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.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Seven Years of Solitude

Seven years of solitude
one-night stands
and last names lost to the wind
I wrote them in chronological order
carved their names in the sand
rewrote our mythologies
into my own fictions
to win 10s from strangers who preferred verses
rather than the cut and dry facts of thrusting hips
and white lies to strip cotton from our skins
before clothing ourselves in dawn-lit shame
of till-we-meet-agains

I found her literally in my own back yard
spreading dandelions along her path
on highways and backcountry roads
from the tundra to Sonora
fallen into disuse by travelers —
save Kerouac scholars

she called herself a hobo,
always homeward bound
but yet to find a doorstep to call her own
she came to kiss the red from the rocks
paint her lips with this Martian dust
swirl pirouettes in the vortices
verify that stars here match home
and chase down crash-landed aliens
looking for a one-way trip home to Perseus

she broke me open like an egg
scrambled my contents with her garlic smile
smothered in maple leaf syrup
and salted to taste

she coaxed herself inside
to better hear the word
by smiths more crafted than me
pressed skin to skin
and melted my insides into cheddar
smothered the sheets
in her unrepentant smiles

she is joy
unpasteurized, caffeine-free, antioxidant-rich
if it could drip from its source
sculpt itself into flesh and skin and bones
camber its soft exterior into curves
tender to trepid fingertips
hesitant to brush capsulated ebullience
lest it evanesce into vapor
like the morning fog
she zipped herself up behind a smile
radiant as auroras
to stay warm in the Yukon

we knew from the first kiss
the impending expiration date
I could only hold her so long
before wanderlust reignited her blood
pumped visions of highway sunsets into her aorta
pulled her sticky sunrise from my bed
I held tightly to dreams
that I would foresee us waking unshared unemptied
in the decades to come
but behind shuttered eyes
one loses the path of footsteps
roads meander as they must
not as we desire
and mountains have yet to yield to men

we were doomed to end
from the first morning we shared
each time we pressed hips and lips
I tried to capture the details
with scientific precision
to reconstruct the crime scene of her illegal emigration
from the homeland I built
she could have packed and parted a thousand times
without a second thought
or smile in a stranger's rearview
after her outstretched thumb purchased passage
yet I found her bedecked in my socks
or shirts or shorts and boxers after a time

I would have shed my skin to keep her warm
if it would have delayed her departure
a few hours more

she left me thrice:
to smell the stories wafting on Diné desert
see tors resistant to harassing winds —
play in a park where symbols of peace
were even written on the stones —
pioneer the plateau seared asunder
by patient waters that still run wild
too oblivious to laugh at our cages
knowing that they too will one day fall
Ozymandias could not conquer the sands
Hoover cannot break the canyon's will
though the crest once offered us a view
down to the moonlit sea
all endeavors come to an end
despite the glory
of their lofty dedications

each time, the gravity of our weight
pulled orbits back to the same ellipse
we shared atmospheres
and now with her light years across the plain
it's harder to breathe the air
before I knew her grace

in the winter nights
with the rest of the house bursting with life
lovers pressing tender touches
uncaring of audiences
friends rehashing old wounds reopened
musicians repeating tunes remembered by fingertips alone
I long for her pride
I languish for the smell of her with days trapped in hair
I yearn for the exhilaration of her tender brilliance
dropping falling stars into my exosphere
to scar the surface
leaving us again in the naked ecstasy
when the world faded away
leaving us alone with our uninhibited vices

the nights seem colder
and my limbs never warm enough to sleep through the night
awake with dreams unremembered
each one leaves a passport of her absence
the way she alone could seem to fill the bed with her laughter
as I left her in the mornings

our last day
remains wickedly vivid
how I longed to break my fingers and toes
to render my hands unable to labor
feet unable to leave her
knowing that as the door closed
when I next returned
she'd not greet me with outstretched arms
and leopardic leaps to pin me beneath her passions

I couldn’t have loved her better
goodbye was always on our lips
but when the last one came
it broke me down the middle

in the center of my city
tourists who came for millennial stones unbroken
saw us cleave together our last moments
and for the first time, she shed tears
broke open her dam
to cleave the street beneath us in two
in a way only the canyons know
the red rocks above trembled in dread
conjuring that winds and creeks had taken their toll
but she, unleashed, could finally break them into red sand
washing them like blood into the seas

there, at a crossroads I could recreate from memory
she said I would not cross the road with her
I was unable to follow
could not take her trek homeward bound
because I had never been
she carried my heart across the asphalt lanes
tied up in her pack
beneath snacks for the road
betwixt books and rolled socks
she carried it in secret
which I knew as she walked away from me
along a stretch of road
that seemed to widen for miles
until I lost her behind what could have been her next ride
or mere passersby
stained with her goodbyes
I watched until she was vapor and wind
red hat and pack
and then a mirage
as if she never was
but the hollow in my chest
beat her empty echoes with thumps in rhythm to her wandering footsteps
I send out platoons of foxes to find her
seek her out even in cities unknown to their habits
hoping their spying slyness
can catch her eye

now I seek out hitchhikers
the way addicts itch for a fix
I want to ask if they've seen her
if I can glean some knowledge of her whereabouts
and if they haven't yet
if they would pass on a message in my absence:
when the first winter breeze
blows in from the north
I will strip naked wherever I am
in the midst of Times Square,
the hollow of empty woods
or in my own living room
let her cold kisses caress all my sharp curves
feel her twirl around all my edges
inhale her joy so deeply
the atmosphere in my lungs turn to ice
all my pores will rise into goosebumps
to return her ten-thousand kisses
send all my silent words northward to find her
along whatever road she finds herself
wrap the embrace of breath around her
so she feels my arms again
even if just once more
even if just in dreams
even if she never knows

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kyuubi no Kitsune

Kyuubi no Kitsune
(Nine-Tailed Fox)

She tells me of Kitsune
a nine-tailed trickster
in the shape of a fox
who slips into gentlemen’s homes
from Hokkaido to the Ryukyus
tells them tales
brings magic stories to their doorsteps
she holds them tightly in the night
until love binds them

the Greeks, too, had their nine
daughters each graced with a gift
to dispel on poets and playwrights
inspire the great works
and leave the men besmirched with laurels

as she loves the most secret parts of me
I wonder what mythology we’re living

I see nines in everything nowadays
the edges of maple leaves
the measure of minutes on the alarm clock
until I have to leave her
Saturday and Sunday have seemingly doubled in length
leaving me two more days to love her arms
in the morning dawn light
the tips of her foxtails slip out from beneath the sheets
fading into ether by the I find my glasses to catch them
and all the artistries
flow through my fingers when her warmth wraps around me
and demands that I create

this is some Grecian Zen monastic koan
to bleed my mind dry of superfluous thought
focus my attentions to the nexus of my world
leave my mind free to wander
sans distraction
sans intention
poetry tabula rasa

Monday, December 28, 2009

Josh Fleming at Sedona Poetry Slam, Saturday, Jan. 2

Start off the new year with a Poetry Slam, featuring FlagSlam alum Josh Fleming

Sedona's Studio Live hosts a poetry slam Saturday, Jan. 2, starting at 7:30 p.m. and all poets are welcome to compete for the $100 grand prize.

Studio Live is located at 215 Coffee Pot Drive, Sedona.

Josh Fleming, a nationally touring, award-winning slam poet and college instructor, will perform in a featured reading between rounds.

Fleming started his poetry career in Northern Arizona where he competed with the first-ever Flagstaff National Slam Team, was its first-ever Grand Slam Champion in 2001, and traveled to Seattle for the 11th annual National Poetry Slam.

Fleming was part of the "Save the Male" national poetry tour in 2002, has authored one chapbook, "What Happened to Me," and co-produced a spoken word album, "Sonnets to listen to by an open fire..." with fellow poet Christopher Fox Graham, of Sedona.

Fleming then fell off the radar, worked at a gas station, was a zoo tour guide, went back to school, got his masters, fell in love, got married, bought a house, settled down and now teaches and coaches speech and debate at Pasadena City College, in Pasadena, Calif.

He loves poetry, he's missed poetry and he's glad to be back, Fleming stated in a press release. In conclusion: He's pretty sure he rocks.

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 the Flagstaff team at four National Poetry Slams between 2001 and 2006.

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.

Tickets are $10, available at Studio Live or Golden Word Books, 3150 W. Hwy.. 89A.

For more information, call (928) 282-0549 or visit

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Invite neighbors to join your family for Thanksgiving

Invite neighbors
to join your family
for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is more than a celebration of friends and family. It's an opportunity to welcome in both our neighbors and passing strangers to share food, stories and recipes.

The first Thanksgiving in the Plymouth Bay colony wasn't families in their individual cabins.. It was a feast of 53 Englishmen and around 90 Wampanoags dining together as a community.

Growing up, my father was on the coaching staff of two Major League Baseball teams. In part, that meant every Thanksgiving our table was surrounded not only by my parents, grandparents and siblings, but also "stragglers," as my mother called them – those who couldn't make it home or had no where to go. Often we'd have more than one. Our typical dinner would an infielder from San Francisco a third-base coach from Denver a pitcher from Cuba.

My personal favorite was the four players from the Dominican Republic who mistakenly thought our pet parakeets and cockatiel might be after-dinner delicacies.

Watching my mother explain in hand gestures and extremely broken Spanish the difference between pets and poultry still makes me smile.

Six years ago, I celebrated my first Thanksgiving in the Verde Valley. Rather than go back to my mother's home to Chandler, I stayed in Sedona and celebrated with my new group of 20-something friends, most of whom lacked the time or funds or both to make it home. While a first for me, that hodge-podge potluck Thanksgiving was part of long tradition among my circle of friends and one we're planning on celebrating again Thursday, Nov. 26.

However, I'll see the holiday through fresh eyes this year. My girlfriend – a Canadian – will celebrate her first Thanksgiving in the United States. While Canadians celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday, our American flavor is new to her. In looking through our newspapers, she was surprised at all the local churches, businesses, food banks, nonprofits and clubs offering free turkeys, full dinners or financial assistance to individuals and families in need.

This Thanksgiving, rather than just your extended family and friends, invite your neighbors to join.

Attend or volunteer at one of the Thanksgiving banquets the Verde Valley offers.

Donate a turkey, turducken or tofurkey to a food bank or nonprofit.

Just stay away from the parakeets.

Christopher Fox Graham
Assistant News Editor
Sedona Red Rock News

© 2009 Sedona Red Rock News - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cardboard Tube Fighting League

I saw this on One word: Awesome.

People having fun. This is what summer and being human are all about. I want to take part really bad. Columbus, Ohio lets get it on. I have the perfect helmet to make for it.

Via Wikipedia:

The CTFL was started by Robert Easley in Seattle, Washington. Robert had childhood memories of hitting friends and family with cardboard tubes in mock sword fights. He came up with the idea of starting regular tournaments around the act of cardboard tube fighting. This idea comes from three core beliefs:

  • People need more ways to play and take themselves less seriously.

  • Events can be fun without alcohol.

  • Cardboard sword fighting is fun.

The CTFL hosts tournaments and battles where cardboard tube fighters go head-to-head in an attempt to break their opponents tube without breaking their own. The events also focus on cardboard costumes and theatrics. These events are often held at public parks throughout the summer, are open to everyone ages 5 and up, and emphasize fun over competition. Cardboard tubes are provided and all events are free for participants.

Via the San Francisco chapter:

“The CTFL was created out of a desperate need to better train and arm citizens with cardboard tubes. While many speculate that our fore fathers, when drafting the constitution, originally intended the fourth amendment to refer to fire arms, there is now a small group of non-academics who believe that they were more likely referring to elite militias of card board tube wielding ninjas. While this training often takes place during childhood, it is discarded by adults who remain uneducated about the importance of such practices. The goal of the CTFL is to provide organized cardboard tube based events that help spread cardboard awareness.”

Cardboard Tube Fighting League in Philadelphia – Battle Royal!

There are rules:

1) Don’t break your tube. In a duel, the last person with an unbroken tube is the winner. In the event that both participants break their tubes at the same time, both duelists are considered losers. A tube is considered broken when it is held horizontal and the tip drops to an angle greater than 45 degrees or it is completely detached from the rest of the tube.

2) No swinging arms. No body slamming.

3) No stabbing. Lunges involving tubes are not allowed under any circumstances. Participants who exhibit this behavior will be ejected from the event.

4) Do not attack the opponent’s face. Hitting the face is heavily frowned upon and can force ejection from the event.

5) Once a tube is broken, fighting must cease.

6) Only official CTFL tubes are allowed. These tubes are provided at the events.

7) No blocking of opponent’s tube other than with your own tube.

8 ) Tubes must always be held near the end. Participants may switch ends as they see fit. Holding tubes in the middle is illegal.

9) Shields are banned in tournaments and battles.

10) All participants must sign a waiver.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Facebook vs Mandarin Chinese

While I'm surfing Facebook tagging artists at GumptionFest IV and drunk friends from Halloween, my girlfriend is lying on my bed, practicing her Mandarin Chinese with an audio book she picked up from the Sedona Public Library.

Who's more productive in the long run? That's right, not me.

Azami is awesome.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sedona dancers break out into "Thriller" on Halloween

Halloween dancers, led by Martha Edwards, dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on Saturday, Oct. 31, during the Uptown Sedona Trick-or-Treating event.
We're a silly city and seeing our residents do things this make me feel warm inside.
Azami and I caught this, then headed north to Flagstaff to see Sedona's party rock band Yin Yang & Zen Some play at the Orpheum.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Giant Iron Killer Robots are Key to Our Survival

I was asked to write this for the Tucson show Robots, Zombies, and Mad Scientists. I started writing this at 5:23 p.m. on the drive down from Phoenix to Tucson. I was the first poet up and by 7:43 when I got on stage, I was done. Awesome. I faced Mickey Randleman, who's opposing topic was "We must focus our resources on sexy teenaged killer robots." She had great boots.

"Giant Iron Killer Robots are Key to Our Survival"
On this stage, we espouse
“may the best poem win,”
because “survival of the fittest”
ferments in the gene pool of all living things

when the first tribe of ape-men hunters
fabricated flint tools
to enslave their nomadic neighbors
machines have dictated our destiny
and inscribed in their invention
is the machine mantra, “kill all humans”

iron tools were twisted into swords
long before plowshares;
steam engines manifested machine destiny westward
corralling Indians for easier genocide
rockets powered missiles and jet fighters
decades before they carried grandmothers south for Christmas

Morpheus warned us that
"We are dependent on machines to survive
and fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony"
because the first machine to walk and talk
will carry a laser-guided anti-personnel submachine rail gun
not a spatula in a soup kitchen

The invasion has been gestating for decades
the Internet was a Defense Department project
despite its later usurpation by blessed pornographers

The evidence surrounds us:
a T-800 Terminator killing machine
now inhabits the Sacramento governor’s mansion
and if you remember
the last time an Austrian was elected leader
the human race endured a Holocaust
of unimaginable intensity and machine-like efficiency

that was just the pre-game show

although ignored by the mainstream media
the state of California is broke
because Schwartzenegger is siphoning tax money
to fund a secret Skynet
building an army of iron-skeletoned androids
with perfect skin, glorious physique and an inability to act human
Exhibits A, B, C:
Paris Hilton
Angelia Jolie
and Vin Diesel

We’re through the looking glass, people,
and Wonderland drops digital lines like the Matrix

pop culture tries to placate our defenses,
but the future won’t be filled with closeted droid lovers
like C3PO and R2D2
or Uncle Tom androids like Commander Data
the world of Wall-E was devoid of humans
because he hunted them down
luring them in with musical numbers
then crushing their skulls with leftover toasters
and whistling “kill all humans” as he rolls away

the future won’t be filled with
lovable louts like Bender
or benevolent behemoths like Bumblebee and Optimus Prime
our destiny is to be hunted in the sewers by squidy Sentinels
chased through dreamlands by sentient programs
named Agent Jones and Agent Smith
or sliced up by iron-fingered Cylons
nuking our cities on Earth and the 12 Colonies
in a Judgment Day annihilation
that will turn vaporize oceans and
turn deserts into glass

but the machines haven’t won yet
yes, billions we stare vapidly into glowing red eyes
during their eviscerations
but these are the same people who carry PSPs to church
quote issues of Maxim as scripture
or visit Wal-Marts like modern-day meccas

when the machines finally come,
if you’re not one of us who hear “kill all humans” in the subtext
then you’re one of them
people who are not ready to be unplugged
people are still a part of that system
so inured, so hopelessly dependent on that system
that they will fight to protect it

but there is hope
survival of the fittest will save us

when the bombs fall
a hero will rise
when they shout "kill all humans"
we'll shout back "we're still here"
Jesus Christ is coming back for the rapture
but you will know him as John Conner
even the initials are the same
John Conner with 12 disciples armed to the teeth
and the foresight that resistance is the only course for survival

when the world ends
at the barrel of Cylon guns
Commander Adama and Starbuck
will lead us from the interstellar valley of the shadow of death
to a new homeworld

giant killer robots may wipe out the weakest of our race
but their annihilation will merely shape the gene pool
into something bigger, bolder, greater than this flesh puppet now on stage
and in my dreams, I cry out
"I want to see gamma rays!
I want to hear X-rays!
I want to smell dark matter!
Do you see the absurdity of what I am?
I can't even express these things properly because I have to conceptualize complex ideas in this stupid limiting spoken language!
But I know I want to reach out with something other than these prehensile paws!
And feel the wind of a supernova flowing over me!"

the machines will thin the herd
to a more manageable size
but leave the survivors in a Zion
and give birth the next evolution of man

who can reshape this world as he sees fit
stop bullets with his fingertips
bend spoons as if changing a thought
Neo is no superhero
but the first neo-sapiens to speak on par
with Deus ex Machina

to all the giant killer machines
now preparing for Armageddon
bring it on
chant "kill all humans"
with your 1s zeros
we will survive you
we will bury you
and reach godhood
standing your broken chassis
and the our carcasses of our fallen marytrs

Friday, October 23, 2009

Robots, Zombies, and Mad Scientists: Poetry

Azami and I are heading south. We're passing through Phoenix to Tucson, so if anyone needs to call me, send me a text message at 928-517-1400.

Why Tucson? for:

Robots, Zombies, and Mad Scientists is a life-or-death spoken word showcase to help prepare our community for upcoming apocalyptic struggles.

Vital issues will be addressed, such as:
* What kind of apocalypse is best for OUR community?
* Should we place our trust in the Scientific Genius driven mad by his lust for power, or on the Genius Scientist driven insane by hubris?
* What kind of boundaries should you set for your own zombie as he reaches older, more challenging stages of decomposition?

Come out and see all new work by some of our favorite performers, and help us take the next step into a promising world of wild anarchy and horror.

Christopher Fox Graham ** Mickey Randleman ** Kelly Lewis ** Neil Gearns ** Teresa Driver ** Laura Lacanette ** The Klute ** Frank Cernik ** Lindsay Miller

Hosted by Doc Luben

with discipline enforced by: Maya Asher

SPECIAL FEATURE: National Poetry Slam champion PAULIE LIPMAN, on tour from Denver, Colo. This is a not-to-be-missed nerd power genius all on his own.

Secret Special Attraction: "Underdog Creatures" Haiku Deathmatch (Trolls vs Sea Monsters)

$5 (so cheap!) at the door

Saturday, October 24, 2009
7:30pm - 10:00pm
Mat Bevel Museum of Kinetic Sculpture!
530 N Stone Ave, just north of 6th Street
Tucson, AZ

Sunday, October 18, 2009

John Bradshaw for Sedona mayor?

John Bradshaw for mayor?
Christopher Fox Graham
Larson Newspapers

Sedona Vice Mayor John Bradshaw is resigning, effective Wednesday, Oct. 28. He delivered his letter of resignation to the city on Sept. 22.

Bradshaw resigned as a point of procedure as he can not run for mayor in 2010 while serving on City Council.

Although Bradshaw has not yet decided whether he plans to run for mayor, he said, leaving office in late October gives him the room to look at options. Full story on

© 2009 Sedona Red Rock News - All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 16, 2009

Brain Waves Surge Moments Before Death

Irene Klotz, Discovery News
Oct. 6, 2009 -- A study of seven terminally ill patients found identical surges in brain activity moments before death, providing what may be physiological evidence of "out of body" experiences reported by people who survive near-death ordeals.

Doctors at George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates recorded brain activity of people dying from critical illnesses, such as cancer or heart attacks.

Moments before death, the patients experienced a burst in brain wave activity, with the spikes occurring at the same time before death and at comparable intensity and duration.

Writing in the October issue of the Journal of Palliative Medicine, the doctors theorize that the brain surges may be tied to widely reported near-death experiences which typically involve spiritual or religious attributes.

At first, doctors thought the electrical surges picked up by electroencephalographs were caused by other machines or cell phones in the rooms of dying patients, lead author Lakhmir Chawla told Discovery News.

The EECs were being used to monitor patients' level of consciousness as doctors and families wrestle with end-of-life issues.

"We did it when patients want to withdraw life support, to make sure patients are comfortable, as we withdraw care," Chawla said.

The medical staff kept seeing spikes in patients' brain waves just before death.

"We thought 'Hey, that was odd. What was that?'" Chawla said. "We thought there was a cell phone or a machine on in the room that created this anomaly. But then we started removing things, turning off cell phones and machines, and we saw it was still happening."

The doctors believe they are seeing the brain's neurons discharge as they lose oxygen from lack of blood pressure.

"All the neurons are connected together and when they lose oxygen, their ability to maintain electrical potential goes away," Chawla said. "I think when people lose all their blood flow, their neurons all fire in very close proximity and you get a big domino effect. We think this could explain the spike."

It's possible a cutoff of oxygen would trigger a similar but recoverable event that becomes seared into memory.

"Not everyone reports this light sort of business. What you hear most often reported (in near-death experiences) is just a vivid memory," Chawla said.

Brain researcher Kevin Nelson at the University of Kentucky, who studies near-death experiences, said it's well known that when the brain is abruptly deprived of blood flow it gives off a burst of high voltage energy.

"It's unlikely with conventional brain wave recordings during death that they're going to see something that hasn't been seen already," Nelson said.

Chawla and colleagues would like to follow up their case study with a larger pool of patients outfitted with more sophisticated brain activity sensors.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Art of Being an Atheist

Posit from a friend: "I have a very intellectual friend who labels himself agnostic. he claims that atheists are idiots in a sense because atheism is a religion. the belief in nothing, meaning there is no god, is a faith since there is no evidence that can prove the nonexistance of a god. what you say kind sir? (sorry that was poorly worded, but you get the idea i'm sure)

There are 'atheists' who subscribe to some sort of divinity or 'spirit' but they're not atheists in the true sense. Atheism isn't a religion. There isn't a book we all read or anything, it's just having a rational debate equatable to "Everyone believes in Santa. Never seen him and the only people who told me about him were my parents and friends, and Christmas songs, but they haven't seen him and there's nothing really out there."

That doesn't make an anti-Santaist, just someone who doesn't tell children there's a dude in red with an unhealthy addiction to stale cookies and dairy that's been out too long.

There are humanist atheists, Buddhist atheists, Jewish atheists, Taoist atheists and Christian atheists, some of them "strong" "ashes-to-ashes-dust-to-dust" atheists who find value in the specific teachings of their belief systems but deny any supernatural influence or existence.

The misconception that most people have about atheists is that there is a common belief system.

A number of atheists are really anti-Christian, anti-clerical or anti-theists, not true atheists, so they're fighting against Christianity specifically (other faiths have their detractors but Christianity seems to really bring it out).

As a 'strong' or 'hard' atheist, I lack an external belief system based around any theistic argument. I don't believe in anything, not "I do believe in nothing." It's a semantic argument, but one with weight.
Most atheists subscribe to basic conceit that "I don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force" which is different than "I believe there is no sort of spirit, God or life force."

I see all faiths the same way we look back on extinct religions. We can derive moral stories from Zoroaster and the myths of Hercules, Gilgamesh and Mithras, but there's no need to slit a bull's throat on the winter solstice for prosperity for next year. Good stories, but so is "Lolita" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

The root of the issue beyond it all is the theocentric argument of "... since there is no evidence that can prove the [nonexistence] of a god." That's an agnostic cop-out based around a theistic belief system.

Agnostics are too cowardly to get out of the box and look at how the question is framed and theists assume they're right that they can ask a question that presupposes a deity and its up to atheists to prove them wrong with evidence that they themselves can find to argue the counterquestion. I respect devoutly religious people and atheists more than agnostics because the two factions have at least the conviction to settle on one side of the argument. Agnostics either haven't seriously explored the issue, don't want to, or choose to remain outside the argument altogether. Thus, I am far more likely to debate a religious person on merits than try to convince an agnostic to pick a side.

It's not up to us atheists to disprove god. There isn't one cause there isn't.
There isn't a monster under your bed either because there just isn't.
It's up to agnostics to argue that "there might be one but we can't prove it either way," or theists to prove, "there is a god, you can't see it, but trust us."

Being a fairly vocal atheist, I've heard the "prove to me that god doesn't exist" argument a lot. And the only rational answer is, "there isn't because you can't see one, feel one, touch one, or hear one. Prove to me that despite all the evidence of nothing that there is something. Then try to define its shape and behavior."

When this question is reframed, it can be pushed to the point of absurdity, "So god watches us? Like all the time? From where? And he knows all the things we do? And so he sees the times we 'sin' and the rationale we formulate, yet still act? Doesn't that seem counter-intuitive? Considering he knows we feel a little bad?" Etc.

If you like religion, great. Pray, hope, indulge in ritual. Just don't be a jerk.

If you can see the inherent human-centric arrogance in believing that an all-powerful deity has the time or interest in weighing the souls of people based on they think or feel then maybe you'll cross over into rational atheism. But at least explore all the options in your own head. When we die, we'll know what the real deal is.

Of course, as an atheist, it'll be slow fade, bright flash as neurons fire for the last time, then nothing.


Maple Leaf Heart

Maple Leaf Heart

She blindsided me on an idle Tuesday
like the "Wear Sunscreen" song warned
with the way relationships should begin

somewhere between kisses and climax
I start humming the Canadian national anthem
like I was born with a Maple Flag tattoo
scarred beneath the skin
"Oh Canada, our home and native land"
and I wish I known her years ago
before my knees broke beneath my ego

decades before I met her couchsurfing
she came out of nowhere
climbed into my bed and rested in my earlobes
so that when she asked
"what are you thinking aboōt?"
I'd pause on the lips of her Toronto accent
and wonder what makes Yankees and Canucks so different
blindsided by her tomboy tongue
my hesitation left her the space and chance
to slip her arms beneath mine and hold me tightly

I blame Canada
for erecting a border between us
that took years for her sneak across
and find me
remind me that after all my selfish one-night-stands
I might be worth loving for more than a drink
sober and sensual I want to explore her coastlines
chart the cartography of her ancestry
until it begins to blur with mine
find what lurks north of the islands
that disappear on maps
she's unexplored country
diving southward beneath waistlines
to illuminate all the secrets I've kept hidden
color them beneath auroras
in the land of midnight sun

she holds me without the shame of being in my arms
loves my languid limbs
that ache in daytime jobs
just to hold her again

she wears my shirts
as though I bought them in her anticipation
and I bury my face in her neck, her belly, her thighs
teach her that poet's prowess
lie not in speaking a thousand different tongues
but how we use the one with which we're born
in the most artful of silent articulations
making moist her hips from the waist down
where she speaks in only nouns and moans
in the vague attempt to hold her here for another day and another and another

whatever sins and salvations my tongue and lips have learned to speak
I can only embrace her beauties so long
before the road calls her from my bed
to two lanes of blacktop to the next city
the next adventure
the next story I can only imagine
in passing postcards
delivered after she's already moved on

I want to smuggle myself northward
swear allegiance to a new flag
reshape my heart into a maple leaf
so she'll know me by touch alone
as a Canadian countryman
fall asleep in her arms again
and learn to speak all the words
in an accent I used to mock her for
count my miles in her kilometers
and retire into the Saskatchewan countryside
forgetting the names of my old 50 states
tell children in ages and ages hence
that the Grand Canyon was once in my backyard
but barely deep enough to hold
all the poems I've written for their grandmother
who slumbers in the hammock outside
dreaming of the life we shared in a place called Sedona
where turquoise fell like rain
dreams flowed like the waters of Oak Creek
and I longed for a lover called Azami
though her name waited 30 years
to find itself spoken on my lips
worn raw through kisses down to the bone
so deep I can't seem to recall
how I lived so long
without her to hold me
in the shadows of the northern lights
stretching out fingers toward
her dirty bare feet still damp in midnight dew
asking me to follow her on yet another unplanned road
to a destination we can only imagine
and whose name we don't care to learn

her Yukon arms and Labrador legs
are the only borders I recognize
and ones I never long to leave

I performed this poem on Oct. 10 at the FlagSlam. There are obvious elements of Billy Collins' style, specifically
"... her dirty bare feet still damp in midnight dew /
asking me to follow her on yet another unplanned road / to a destination we can only imagine / and whose name we don't care to learn ..." that remind me of "Nostalgia":

by Billy Collins

Remember the 1340s? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called “Find the Cow.”
Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.

Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet
marathons were the rage. We used to dress up in the flags
of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle
while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent, a badly broken code.

The 1790s will never come again. Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills
and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.

Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
a dance whose name we can only guess.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Two die at sweat lodge near Sedona

Two die at sweat lodge near Sedona
Christopher Fox Graham
Larson Newspapers

Two people died Thursday, Oct. 8, following a sweat lodge ceremony at Angel Valley Retreat Center located down Forest Road 525B between Sedona and Page Springs.

Verde Valley Fire District personnel were called to the scene at 5:19 p.m. Crews found several victims who had been involved in sweat lodge ceremony. Approximately 48 people participated in the ceremony that lasted over two hours, according to VVFD reports.

Initially, four patients were flown to Flagstaff Medical Center and six more were taken to Verde Valley Medical Center, in Cottonwood. In total, 21 people were evacuated to area medical centers, the reports stated.

A middle aged man and woman who were taken to VVMC were pronounced dead shortly after arrival. Full story on

© 2009 Sedona Red Rock News - All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 9, 2009

From Azami to Barack to slam, life rocks

Week in review:
  • Returned to the Sedona Red Rock News with a promotion Assistant News Editor.
  • Running the paper under Bob Larson and Trista Steers in a most awesome fashion.
  • Returned to slam in FlagSlam with the intent to go to the National Poetry Slam this year.
  • Inspired to write by a new girl, too.
  • President Barack Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • I think I have a girlfriend, Azami ... the first girlfriend in about six years.
Life is awesome right now.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I am Sedona Red Rock News' new Assistant Managing Editor

I left the Sedona Red Rock News 16 months ago as Senior Copy Editor. After two months as Managing Editor of Kudos, I spent the last year and a half working freelance, writing news copy and marketing for local business, working web copy and spending a lot of time sleeping in late.
But I am now returning to the Sedona Red Rock News as Assistant News Editor under News Editor Trista Steers and Managing Editor/Publisher Bob Larson. Rock on.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Slam Tutorial: Using Rhetorical Strategies

Rhetorical Strategies/Devices

Elements creators of text use to put forth their arguments

Themes: Linking devices that hold a text together structurally, e.g. the battle between good and evil: the general idea or insight about life a writer wishes to express. All of the elements of literary terms contribute to theme. A simple theme can often be stated in a single sentence.

Repetition of certain words: Why, with all the words at his or her disposal, does a writer choose to repeat particular words?

Counterpoints: Contrasting ideas such as black/white, darkness/light, good/bad.

Imagery: language that evokes one or all of the five senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching.

Metaphor and symbolism: Non-literal, imaginative substitutions in which, for instance, a tree becomes a metaphor for family, or springtime symbolizes rebirth.

Characterization: The method used by a writer to develop a character. The method includes (1) showing the character's appearance, (2) displaying the character's actions, (3) revealing the character's thoughts, (4) letting the character speak, and (5) getting the reactions of others.

Plot development: Linear or fragmented, chronological or driven by a theme or some other unifying device.

Introduction and conclusion: Framing strategies.

Narrator: Usually first or third person. Is the narrator the same as the author?

Style, tone, voice: Gut reactions are useful here. Examine your own responses. What is it that makes you respond as you do? Are you the author’s intended audience? If not, who is? The attitude a writer takes towards a subject or character: serious, humorous, sarcastic, ironic, satirical, tongue-in-cheek, solemn, objective.

Analogy: The comparison of two pairs that have the same relationship. The key is to ascertain the relationship between the first so you can choose the correct second pair. Part to whole, opposites, results of are types of relationships you should find.

shells were to ancient culture as dollar bills are to modern culture OR shells: ancient culture :: dollar bills: modern culture

Flashback: Action that interrupts to show an event that happened at an earlier time which is necessary to better understanding.

Foreshadowing: The use of hints or clues to suggest what will happen later in literature.

Hyperbole: Exaggeration or overstatement.

I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate.

Personification: giving human qualities to animals or objects.

a smiling moon, a jovial sun

Allusion: A reference to something real or fictional, to someone, some event, or something in the Bible, history, literature, or any phase of culture.

Example: The author alludes to Helen of Troy when discussing women who bring about ruin.

Irony: An expression, often humorous or sarcastic, that exposes perversity or absurdity.

For example, the fact that only teams from the U. S. and Canada play in the World Series® is ironic.

Oxymoron: A contradiction in terms, such as faithless devotion, searing cold, deafening silence, virtual reality, act naturally, peacekeeper missile, or larger half.

Paradox: Reveals a kind of truth which at first seems contradictory.

Red wine is paradoxically good and bad for us.

Symbolism: is using an object or action that means something more than its literal meaning.

*The practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships.
*A system of symbols or representations.
*A symbolic meaning or representation.

the bird of night (owl is a symbol of death)

Parody: A humorous exaggerated imitation, or travesty.

The film, Airplane! is a parody of 1970’s era disaster films. Austin Powers films parody James Bond-type spy films. Kung Fu Hustle - a movie by Steven Chow parodying Chinese wuxia films, as well as gangster films in general. Some examples of parody in classic literature include "MacFlecknoe," by John Dryden ,A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift, The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, Namby Pamby by Henry Carey, and Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.

Sarcasm: A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.

A form of wit that is marked by the use of sarcastic language and is intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule.

Satire: literary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness, often with the intent of correcting, or changing, the subject of the satiric attack. One of the most interesting features of satire is that it is almost universally believed to be a persuasive writing form. In actuality, it appears that most written satire actually fools most of its readers, so that, far from being persuasive, it is often not even understood.
Aristotelian Appeals


Appeals to the head using logic, numbers, explanations, and facts. Through Logos, a writer aims at a person's intellect. The idea is that if you are logical, you will understand.


Appeals to the conscience, ethics, morals, standards, values, principles.


Appeals to the heart, emotions, sympathy, passions, sentimentality.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What is rhetoric? How to use rhetoric in poetry

Define poetry:
We speak life in the colloquial tongue.
We think life to ourselves in prose.
We feel life in poetry.
Poetry is the captured sincerity of a moment.

We experience all of life's moments in poems. Because they come to us without words, we can experience them in their purity with an unlimited vocabulary.

For instance, there is no word in English or any other human language for the experience of looking through a window into the dawn sky in autumn just after waking on your day off and hoping for whole day of light drizzle because it brings back memories of rainy days during childhood. But we can feel it, envision the image, the feeling of cool air and slight moisture in the air ... but we can put ourselves there.

In poetry, we can pen the lines to reimagine that moment and the feeling of being there.
The poet's wordless feeling --> translated into a poem --> re-imagined by the reader into the wordless feeling

In prose, we can remove the magic a bit, but add the details of specificity. The beauty of the moment is replaced with accuracy. We take the prose into our understanding of language and recreate the image in our skull, effectively:
The author's wordless feeling --> summed up into a collection of poetic images --> translated into prose --> interpreted into imaging the author's specific moment --> re-imagined by the reader into the wordless feeling

In the colloquial, we do the same thing as prose, but with only our limited 1,000 word everyday vocabulary:
The speaker's wordless feeling --> summed up into a collection of poetic images --> conveyed through simple words --> interpreted by the listener --> re-imagined by the listener into the wordless feeling

Poetry is as near as we can come through language to sharing feelings short of telepathy. Poetry is the core of language that prose and everyday language clutter up for the sake of filling space and sound. In short, poetry is the Cliff's Notes of language.

Thus, understanding rhetoric, the study of how to use language most effectively, is paramount to being a good poet and a good slam poet as well.

That being said, I plan on exploring how to use rhetorical strategies in poetry over the next few weeks.

Rhetoric looms! Fear not! It is our ally, our tool, our weapon!
Most people hear "rhetoric" and cringe. That's because "empty rhetoric" has come to stand in for "'real' rhetoric."

However, once you understand the tenets of good rhetoric, you begin to understand that it's effective because it's so rational. Rhetoric is not complicated or bombastic or difficult to incorporate. It is actually quite simple, terse, and honestly beautiful.

Take a line from a film or a historical quote that you find particularly moving due just to the language and it likely incorporates a rhetorical strategy whether conscious or not.
"We shall go on to the end,
we shall fight in France,

we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,
we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,

we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender"
-Sir Winston Churchill's
"We shall fight on the beaches" speech from 4 June 1940 employing the rhetorical strategy of "anaphora" or repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses, sentences, or lines.
We remember certain film quotes, political states, corporate slogans, mnemonic devices, headlines, and romantic phrases because they naturally fit the rules of rhetoric. I started writing poetry at 18 just before college. After I became an English major and began studying rhetoric, I realized that a lot of what sounded "good" in my poetry and the poetry that moved me fit rhetorical patterns whether the poet knew it or not. Rhetoric is naturally pleasing to the ear.

In a previous blog, I analyzed Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in the context of a poem. It is a beautiful expression of rhetoric in one of its highest form. One of the most obvious lines: "... We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow ..." Just 12 words, but it uses a plethora of rhetorical strategies. It does not seem artificial in the least, but beautifully poetic. Ta-da! That's the beauty of rhetoric.

Language is essentially a complex mathematical problem. We're trying to express an idea by using a series of words like numbers and grammar like operations to most closely equal it. We use collections of the these sentence equations to add, subtract, multiply and divide from each other to move our audience through a mathematical proof from theory to solution.

The thing is that we often know that certain strategies work in a poem or story but not often why. Rhetoric is the why.

So what is rhetoric?

Plato: Rhetoric is “the art of winning the soul by discourse.”

Aristotle: Rhetoric is “the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion.”

Cicero: “Rhetoric is one great art comprised of five lesser arts: inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, and pronunciatio.” Rhetoric is “speech designed to persuade.”

Quintillian: “Rhetoric is the art of speaking well.”

Francis Bacon: "Rhetoric is the application of reason to imagination “for the better moving of the will.”

George Campbell: “[Rhetoric] is that art or talent by which discourse is adapted to its end. The four ends of discourse are to enlighten the understanding, please the imagination, move the passion, and influence the will.”

A. Richards: “Rhetoric is the study of misunderstandings and their remedies.”

Kenneth Burke: “Rhetoric is rooted in an essential function of language itself, a function that is wholly realistic and continually born anew: the use of language as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols.” “Wherever there is persuasion, there is rhetoric, and wherever there is rhetoric, there is meaning.”

Richard Weaver: "Rhetoric is that “which creates an informed appetite for the good.”

Erika Lindemann: “Rhetoric is a form of reasoning about probabilities, based on Assumptions people share as members of a community.”

Andrea Lunsford: “Rhetoric is the art, practice, and study of human communication.”

Francis Christensen: “Grammar maps out the possible; rhetoric narrows the possible down to the desirable or effective.”
“The key question for rhetoric is how to know what is desirable.”

Sonja and Karen Foss: “Rhetoric is an action human beings perform when they use symbols for the purpose of communicating with one another . . , [and it] is a perspective humans take that involves focusing on symbolic processes.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are you ready for "GumptionFest: The Movie"?

This is the trailer for a documentary film shot at GumptionFest IV. Filmmaker Gregg Ensminger is currently editing the final cut, but yes, we're in cinema now. Do you know any other Sedona festival that has a film about it?

I'll wait ....

Thought so. We rock.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rules of Poetry Slam ... Animated

For the love of all things holy, someone, please animate me.

Mike Henry, the subject of this awesome little animation is the former president of Poetry Slam Inc., the organization governing the National Poetry Slam, the International World Poetry Slam (iWPS).

He's been a longtime member of the Austin, Texas, slam scene, specifically 1995 Team Member, 1996 Slam Team Coach, 1997 Team Coach, 1998 National Poetry Slam Organizer and 1999 Team Member.

He spent the next few years running the madness that is PSi.

Again, this video is awesome.

Slam Tutorial: Having Fun With Sex

Objectifying a body part of the opposite sex can sometimes be a difficult thing to do in poetry. Between lovers, behind closed doors, we all often spend hours discussing anatomy, what they like, what they don't how things feel or how things can feel with the right stimulation.
That aside, Rock Baby's sheer enthusiasm for breasts is what sells this poem. Imagine performing this poem in a cover reading at your local open mic or poetry slam and you can see the inherent difficulty unless you are so over-the-top with the humor to truly sell it.
And yes, in person, Rock Baby is hysterical. I met him at the National Poetry Slam in Chicago in 2003 and I distinctly remember one breakfast morning where he had three tables in stitches talking about the van trip from Texas.

Titty Man
By Roderick "Rock Baby" Goudy

Warning, warning
This poem is not suitable for those who take life too serious
And lack a sense of humor.

Titty man gone wild
Titties, titties, titties!
I love me some titties
Big titties, small titties, skinny titties
Tall titties, titties sagging down
Titties juicy and round.

I love me some titties
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle
I like those titties with a dark nipple in the middle
And ohhh! When they jiggle
Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle
Iggle, iggle, iggle, iggle
Iggle, iggle, iggle.

Just another name for those titties
You see they come in all shapes and sizes and forms
The average person don't know 'em like I know 'em
This goes for the ladies, too
Who've had titties
All their life.

I can tell the difference between a real titty, a fake titty
A too-young titty
And a titty that's ready and ripe
'Cause I'm a titty man
Hell, I could tell your future
If you just let me hold those titties in my hands.

You see, it does something to me when I see and hear a bra snap
When those titties stand out
It makes a brother like me
Moan and groan and slooooobber at the mouth
Especially when they're naked and pressed up against my chest
It makes it difficult to choose the type of titty that I love the best.

It could be old titties, swoll titties, titties hanging loose
Titties that look like fruits
Titties fully grown
Titties made of silicone
Tittes that make you always wanna hold her
Titties that you can throw over your shoulders.

Titties, difference colors, and I need them
Tittes on people who don't need them
Mean titties, sad titties
Titties that make you wish you had titties
Perfect titties squeezed together
And pushed to the front.

Now if I had a pair of titties
Those would be the type of titties that I'd want
Because I looooove me some titties.

I like 'em on the beach
In the sand
And when it's hot at home
I like to lick those titties in front of a fan

Whether in a regular, laced or fuzzy bra
I like those tittes that belongs to super stars
And for those ladies with those titties swoll like 2 balloons
I like to stick my face between 'em and go.


Because I loooooove me some titties

A native of Hattiesburg, Miss., Roderick Goudy, aka Rock Baby, is a seasoned performance poet, comic and writer. Widely considered a natural performer with an unique, eclectic and clever style, Goudy has delighted, educated and entertained people of various ages and ethnicities across America, quickly making him a crowd favorite within the "chitin circuit" of spoken word.
Appearing twice on HBO’s Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam in 2003 and 2005, Rock Baby offered television explosive performances with his distinct style of comedic poetry.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sedona Poetry Slam victory poem by Ryan Brown and Frank O'Brien

Ryan Brown won the July 17 Sedona Poetry Slam. As a member of the 2009 Flagstaff National Poetry Slam Team, he (left) invited teammate Frank O'Brien (right) on stage to perform a O'Brien's duo piece as his victory poem. The Flagstaff Team made semi-finals at the National Poetry Slam less than three weeks later.

Brown is a kid from Phoenix who spends most of his time posing as a writer and poet. He now goes to school and lives in Flagstaff, where he is the SlamMaster of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam. Brown represented the Flagstaff Nationals Team at the National Poetry Slam.

O'Brien is a 20-year-old student at Coconino Community College, focusing in the general studies and pre-nursing. Originally from Phoenix, O'Brien entered the slam poetry scene in fall 2007. He traveled to Madison, Wis., in 2008 and to Orlando, Fla., in 2009 as a member of the Flagstaff National Slam Team. O'Brien is now an active poet and administrator of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam in Flagstaff.

Markus Eye video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3

Markus Eye is a Sedona poet and photographer. Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #11, July 17, 2009

Wendy Davis video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3

Wendy Davis is Creative Director of W-Fun TV, a certified yoga instructor and vocal coach in Sedona.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #10, July 17, 2009

Bert Cisneros video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3

Norberto "Bert" Cisneros is a Cottonwood poet and jazz trumpet player. He has slammed in Sedona and FlagSlam and regularly reads at the Sedona Poetry Open Mic.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #9.

Photo by Jon Pelletier/Kudos

Mikel Weisser video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3

Son of a nightclub singer, Kingman slam poet Mikel Weisser. spent his teens as a hitchhiker. Since then Weisser has gone on to receive a masters in literature and a masters in secondary education, published hundreds of freelance magazine and newspaper articles and political comedy columns, along with seven books of poetry and short fiction.
A former homeless shelter administrator, contestant on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," and survivor of his first wife's suicide, Weisser teaches junior high history and English in Bullhead City. He and his wife, Beth, have turned their So-Hi, Ariz., property into a peace sign theme park.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #7, July 17, 2009.

Gary Every video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3

Gary Every's career has followed many diverse paths including geology exploration, carpenter, chef, piano player, punk rocker, dishwasher, photographer, mountain bike instructor, soccer coach, bonfire storyteller and just a general bad example to society as a whole.

It is perhaps as an author that Mr. Every has gained the most fame. Published nearly a thousand times, he has four books to his credit and more on the way.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #6, July 17, 2009.

Photo by Jon Pelletier/Kudos

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Frank O'Brien video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3

Frank O'Brien is a 20-year-old student at Coconino Community College, focusing in the general studies and pre-nursing. Originally from Phoenix, O'Brien entered the slam poetry scene in fall 2007. He traveled to Madison, Wis., in 2008 and to Orlando, Fla., in 2009 as a member of the Flagstaff National Slam Team.
O'Brien is now an active poet and administrator of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam in Flagstaff.
Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #3.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Guadarrama

Ed Mabrey video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3

Ed Mabrey is a two-time Haiku National Slam Champion and 2007-2008 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion.
He has been a member of and coached several winning Rust Belt Regional Poetry Slam Teams out of Columbus, Ohio. Mabrey has released two books, "From the Page to the Stage and Back Again" to critical acclaim and "Revoked:My GhettoPass(ivity)" which was a limited release item.Maybrey has released two CDs of his own work, and has been on projects with other artists and DJs.

He is the founder of Black Pearl Poetry based in Phoenix.

Ryan Brown video, Sedona Poetry Slam round 3

Ryan Brown is a kid from Phoenix who spends most of his time posing as a writer and poet. He now goes to school and lives in Flagstaff, where he is the SlamMaster of the FlagSlam Poetry Slam. Ryan Brown represented the Flagstaff Nationals Team at the National Poetry Slam.

Sedona Poetry Slam, Round #3, Poet #1, July 17, 2009.

Nika Levikov video of "My Country"

For the past two weekends, my friend Nika Levikov has trekked down the hill from Flagstaff to Sedona for poetry events. She read a few poems at the GumptionFest IV pre-party at Ken's Creekside, then read the Cabaret Tent at GumptionFest IV Day One on Saturday.

This last weekend, she came down to keep score at the Sept. 11 slam I hosted at Studio Live.

We hiked to Devil's Bridge the next day.

Among the components of our friendship is critiquing each other's poetry. My favorite slam poem of hers is the identity poem "My Country," which I was glad she performed at both GumptionFest and as a calibration poem at the July 17 slam.

My Country
By Nika Levikov

Babushka likes to tell me about communism
the days when Ukraine was Russia.
The Soviet Union,
a name that has prevented me
from understanding who I really am.
Who I really am?
and sometimes I fear that stories
are the only things left to give me an insight.
Papa would always tell me how he dreamed of leaving.
life was rough and somewhere out there
was an easier path
and that was really all he said,
his words flowed from his mouth like Matryoshka dolls,
never opened
and the layers upon layers of stories
he chose not to speak of.
And here I am, sitting in front of these faces
trying to explain why I must go there.

Dedushka laughs,
aside from my youth he says,
there is an identity that stays with you
before any Russian label.
And they aren’t ready for you yet.
They aren’t ready for you Jew.
They can see it in your face,
it’s written in your hair
and can’t you see how the letters are bolded across your jawline?
Jew, and they will hate you for it.

But I’m wondering how long
can you hide me from the ignorance of other’s.
How long papa,
will you shelter me from the judgment
that has slept under your very pillow
since the day you learned the meaning?
And can’t you see, mama
I’m not afraid anymore.
my only fear
is never getting the chance to understand,
to see you streets where I am certain
the sun still casts your shadow.

I want to go there
and feel your sweat, papa
that leaked from your hands
as you stood in line for days, waiting for your freedom.

I have heard other stories
and I am convinced that my eyes will burn
from shattered hearts still hanging on windowsills
and my ears will scream,
from the sound of tattered orange flags
still flapping from the signs that say “welcome”.
but I am also convinced,
that beauty thrives here still,
in the language whose voice cascaded over every Russian text,
in the dance
that has always broken free from Russian song.

mother, I come for you
and I do not forget you.
my family, born from you
my traditions, my tongue awakened by your distant breathes.

I want to see you.
I want to sleep in your skin
till the culture of my ancestors
becomes the air I’m breathing.
in you, rests a side of my family I have never known
and please, let me get on my knees,
bury my hands in their soil
and say “esvenee, esvenee mena”
sorry, for not having come sooner.

mother, I may not have been raised under your skies,
but I don’t think it’s too late to start learning.
to learn about your language, your song, your food,
and your independence.
I know that you will accept me
regardless of the blood that flows
with rituals of a different kind.
you have always been a part of me.
so I guess this isn’t an act of rebellion
against my family,
this isn’t for the justification that I am who I am,
I say to the world,
to my family,
this, is for my country.