

this old body was too young in you
you, too old for the time we had
we charted inevitability
we lived the prequel of the now-that-must-be
we plotlined the time-travel TV movies
we echoed thunder before the lightning
and in the now-that-must-be,
20-20 foreshadowing hindsights foresight

I still get drunk you in the moonlight
shape constellations into us
dismiss the stars that don’t connect
as figments of imagination
we, too stubborn to let the heavens disappoint

outside this skin built of metal adamantium strong
unbreakable in the winter sun
but inside the boy still shimmers in your afterglow
someone I knew once
he shared my bones
hoped so hard for fate to fail
hoped so hard time was a hiccup
we could reshape in our image

but without étui, the bedsheets of time
only fold now to then
never make now then
inside, he’s running away with you
flying elsewhere on someone else’s wings
but cannot escape this unventilated skin
he’ll suffocate in
rather than breathe new air

I’m supposed to be stronger than this
stoically accept your absence as a must-be
pass on the days without tears
get over you as all things do
fish-in-the-sea-ing our moments into someone else
less shimmeringly iridescent
but I can’t
I don’t know how
and I have no one to tell,
so your DNA leaks out of my liver
cirrhosising me to death
no one sees the lesions
covering this skin in a new armor
fresh-milk skin in each dawn
stitched together with dried salt threads

because you slipped in under the skin
some night when we shared the same bedroom air
fermented in our sweet sweat and whispers –
in dreams, all my stalwartness comes for naught
I cannot bleed you from my blood
you pump my broken-glass heart into synapses
irresistant when I sleep
reconstituting you back into being nightly

resever these heels so I can’t outrun you
torment me, tied to a kitchen chair
from these lips, draw some hallelujah,
which sounds more like your name
than any heavenly hymn
or late-night radio replay on backcountry roads

tonight as the sun sets and overweight lids heavyize
no volume of drink or caffeine
can keep me from you
or you 
out of me

it’s why I fight sleep so desperately
whatever war I wage in daylight
your irredentist reconquest reseizes in moonlight
paradoxing our ontology

make this heart ache again
bodyslam my mind against my skull again
this is the only real I feel most days
and agony bests absence
because it means there’s still someone here
you

or me 

or someone in between

even if it’s just a boy’s death throes

memories

bleeding out








Christopher Fox Graham © 2017