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 16, 2010

"Burn, Wall Street, Burn" by The Klute

Burn, Wall Street, Burn
By The Klute

I watch CNBC.
I read the Wall Street Journal.
I check stock tickers,
Study insider reports,
Consult my broker on a daily basis.
After careful deliberation,
I have decided to empty my bank account,
Convert it to unmarked twenty-dollar bills,
Go directly to Las Vegas,
Put it all on black.
When the ball drops in my favor,
I could use those liquid assests to diversify my portfolio,
Invest heavily in pencils and apples,
And for once, be on the ground floor -
That place where all the stock brokers will land
When they finally succumb to mantra of doom...
The endless repetition of "Buy! Sell! Buy! Sell!"
That turn becomes "JUMP!!! JUMP!!! JUMP!!!",
Playing on an infinite loop in the back of their mind
When they look out their office windows
And imagine the sweet release of death
Waiting for them on pavement below.
Good.
Give in to it, Wall Street,
Embrace your destiny.

I want my 401K back.
I'm not getting it back.
I've been advised it resides at the First Bank of the Land of Imagination,
Currently being managed by a crack team of leprechauns and unicorns,
Being leveraged into moon beams and fairy dust.
I shouldn't worry though.
I'll get my disbursement check as soon as I begin collecting Social Security.
This just in…
I'm not getting Social Security either!
So the time has come
To beat our shares into pitchforks,
Set our stock portfolios alight to guide our way,
To storm the castle
And kill the monster.
Now, I’m not suggesting you head to the headquarters of Goldman Sachs
With a pistol-grip pump shotgun,
Kick down the door,
Shout “I am the Angel of Death – the time of purification is at hand!”
Then start paying out double-barrel killshot bonuses
With a gleam in your eye and a song in your heart.
Oh wait, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting!
Because there will be a reckoning,
A tallying of names and a cracking of skulls,
And it will be easier for a camel to thread the eye of a needle
Then it will be for a fat-cat to avoid my lead.
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

Who is John Galt?
Who cares.
He’s dead.
I killed him and he’s buried in a shallow, unmarked grave outside of town
Next to the bodies of Adam Smith and Horatio Alger.
Stop asking questions.
Because it’s time for action.
Swift, brutal, unthinking mob action.
Let’s head to Wall Street
Block all the exits at the New York Stock Exchange.
Let’s give these American heroes the reward they so richly deserve.
Let loose rabid bulls and bears as an appetizer of destruction,
Rain down burning ticker tape like the wrath of God from the gallery,
Sing “Auld Lang Zyme ” with the vengeful ghost of George Bailey, Sr.
Then roast marshmallows on the smoking ruin,
Toasting our lost fortunes as we drink from the skulls of Morgan Stanley and Charles Schawb.
Because I watch CNBC and read the Wall Street Journal.
I now know the true meaning of class warfare.
The horror...
The horror...
Burn, Wall Street, Burn

Copyright 2010 © Bernard "The Klute" Schober



Klute, The: A rare breed of Southern Arizona slam poet, originally raised in Southern Florida (however, he's not a native Floridian - rumors trace his origin back to Illinois).

Abhors use of rhyme schemes in poetry, writes almost exclusively in free verse. Frequent targets: the goth subculture, neoconservativism (especially Dick Cheney), and crass-commercialism. Member of the 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2006 Mesa National Slam teams (Mesa's 2005 slam champion), and 2008's Phoenix Slam Team. SlamMaster of the Mesa Poetry Slam. Has released three chapbooks of his work: 2002's "Escape Velocity", 2005's "Look at What America Has Done to Me", and 2008's "My American Journey". Ask him nicely and he might send you a copy. Primary habitat considered to be raves (especially desert parties), goth clubs, and dimly lit dive bars. Prefers vodka, rum, and absinthe when drinking. Is considered friendly, but when cornered, lashes out with a fury not seen since last Thursday. He's totally smitten with his girlfriend, Teresa - so don't ask him to dance. Feel free to buy him a drink, but remember, he's not putting out. No matter how much you beg.

People are talking about The Klute!

AZSlim, Espresso Pundit poster: Don't argue with The Klute. His hyperventilating and pure hypocrisy shown in these (and many other) posts makes reasoning with a two-year old who didn't get the popsicle he wanted seem tame by comparison.

Phoenix 944 Magazine says: Despite the heat, [The Klute] wears a black trench coat almost everywhere he goes and if the setting permits, he’ll blast through enough slanderous commentary to make Andrew Dice Clay blush. [He] admits he started slam poetry out of arrogance. He saw a performance and figured he could do better, after which he also admits he failed miserably. Today, his addiction for getting in front of the microphone and spitting out everything from a Dick Cheney haiku to a long-winded prose on race car driving to the late Hunter S. Thompson is as strong as his love for vodka and absinthe. If anyone’s seen “The Klute” in action, they’d know it. If they haven’t, they must.

Jerome duBois, The Tears of Things: You have one of the blackest hearts I've ever had the misfortune to glimpse.

The Klute on LiveJournal

Photo of The Klute by Jessica Mason-Paull

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Lives of Other Men

Again, another old poem I recently found. This one was written Saturday, Sept. 18, 2004, at 3:10 p.m.

The Lives of Other Men

on these mornings
I wish for the lives of other men
who can not calculate the distances
between faraway cities
who do not know the details
of how what came when

the bliss of minds
who do not know the differences between men
and assume that all have the lives we live

I wish the stories I could tell
were fictions
whose specifics were authored, not endured
because the narrations
of fallen systems and blind eyes toward good men
proves the privilege of my birth
and our ideals
are pretty parchment passages
with good intentions
I'm ashamed I once believed

this life is an accident
the branches of my tree
belong to a better man
who knew to not waste them
but I stepped in
and held tight the lie that I had it rough
because suburban religions
preach to the choir with bake sales
and new pipe organs
or golf club politics
while boys like me
tell tales of tattoos and riots
bullets shattering Sunday mornings
cells and sentences
I thought only existed in films

make me nameless
reward some lost soul with this life
so they do not wander streets
count in years the absence of children's visits
or leave unlived the rights that parchment offers

let me lease my days
so that boys who could be me
can make redemption more than a word
father more than an abstraction
family more than an anachronism

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cut out my heart and leave it in a gin and tonic on top of a Dave Matthews Band CD

I found a collection of old poems floating in e-mail limbo. The poem was written Sept. 5, 2008.

Cut out my heart and leave it in a gin and tonic on top of a Dave Matthews Band CD

This is beauty,
the way skin bounces off clouds
shouted to a thickened sky
of a heaven too tired to listen
and I feel a step closer to god
when i contemplate our creation

you know we were made in the image
of a drunk deity
who didn't know her/is right from her/is left
tried to shorten our days with death and plague
but we kept coming back
till s/he woke in a hangover
and realized what s/he'd done
was a little ... um ... crazy at the time
a little short on the why’s and how’s
of how we came to be
left us between two dead soldiers of Sam Adams Light
on her/is best friend's neighbor's kitchen counter
'cause s/he was watching her/is figure
tries to hide her/is face in the bar
when we come staggering through,
asking to use the phone.
and begging the bartender to serve us the wine
of the vine that softened Judas' loyalty
then asking the gravedigger to bury us
close enough to count raindrops
of the days till judgment
when pulled from the soil like treasure
we can recall our days before it all went downhill
and convince the final judge
that we're worth sparing
worth including in the finality
then sing a song
soft enough to make the towers crumbles,
tarnish those pearly gates
and force the whole mess
to come crashing down
when heaven falls
the boom will resound through history
in our heartbeats,
and the echoes will come 72 per minute
there,
put your hand on your sternum
can you feel the echo in your chest?
the end has already happened
now we're just words arching toward that final
"the end"
before the acknowledgments,
index,
and afterward from the publisher,
characters on a page.
and tonight,
I glimpse the reader's eyes

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Russ Kazmierczak wins the Sedona Poetry Slam

Results from the Sedona Poetry Slam

Russ Kazmierczak won the Sedona Poetry Slam, held Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010, Studio Live, Sedona, Arizona, 7:30 p.m.

The night was heavily political with a few splashes of humor and a plethora of poetry about current events.

Russ Kazmierczak and The Klute took the lead early and battled to the end, with Russ edging out the Klute by 0.1 in a nail-biter.

Round 1
Random Draw
Sorbet Christopher Fox Graham of Sedona, "Today, I Will Wash My Bedsheets"
Calibration: Gary Every of Sedona

Maple Dewleaf, of Flagstaff, 24.5, (2:51)
N. Miouo Nance, of Phoenix, 24.7, (3:02)
Russ Kazmierczak, of Tempe, 28.1, (2:04)
Lauren Perry, of Mesa, 26.5, 26.0 after 0.5 time penalty, (3:12)
David Tabor, of Mesa, 27.0, 24.5 after 2.5 time penalty, (3:55)
Joe Griffin, of Flagstaff, 22.6, (1:17)
Danielle Silver, of Sedona, 26.3, (2:12)
Mikel Weisser, of Kingman, 27.1, (3:02)
Ron Lemco, of Sedona, 26.9, (1:31)
Bert Cisneros, the elder poet, of Cottonwood, 26.8, (2:22)
The Klute, of Mesa, 28.7, (3:05)
Tristan Marshell, of Mesa, 28.7, (2:58)

Teaser poem by feature poet Brit Shostak
Host: Christopher Fox Graham of Sedona, "Orion"

Round 2
Reverse Order

Tristan Marshell, 27.7, (3:00), 55.5
The Klute, 29.6, (3:04), 58.3
Bert Cisneros, the elder poet, 26.5, (2:14), 53.3
Ron Lemco, 26.7, (1:10), 53.6
Mikel Weisser, 27.0, (2:28), 54.1
Danielle Silver, 27.8, (2:50), 54.1
Joe Griffin, 26.9, (1:24), 49.5
David Tabor, 28.9, (2:35), 53.4
Lauren Perry, 28.6, (2:55), 54.6
Russ Kazmierczak, 29.6, (2:06), 57.7
N. Miouo Nance, 27.0, (1:54), 51.7
Maple Dewleaf, 28.3, (2:12), 52.8

Feature Poet


Brit Shostak is in a constant battle for balance. She spends most days trying to read as much as she writes, be as creative as the things that inspire her, and love as much as she is loved.

She is a life-long four-eyes, who sings in the shower and tries to listen as much as she speaks.

She still prefers typing most things on her 1957 Underwood typewriter.

When she was just a tot she had to get stitches in her eyebrow after running into a bookcase at the library. Legend says that something from that event stuck.

After writing for what seems like as long as she could hold a pencil she has published two chapbooks, “Kissing Lightning Bolts” (2009) and “Lessons in Calamity” (210).

She has just released her first CD, “Thieving the Midnight Oil.”

Although Shostak enjoys the competitive thrill of slams she is actively pursuing a degree in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry and finds the page just as if not more important than performance.

Shostak was the 2009 Mesa representative at the Individual World Poetry Slam and a member of the 2009 and 2010 Mesa National Slam Poetry teams.

She has also had the extreme pleasure of reading in front of poetry legends Sonia Sanchez, poetry slam creator Marc Kelly Smith and S.A. Griffin.

After spending the last decade in the desert she is headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of adventure, good coffee, and the perfect tree to read a book beneath.

Shostak is a dandelion seed looking for a place to plant herself. She does most of her deeds in watermelon sugar.

Sorbet: Gary Every of Sedona

Round 3
High to Low

The Klute, 29.5, 29.0 after 0.5 time penalty, (3:11), 87.3
Russ Kazmierczak, 29.7, (1:54), 87.4
Tristan Marshell, 29.1, (2:50), 84.6
Lauren Perry, 28.9, 28.4 after 0.5 time penalty (3:13), 83.0
Danielle Silver, 27.7, (2:22), 81.8
Mikel Weisser, 28.3, (2:19), 82.4
Ron Lemco, 28.6, (2:32), 82.2
David Tabor, 30.0*, (2:40), 83.4. *Four 10s
Bert Cisneros, the elder poet, 28.8, (1:58), 82.1
Maple Dewleaf, 27.9, (1:52), 80.7
N. Miouo, Nance, 28.1, (2:16), 79.8
Joe Griffin, 28.3, (1:07), 77.8



Final scores
1st: Russ Kazmierczak, 87.4, $100

2nd: The Klute, 87.3

3rd: Tristan Marshell, 84.6

David Tabor, 83.4
Lauren Perry, 83.0
Mikel Weisser, 82.4
Ron Lemco, 82.2
Bert Cisneros, the elder poet, 82.1
Danielle Silver, 81.8
Maple Dewleaf, 80.7
N. Miouo Nance, 79.8
Joe Griffin, 77.8

Slam staff
Scorekeeper and Timekeeper: Sarah Lepich
Host: Christopher Fox Graham
Organizers:
Studio Live
Christopher Fox Graham, Sedona 510 Poetry

Next Sedona Poetry Slam: Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010, Studio Live, Sedona, Arizona, 7:30 p.m., featuring Mesa's Brit Shostak.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Recording: Seven Years of Solitude

Seven Years of Solitude by FoxThePoet

Seven Years of Solitude
First published Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009, 9 a.m.


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
joy
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

Recording: Somewhere Between Midnights and the Dawn

Somewhere Between Midnights and the Dawn by FoxThePoet

Somewhere Between Midnights and the Dawn
First published Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010, 1:55 a.m.


Somewhere between midnights and the dawn,
in the shadows of dreams
old lovers slink into the caverns of my mind
for one-way trips through memories
reminding skin of its old acrobatics
through daylight repetitions
they come as if to see a dying friend
say final words, then bid adieu
and slip out before sunrise

after their emigrations
but before daybreak shutters open my eyes
I find you there, pressing palms to palms
as if you had always remained alongside watching
like an unnoticed scarf
keeping warm my throat to speak words
only you and I know in secret
from then until dawn
I find you have taken all the heroines' places
usurped the leads' roles
as if they were your prequels
just understudies filling seats
while waiting for the star player who was stuck in traffic

there, behind corneas, in the cathedral concavity
we rise upon the stage to play parts
in the fictions that dreams explore
your embrace is no longer forgotten
but repeated karmically as I slouch toward a nirvana
that will wake me at dawn
to the world of ice and steel and lies
with you, I would rather repeat my sins indefinitely
curse off enlightenment for a Bodhisattva
stay entranced for years horizontal and convalescent
ignoring flesh for ether
in a place where our bodies still match puzzle-perfectly
where the world is beholden to dreamers' whims
and your departure is remembered only as theory
I would stay unconscious beneath covers
until starvation or paramedics would extricate me
but the day is a persistent kidnapper
pulling me too soon from the visions of you

with our distance,
you are a disembodied voice
sound waves from a pocket toy
that rings to declare your impending,
leaving me afterward with the longing
to disassemble your components
into 1s and 0s,
transmit you through fiber optics and stationary satellites
and reform you in my living room,

but when the midnights come
and I climb beneath satin sheets
only brevity and steady breathing hinder your return
there, where all the best parts of me
try to remember all the parts of you,
you return unbroken, renewed
to bring me back to you,
the embodiment of joy
who once wore a girl's skin
and shared my arms

when all the world is only imaginary
I yearn for the moments I still have there
ache to make the dreams last longer each time
to keep your absence from its profound loneliness
when dawn wakes me to your vacancy
but the night offers another chance
even if only in my own fictions
to bring you back where you belong

Poet Brit Shostak features at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Dec. 11

The Sedona Poetry Slam hits the stage at Studio Live at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, presenting three rounds of poetic competition as poets battle for pride and $100.

Between rounds, the audience will be entertained with a feature performance by Brit Shostak, a two-time Mesa National Poetry Slam Team poet and Individual World Poetry Slam competitor.


Feature poet Brit Shostak

Shostak is in a constant battle for balance. She spends most days trying to read as much as she writes, be as creative as the things that inspire her, and love as much as she is loved.

She is a life-long four-eyes, who sings in the shower and tries to listen as much as she speaks.

She still prefers typing most things on her 1957 Underwood typewriter.

When she was just a tot she had to get stitches in her eyebrow after running into a bookcase at the library. Legend says that something from that event stuck.

After writing for what seems like as long as she could hold a pencil she has published two chapbooks, “Kissing Lightning Bolts” (2009) and “Lessons in Calamity” (210).

She has just released her first CD, “Thieving the Midnight Oil.”

Although Shostak enjoys the competitive thrill of slams she is actively pursuing a degree in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry and finds the page just as if not more important than performance.

Shostak was the 2009 Mesa representative at the Individual World Poetry Slam and a member of the 2009 and 2010 Mesa National Slam Poetry teams.

She has also had the extreme pleasure of reading in front of poetry legends Sonia Sanchez, poetry slam creator Marc Kelly Smith and S.A. Griffin.

After spending the last decade in the desert she is headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of adventure, good coffee, and the perfect tree to read a book beneath.

Shostak is a dandelion seed looking for a place to plant herself. She does most of her deeds in watermelon sugar.


Want to slam?

All poets are welcome to compete in the slam.

Slammers will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted.

The poets will be judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam. The top poet at the end of the night wins $100.

Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive.

Founded in Chicago by construction worker and poet Smith in 1984, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport. Poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.

Your host, Christopher Fox Graham

The slam will be hosted by Sedona poet Christopher Fox Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on the Flagstaff team at five National Poetry Slams between 2001 and 2010.

He has hosted and competed in poetry slams and open mics in Sedona since 2004. Graham is a member of the Sedona Performers Guild, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit alliance of musicians, performers and performance poets that runs the 100-seat Studio Live performance space in West Sedona.

Graham founded the bimonthly Sedona Poetry Slam in 2008, bringing in feature poets from around Arizona and the United States.

Graham has performed in 40 states, Toronto, Dublin, Ireland, and London, and wrote the now infamous “Peach” poem.

Get tickets

For more information or to register, call Graham at (928) 517-1400 or e-mail to foxthepoet@yahoo.com.

Tickets are $5 online if ordered by Dec. 10, or $10 at the door.

Home of the Sedona Performers Guild nonprofit, Studio Live is located at 215 Coffee Pot Drive, West Sedona. For more information, visit www.studiolivesedona.com.

Studio Live is located in West Sedona, off Coffee Pot Drive, just north of Bashas' plaza and Oak Creek Brewing Co.

See video from previous poetry slams at www.YouTube.com/FoxThePoet.

For more information about the worldwide phenomena of poetry slam, visit www.poetryslam.com.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lexington, Bull Run and Live on CNN

Lexington, Bull Run and Live on CNN
By Christopher Fox Graham

America, the absent-minded lover
who forgets your name in the ambivalence of night
doubts the pressure pressed gently to it yesterday was worth remembering today
America, you drunk rapist of suburban children
seeking to know your currents
pull themselves higher to see the view
know the far side of your hulk

you, America, show shadows of past days
bring down the cultural acme
to a level you can conduct with a symphony of fools playing off and out of meter
you, America, want us to love you
and your ideals that you stopped practicing
long before most of us came here,
you want us to love you
the way you were
and ignore the bombs of contempt and leaflets
dropped on Americans who just haven't moved here yet

you, America
with your blind eyes and traffic stops
with your breathalyzers of dissidents
shatter our hopes with your material wealth
and the need to make more

you draw in our children with your Technicolor dreamscapes
teach them that 2-D television love lives
can fill the void we feel
by not reaching out to feel our neighbors hands
call 9-1-1 instead of showing up
to speak some next-door words

you, America, that forbids our secret pleasures
from leaving us happy for a night
let us damn ourselves if you believe in the freedom
with which our ancestors built you
let go of wrists because these nations' hands
have empires to wreck
and men to free
we have lovers to swoon
and stars to call our own
without the cataloging of spheres of gases

we have dreams of starlight
to worship lovers beneath
without the fist fall of your suspicions
let us alone, America,
you redneck whore,
you control freak with good intentions
our way to hell is paved with your statutes
that enforce the will of do-nothing meat puppets
instead of letting the artists
live for art's sake
and drag the moonlight out into day
name the blind sun with our own tongue
and kiss the clouds into tomorrow

you, America, the destroyer of worlds
the doom of dreams
leaving broken roads not taken
through yellow woods unseen
bought with slaves wages

we will resist you
cap your mountains with our footfalls
bring down the gates of mud
and bury them for peach tree orchards

you, America, may doom us one by one
but the enumeration of our mysteries
will hopscotch through our daughters' minds
raise the sons
to raise the armies to resist you
tear down the towers
overlooking our prison camp daymares
America, we love you
but you do very bad things
no man or thing is evil
but actions may be
and sometimes crimes deserve just punishment
when too many have been broken

we, America, your sons and daughters, lay broken
but we won't here long
soon we'll rise
it will only take a moment
when one swift kick in the ribs
proves one too many
and we retake our place
and the bearers of freedom
the entrepreneurs of artistry
one more artist with shotgun dentistry
one more ghetto enclave to genocide the unwanted
one unlucky fuck who gets too close to the riot line
and takes a round on live network daytime TV
one martyr who didn't want to be
to raise the call in us
get us to pull each other up by the bootstraps
and bring down the highjackers of our grand experiment
and make you remember that you
are ours
we are not yours

you, America,
you were a republic once
and a republic can last forever,
but empires, all empires
must one day fall

I wrote and performed this poem tonight for the Sedona Visual Artists Coalition's "PATHWAYS...A Visual Journey" show in the Tlaquepaque Sala de la Milagro ballroom.

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood, and a reply















Two Roads Diverged
in a Yellow Wood
A Road in a Yellow Wood
By Robert FrostBy Christopher Fox Graham
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
We parted ways in that yellow wood
split at the fork to wander onward
I, the grassy one who wanted wear
my partner, the one bent below
the undergrowth where I could not go

the traveler stood between us
weighing our claims for his future
looking down us both as far as he could
as if the first footfalls hence
could reveal our destinations

Others had stood here on other mornings
longingly stretched their dreams down us
then trodden black the fallen leaves
and none had ever come back
to retry the other road

the traveler chose a route,
and made his way down his road
where he wound up, I cannot say
I am just the road in a yellow wood
the difference was his to make


I wrote and performed this poem tonight for the Sedona Visual Artists Coalition's "PATHWAYS...A Visual Journey" show in the Tlaquepaque Sala de la Milagro ballroom.

Orion

MapQuest the miles in the sky
it's easier to find you that way
than to traipse the hills between us

begin at Betelgeuse,
the moment we met
you, smiling as a stranger yet to know me
me, tripping over words
until I learn the rhythm to match you
we trace the lines
the midnights you teach me the art of touch
the mathematics of how to hold you
wrap starstrings of limbs to encase you
and become a hammock for your dreams

I first kiss you
near the lips of Meissa
taste the words camping in your backyard tongue
bring them inside mine
swirl them around until they lost track of their speaker
and became one breath

on the edge of Belatrix
we start our roadtrips
showing you all the places I loved
atlasing each one in sequence into new memories
snapping photographs for future shoeboxes
and Facebook updates

the fights erupt near Mintaka
parry, thrust, riposte,
we practice the arts of combat
study the hows and ways of pushing each other
you always win the battles, even if you don’t believe me

near Alnilam, you proffer forgiveness
and I discover how to say "sorry"
without losing face
on the brink of the Horsehead Nebula
I dive into all your stories
bleed out all of mine
let you examine all my sins
with the enthusiasm of a hell-bent prosecutor
working an open-and-shut case
but on the executioner's block
before the guillotine blade drops
the electric chair switch makes contact
or the Sodium Pentothal entered the vein
the pardon comes
and into my arms you sweep like a storm
tsunaming my defenses to wreckage
and calling me back to bed

we swim to the Orion Nebula
lovers in the surf of a black and white movie
drenched in the waves
as if to tell Nature and the gods,
"your eternity will not outlast us"
"our kisses will still come ferociously
long after this sand is washed away to bedrock
and the waves have evaporated in the heat of a dying sun"
"Your mighty Olympus will fall into Eden's vacant valleys
before we yield to your earthquakes
shrug off lightning bolts and burning bushes"
"our pulses will be the last thing the universe will hear
before entropy turns all the matters into orphaned atoms
finding lonely refuge in the dark"

we lost ourselves in those nebulas
swallowing stardust to give birth to new suns
we seemed to live there for eons of mortal time
just black sheets, bare skin, whispered poems
smiles and slumber

but in the bliss, we drift just past Alniltak,
and differences became too much too bear
so we kiss for last time
make love for the last time
said our last words as lovers
and go our own way

You sail on to Saiph,
I go home to Rigel
leaving phone numbers scarred on each other's aorta
mine still beats out the ten digits daily
when the moment feels right
and in the time it takes to draw a line between them
with the tip of finger remembering the sequence
we fold space like bedsheets in the blink of eye
so two points become one

and we cross the thousands of light years
become lovers again, drunk instead on words
remember the old times,
the joys in Orion and Horsehead,
the battles of Alniltak, Alnilam and Mentaka
the road routes to Belatrix
the kiss of Meissa
and the first hello in the orbit of Betelgeuse
but when the phone clicks off
and the points unfold,
you shine in Saiph
and I glow bright above Rigel
so we can see each other

and if on some little world called Earth
where two lovers like us
gaze up and see us shining on the same night and wonder
so be it
navigate by us if you will
send wishes heavenward if you think it'll do any good
but know we don't glimmer for you
we, instead, burn brilliant so the other can see us
and know that despite it all
love travels faster than light
and our story is wide as a constellation

I wrote and performed this poem tonight for the Sedona Visual Artists Coalition's "PATHWAYS...A Visual Journey" show in the Tlaquepaque Sala de la Milagro ballroom.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Best Headline

I forgot to post a photo of this new plaque when I got it last month.

The winning headline was "Santa puts 4 on the naughty list for drug smuggling over the holidays."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Shaikh Sammad wins the Oct. 23 Sedona Poetry Slam

Results from the Sedona Poetry Slam

Shaihk Sammad won the Sedona Poetry Slam, held Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, Studio Live, Sedona, Arizona, 7:30 p.m.

We had veteran slammers but also a first-time slammer who gave it a go. We love these "virgin" slam poets because we were all first-timers once. We also admire the bravery to get up on stage for the first time. There were a lot of 10.0s, which are indicated by an asterisk *.

Round 1
Random Draw
Calibration poet and host Christopher Fox Graham of Sedona, "This County: A Lover's Geography"

Brian Towne, of Flagstaff, 27.5, (2:48)*
Christopher Harbster, of Flagstaff, 28.1, (3:06)**
Mikel Weisser, of Kingman, 29.0, (2:56)***
Shaikh Sammad, of Cottonwood, 29.9, (2:59)***
Maple Dewleaf, of Flagstaff, 26.8, (2:10)*
Richard Wagner, a first-time slammer from Ontario, Canada, 22.6, (1:34)
James Joseph Buhs, of White Plains, N.Y., 26.9, (3:02)**
Jessica Laurel Reese, of the Village of Oak Creek, 29.2, (1:34)*

Teaser poem by feature poet Doc Luben, "A New Hand"

Round 2
Reverse Order

Jessica Laurel Reese, 27.3, (2:25), 56.5*
James Joseph Buhs, 29.4, (2:20), 56.3**
Richard Wagner, 22.6, (1:16), 45.2*
Maple Dewleaf, 27.9, (1:55), 54.7*
Shaikh Sammad, 30.0, (2:55), 59.9****
Mikel Weisser, 28.1, (2:12), 54.7*
Christopher Harbster, 28.2, (2:17), 56.3
Brian Towne, 30.0, (2:43), 57.5****

Feature Poet
Doc Luben is a Tucson slam poet with more than a decade of professional theatre experience.

Luben has been stomping the stage in Los Angeles and Arizona since well before 1990. He recently completed a 17-city national poetry tour from Orlando, Fla., to Chicago to Detroit to Denver and many wild points between.

Luben was a panelist and performer at the 2010 Phoenix Comic-Con Nerd Slam and was the Tucson Poetry Slam Champion in 2009.

Luben's performance is a cocktail of twisty magic realism and sneaky, snarky humor. His poems are compressed life stories, marked by a rosy-cheeked love of screw-ups and contempt for those who claim enlightenment.

Luben earned his street cred in 1990s Los Angeles, writing and performing in loading-dock theater and guerrilla improv. He then squandered all of that street cred on a decade of Shakespeare with the Arizona Classical Theatre. In Prescott, he was tempted into the evils of slam poetry at the McCormick Arts District's poetry venue, the MAD Linguist.

Doc performed twice in the Arizona All-Star Slam, and enough time has gone by that he can reveal he did not technically qualify either time: they bent the rules to get him on stage, because he is just that good.

Luben was a featured poet at the first and later the last Arizona Spoken Word Festival and Slab City Slam at Arcosanti, the state's slam poetry tournament.

His plays have been featured productions at ACT, and has proudly taught subversive youth performance workshops for two decades. Luben trained at the freakishly progressive California Institute of the Arts, where they absolutely do not have Walt Disney's head frozen in the basement.

Also, your girlfriend has a crush on him. Don't worry. It's normal.

Round 3
High to Low

Shaikh Sammad, 29.6, (2:37), 89.5**
Brian Towne, 29.3, (2:51), 86.8*
Mikel Weisser, 28.1, (1:55), 85.2
Jessica Laurel Reese, 27.4, 26.9 after a -0.5 time penalty (3:18), 83.4
James Joseph Buhs, 27.9, (2:12), 84.2*
Christopher Harbster, 28.3, (2:39), 84.6*
Maple Dewleaf, 28.9, (2:13), 83.6*
Richard Wagner, 25.4, (0:35), 70.6

Final scores
1st: Shaikh Sammad, 89.5, $100

2nd: Brian Towne, 86.8

3rd: Mikel Weisser, 85.2

Christopher Harbster, 84.6
James Joseph Buhs, 84.2
Maple Dewleaf, 83.6
Jessica Laurel Reese, 83.4
Richard Wagner, 70.6

Slam staff
Scorekeeper and Timekeeper: Sarah Lepich
Host: Christopher Fox Graham
Organizers:
April Holman Payne, Studio Live
Christopher Fox Graham, Sedona 510 Poetry

Next Sedona Poetry Slam: Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010, Studio Live, Sedona, Arizona, 7:30 p.m., featuring Mesa's Brit Shostak.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Buy your tickets now for tonight's Sedona Poetry Slam

Click here to buy your tickets now for tonight's Sedona Poetry Slam, featuring poet Doc Luben.

The Sedona Poetry Slam hits the stage at Studio Live at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, presenting three rounds of poetic competition as poets battle for pride and $100.

Between rounds, the audience will be entertained with a feature performance by Doc Luben, a Tucson slam poet with more than a decade of professional theatre experience.

Luben has been stomping the stage in Los Angeles and Arizona since well before 1990. He recently completed a 17-city national poetry tour from Orlando, Fla., to Chicago to Detroit to Denver and many wild points between.

Luben was a panelist and performer at the 2010 Phoenix Comic-Con Nerd Slam and was the Tucson Poetry Slam Champion in 2009.

Luben's performance is a cocktail of twisty magic realism and sneaky, snarky humor. His poems are compressed life stories, marked by a rosy-cheeked love of screw-ups and contempt for those who claim enlightenment.

Luben earned his street cred in 1990s Los Angeles, writing and performing in loading-dock theater and guerrilla improv. He then squandered all of that street cred on a decade of Shakespeare with the Arizona Classical Theatre. In Prescott, he was tempted into the evils of slam poetry at the McCormick Arts District's poetry venue, the MAD Linguist.

Doc performed twice in the Arizona All-Star Slam, and enough time has gone by that he can reveal he did not technically qualify either time: they bent the rules to get him on stage, because he is just that good.

Luben was a featured poet at the first and later the last Arizona Spoken Word Festival and Slab City Slam at Arcosanti, the state's slam poetry tournament.

His plays have been featured productions at ACT, and has proudly taught subversive youth performance workshops for two decades. Luben trained at the freakishly progressive California Institute of the Arts, where they absolutely do not have Walt Disney's head frozen in the basement.

Also, your girlfriend has a crush on him. Don't worry. It's normal.

All poets are welcome to compete in the slam.

Slammers will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted.

The poets will be judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam. The top poet at the end of the night wins $100.

Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive.

Founded in Chicago by construction worker and poet Marc "So What?" Smith in 1984, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport. Poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.

The slam will be hosted by Sedona poet Christopher Fox Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on the Flagstaff team at five National Poetry Slams between 2001 and 2010. He has hosted and competed in poetry slams and open mics in Sedona since 2004.

Graham has performed in 40 states, Toronto, Dublin, Ireland, and London, and wrote the now infamous "Peach" poem.

For more information or to register, call Graham at (928) 517-1400 or e-mail to foxthepoet@yahoo.com.

Tickets are $5 online or $10 at the door.

Admission is free for poets who slam ... and they could win $100, so why not give it a go?

Home of the Sedona Performers Guild nonprofit, Studio Live is located at 215 Coffee Pot Drive, West Sedona. For more information, visit www.studiolivesedona.com.

See video from previous poetry slams at www.YouTube.com/FoxThePoet.

For more information about the worldwide phenomena of poetry slam, visit www.poetryslam.com.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Poet Doc Luben features at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Oct. 23

Poet Doc Luben features at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Oct. 23

The Sedona Poetry Slam hits the stage at Studio Live at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, presenting three rounds of poetic competition as poets battle for pride and $100.

Between rounds, the audience will be entertained with a feature performance by Doc Luben, a Tucson slam poet with more than a decade of professional theatre experience.

Luben has been stomping the stage in Los Angeles and Arizona since well before 1990. He recently completed a 17-city national poetry tour from Orlando, Fla., to Chicago to Detroit to Denver and many wild points between.

Luben was a panelist and performer at the 2010 Phoenix Comic-Con Nerd Slam and was the Tucson Poetry Slam Champion in 2009.

Luben's performance is a cocktail of twisty magic realism and sneaky, snarky humor. His poems are compressed life stories, marked by a rosy-cheeked love of screw-ups and contempt for those who claim enlightenment.

Luben earned his street cred in 1990s Los Angeles, writing and performing in loading-dock theater and guerrilla improv. He then squandered all of that street cred on a decade of Shakespeare with the Arizona Classical Theatre. In Prescott, he was tempted into the evils of slam poetry at the McCormick Arts District's poetry venue, the MAD Linguist.

Doc performed twice in the Arizona All-Star Slam, and enough time has gone by that he can reveal he did not technically qualify either time: they bent the rules to get him on stage, because he is just that good.

Luben was a featured poet at the first and later the last Arizona Spoken Word Festival and Slab City Slam at Arcosanti, the state's slam poetry tournament.

His plays have been featured productions at ACT, and has proudly taught subversive youth performance workshops for two decades. Luben trained at the freakishly progressive California Institute of the Arts, where they absolutely do not have Walt Disney's head frozen in the basement.

Also, your girlfriend has a crush on him. Don't worry. It's normal.

All poets are welcome to compete in the slam.

Slammers will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted.

The poets will be judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam. The top poet at the end of the night wins $100.

Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive.

Founded in Chicago by construction worker and poet Marc "So What?" Smith in 1984, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport. Poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.

The slam will be hosted by Sedona poet Christopher Fox Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on the Flagstaff team at five National Poetry Slams between 2001 and 2010. He has hosted and competed in poetry slams and open mics in Sedona since 2004.

Graham has performed in 40 states, Toronto, Dublin, Ireland, and London, and wrote the now infamous "Peach" poem.

For more information or to register, call Graham at (928) 517-1400 or e-mail to foxthepoet@yahoo.com.

Tickets are $5 online or $10 at the door.

Admission is free for poets who slam ... and they could win $100, so why not give it a go?

Home of the Sedona Performers Guild nonprofit, Studio Live is located at 215 Coffee Pot Drive, West Sedona. For more information, visit www.studiolivesedona.com.

See video from previous poetry slams at www.YouTube.com/FoxThePoet.

For more information about the worldwide phenomena of poetry slam, visit www.poetryslam.com.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My interview with El Salvador's Ambassador to the United States

When Francisco Altschul went off to the University of El Salvador to become an architect, he never expected to one day be his country’s ambassador.

Nor did he expect his country would be dragged into a decade of civil war and that he would flee after his name appeared on a death squad’s hit list.

Yet almost 20 years after war ended, Altschul spoke at Verde Valley School and the Sedona Public Library about how far his country has come. Among those achievements was the peaceful election of leftist President Maurico Funes from the political party that once led the fight against an oppressive regime.

For the full story on the Sedona Red Rock News website, click here -- and it's a great, in-depth article.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Unbreakable

And now that Banned Books Week is over ... back to Azami poetry.

Unbreakable

She’s unbreakable
but easily bent
as stubborn as a mule
but when push comes to shove
concaves her spine into the wind
so she doesn’t need me
until she needs
craves my embrace only
when it’s near enough to envelop her

in the absence,
we are just strangers sharing familiar history
and phone lines,
whispering “until I see you again …”
when she’s here,
we’re a psychic friends network
finishing each other’s thoughts
but languishing in the laborious lugubrious articulation of sentences
when she’s gone,
she becomes ancestral myth
remembered theoretically as a moral teaching tool
cleaving us apart
is like banishing a twin
while the collision together
equally disturbs our rhythms
shakes loose the axis of the galaxy
affecting space alien trade routes
halfway across the Orion Arm
until patterns synchronize and stabilize

I miss sharing her pulse
the give-and-take battles
of ego and surrender
hers as much as mine
although mine takes center stage more often

in her vacancy
personality fades into vapor
ceases to break the surface
slumbers for days at a time
before rising to check the calendar
realize her eviction
then shutter eyes again

how her chapters scribe themselves
I can only conjecture
pen what I imagine
and wait to crack her fortune cookie shell for the answer

unbreakable, she bends in the wind
opening her fate like a sail
landing wherever the breeze blows,
spine bent, but unbowed
conviction untamed,
pride untarnished
mouth closed
ears open
arms wide

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Banned Books Week: "How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes" Shel Silverstein

How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes
By Shel Silverstein

If you have to dry the dishes
(Such an awful boring chore)
If you have to dry the dishes
('Stead of going to the store)
If you have to dry the dishes
And you drop one on the floor
Maybe they won't let you
Dry the dishes anymore

In 1985, Shel Silverstein's poetry collection "A Light in the Attic" was challenged at the Cunningham Elementary School in Beloit, Wis., because "How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes" "encourages children to break dishes so they won't have to dry them."



Shel Silverstein was a renowned poet, playwright, illustrator, screenwriter, and songwriter. Best known for his immensely popular children’s books including The Giving Tree, Falling Up, and A Light in the Attic, Silverstein has delighted tens of millions of readers around the world, becoming one of the most popular and best-loved children's authors of all time.

Born in Chicago on September 25, 1930, Sheldon Allan Silverstein grew up to attain an enormous public following, but always preferred to say little about himself. “When I was a kid,” he told Publishers Weekly in 1975, “I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls. But I couldn’t play ball. I couldn’t dance. So I started to draw and to write. I was lucky that I didn’t have anyone to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style.”

Silverstein drew his first cartoons for the adult readers of Pacific Stars and Stripes when he was a G.I. in Japan and Korea in the 1950’s. He also learned to play the guitar and to write songs, a talent that would later produce such hits as “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash and “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” for Dr. Hook.

Shel Silverstein never planned on writing for children – surprising for an artist whose children’s works would soon become available in more than 30 languages around the world. In the early 1960’s Tomi Ungerer, a friend whose own career in children’s books was blossoming, introduced Silverstein to his editor, Harper Collins’ legendary Ursula Nordstrom. That connection led to the publication of The Giving Tree in 1964. The book sold modestly at first, but soon the gentle parable about a boy and the tree that loved him was admired by readers of all ages, recommended by counselors and teachers, and being read aloud from pulpits. Decades after its initial publication, with more than five and a half million copies sold, The Giving Tree holds a permanent spot atop lists of perennial bestsellers.

Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein’s first collection of poems, was published in 1974 and was hailed as an instant classic. Its poems and drawings were applauded for their zany wit, irreverent wisdom, and tender heart. Two more collections followed: A Light in the Attic in 1981, and Falling Up in 1996. Both books dominated bestseller lists for months, with A Light in the Attic shattering all previous records for its 182-week stay on the New York Times list. His poetry books are widely used in schools as a child’s first introduction to poetry.

Silverstein enjoyed a long, successful career as a songwriter with credits that included the popular “Unicorn Song” for the Irish Rovers and “I’m Checking Out” written for the film Postcards from the Edge and nominated for an Academy Award in 1991. In 1984, Silverstein won a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album for Where the Sidewalk Ends – “recited, sung and shouted” by the author. He performed his own songs on a number of albums and wrote others for friends, including 1998’s Old Dogs with country stars Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis, Bobby Bare, and Jerry Reed; and his last children’s recording Underwater Land with singer/songwriter and longtime friend Pat Dailey.


Shel Silverstein loved to spend time in Greenwich Village, Key West, Martha’s Vineyard, and Sausalito, California. Up until his death in May 1999, he continued to create plays, songs, poems, stories, and drawings, and most importantly, in Shel’s own words, “have a good time.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Banned Books Week: "The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name" by James Kirkup

The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name By James Kirkup
(The gay poem that broke blasphemy laws and led to Whitehouse v. Lemon, a 1976 court case involving the blasphemy law in the United Kingdom.)


As they took him from the cross
I, the centurion, took him in my arms-
the tough lean body
of a man no longer young,
beardless, breathless,
but well hung.

He was still warm.
While they prepared the tomb
I kept guard over him.
His mother and the Magdalen
had gone to fetch clean linen
to shroud his nakedness.

I was alone with him.
For the last time
I kissed his mouth. My tongue
found his, bitter with death.
I licked his wound-
the blood was harsh

For the last time
I laid my lips around the tip
of that great cock, the instrument
of our salvation, our eternal joy.
The shaft, still throbbed, anointed
with death's final ejaculation.

I knew he'd had it off with other men-
with Herod's guards, with Pontius Pilate,
With John the Baptist, with Paul of Tarsus
with foxy Judas, a great kisser, with
the rest of the Twelve, together and apart.
He loved all men, body, soul and spirit - even me.

So now I took off my uniform, and, naked,
lay together with him in his desolation,
caressing every shadow of his cooling flesh,
hugging him and trying to warm him back to life.
Slowly the fire in his thighs went out,
while I grew hotter with unearthly love.

It was the only way I knew to speak our love's proud name,
to tell him of my long devotion, my desire, my dread-
something we had never talked about. My spear, wet with blood,
his dear, broken body all open wounds,
and in each wound his side, his back,
his mouth - I came and came and came

as if each coming was my last.
And then the miracle possessed us.
I felt him enter into me, and fiercely spend
his spirit's final seed within my hole, my soul,
pulse upon pulse, unto the ends of the earth-
he crucified me with him into kingdom come.

This is the passionate and blissful crucifixion
same-sex lovers suffer, patiently and gladly.
They inflict these loving injuries of joy and grace
one upon the other, till they die of lust and pain
within the horny paradise of one another's limbs,
with one voice cry to heaven in a last divine release.

Then lie long together, peacefully entwined, with hope
of resurrection, as we did, on that green hill far away.
But before we rose again, they came and took him from me.
They knew what we had done, but felt
no shame or anger. Rather they were glad for us,
and blessed us, as would he, who loved all men.

And after three long, lonely days, like years,
in which I roamed the gardens of my grief
seeking for him, my one friend who had gone from me,
he rose from sleep, at dawn, and showed himself to me before
all others. And took me to him with the love that now forever dares to speak
its name.


Gay paper guilty of blasphemy (Published 11 July 1977)

The Gay News and its editor Denis Lemon have been found guilty of blasphemous libel in the first case of its kind for more than 50 years.

The case was brought as a private prosecution by the secretary of the National Viewers and Listeners Association, Mary Whitehouse.

She objected to a poem and illustration published in the fortnightly paper last year about a homosexual centurion's love for Christ at the Crucifixion.

After the jury gave their 10-2 guilty verdict at the Old Bailey Whitehouse said: "I'm rejoicing because I saw the possibility of Our Lord being vilified. Now it's been shown that it won't be."

The poem, "The Love that Dares to Speak its Name", by Professor James Kirkup, 54, was distributed to the jury and reporters. However, the judge, Alan King-Hamilton, ordered that it could not be published.

Prosecuting Counsel John Smyth told the court: "it may be said that this is a love poem - it is not, it is a poem about buggery."

The defense argued that far from being "vile" and "perverted" the poem glorified Christ by illustrating that all of mankind could love him.

During the six-day trial columnist and TV personality Bernard Levin and novelist Margaret Drabble testified that the Gay News was a responsible paper that did not encourage illegal sexual practices.

Blasphemous libel is akin to the ecclesiastical charge of heresy - once punishable by death - and in the UK is an offense under common law and the 1697 Blasphemy Act.

The last time a case was brought in the UK was in 1921 when a Mr Gott was sentenced to nine months in prison for publishing a pamphlet that suggested that Christ looked like a clown as he entered Jerusalem.

Represented by playwright and novelist John Mortimer, QC, Mr Lemon, 32, sat silently in the dock as the verdict was given.

The gay poem that broke [1697] blasphemy laws
By Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk


The announcement that the government may support moves to strike down blasphemy laws comes 30 years after Denis Lemon was found guilty of committing libel against Christianity, the last prosecution for blasphemy.

He was the editor of the now defunct but iconic UK newspaper Gay News.

Mary Whitehouse, founder of the National Viewers and Listeners Association, (NVLA) announced her intention to sue in December 1976 after she read the poem entitled "The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name" by James Kirkup, published in Gay News.

Denis Lemon was sentenced to nine months suspended imprisonment and fined £500.

Publisher Gay News Limited was fined £1,000.

They were represented by creator of Rumpole of the Bailey and defence counsel at the Oz "conspiracy" trial in 1971, John Mortimer QC, at the Old Bailey.

An appeal against the conviction was rejected by the House of Lords.

It still 'illegal' to publish the poem in the UK.

However, it was published again in two socialist newspapers few days after the original trial the offending poem as a protest against censorship.

It expresses the fictional love of a Roman Centurion for Jesus and describes him having sex with the Christ's crucified body and is reproduced below.

Her indictment submitted in December 1976 against Gay News stated:

"A blasphemous libel concerning the Christian religion, namely an obscene poem and illustration vilifying Christ in his life and in his crucifixion."

Mrs Whitehouse was appointed a CBE in 1980.

The NVLA, now known as mediawatch, still regards their founder as the 'late, great Mary Whitehouse.'

They maintain their objective that the organisation has kept pressure on broadcasting authorities (they no longer monitor the press) to explain standards of 'taste and decency' and that this objective is as relevant today as it was in the 1960s.

John Beyer, director of mediawatch told PinkNews.co.uk last year:

"I think that the prosecution was justified because it was upheld and the appeal was rejected."

He says that with regard to 'that poem.' "The standards for decency still stand."

The fact that the ban rankles sections of society which support gay rights and are against censorship, he says is "irrelevant."

"It has nothing to do with 'rights,' the judicial process was followed and it was found to be a breach of the law. The fact remains that the law has not been repealed – the attitudes may have changed.

"Freedom comes with responsibility otherwise we end up with anarchy. The law of the land applies to everybody."

He refused to express a more personal view on the matter.

"That is irrelevant."

"It is a weakness in the judicial system that the same law cannot be upheld when the poem is re-published in other sections of the media."

The poem can easily be found on the Internet.

The poet, James Kirkup, 89, now lives in Andorra. He continues to work and frequently contributes obituaries to newspapers. [He died May 2009].

Lemon fell ill with an AIDS-related illness and sold Gay News in 1982.

It closed down in 1983. Lemon died in July 1994.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Banned Books Week: "Education for Leisure" by Carol Ann Duffy



Education for Leisure
Carol Ann Duffy

Today I am going to kill something. Anything.
I have had enough of being ignored and today
I am going to play God. It is an ordinary day,
a sort of grey with boredom stirring in the streets.

I squash a fly against the window with my thumb.
We did that at school. Shakespeare. It was in
another language and now the fly is in another language.
I breathe out talent on the glass to write my name.

I am a genius. I could be anything at all, with half
the chance. But today I am going to change the world.
Something’s world. The cat avoids me. The cat
knows I am a genius, and has hidden itself.

I pour the goldfish down the bog. I pull the chain.
I see that it is good. The budgie is panicking.
Once a fortnight, I walk the two miles into town
for signing on. They don’t appreciate my autograph.

There is nothing left to kill. I dial the radio
and tell the man he’s talking to a superstar.
He cuts me off. I get our bread-knife and go out.
The pavements glitter suddenly. I touch your arm.

Top exam board asks schools to destroy book containing knife poem

Britain's biggest exam board has been accused of censorship after it removed a poem containing references to knife crime from the [General Certificate of Secondary Education] syllabus.

Officials at the [Assessment and Qualifications Alliance] board said their request that schools destroy the anthology containing the Carol Ann Duffy poem Education for Leisure had been triggered by concerns in two schools about references to knives. A spokeswoman confirmed the decision had been made in the context of the current spate of knife-related murders.

But poets yesterday condemned the move, saying such "censorship" fundamentally missed the point of the poem, which they said could help children debate the causes of street violence.

The poem starts: "Today I am going to kill something. Anything./I have had enough of being ignored and today/I am going to play God." It describes a youth's yearning for attention and a journey to sign on for the dole, and makes references to the killing of a goldfish. It ends ominously with the youth walking the streets armed with a bread knife.

Duffy, widely considered a front-runner to be the next [British] poet laureate, yesterday declined to comment. But her literary agent, Peter Strauss, said: "It's a pro-education, anti-violence poem written in the mid-1980s when Thatcher was in power and there were rising social problems and crime. It was written as a plea for education. How, 20 years later, it had been turned on itself and presented to mean the opposite I don't know. You can't say that it celebrates knife crime. What it does is the opposite."

Michael Rosen, the children's laureate, said: "By this same logic we would be banning Romeo and Juliet. That's about a group of sexually attractive males strutting round the streets, getting off with girls and stabbing each other.

"Carol Ann is an easy target because she's a modern poet." He added: "Of course we want children to be talking about knife crime and poems like these are a terrific way of helping that happen. Blanket condemnation and censorship of something never works."

A spokeswoman for AQA confirmed there had been three complaints, two referring to knife crime and a third about the description of a goldfish being flushed down the toilet. The first complaint about knives was made in 2004. The second, made in the summer by an exams officer, was then taken up by an MP.

The most recent complaint was made by Lutterworth grammar school's exams invigilator, Pat Schofield, who welcomed the board's decision and said: "I think it is absolutely horrendous - what sort of message is that to give to kids who are reading it as part of their GCSE syllabus?"

The AQA spokeswoman said: "The decision to withdraw the poem was not taken lightly and only after due consideration of the issues involved. We believe the decision underlines the often difficult balance that exists between encouraging and facilitating young people to think critically about difficult but important topics and the need to do this in a way which is sensitive to social issues and public concern."



Poet, playwright and freelance writer Carol Ann Duffy was born on 23 December 1955 in Glasgow and read philosophy at Liverpool University. She is a former editor of the poetry magazine Ambit and is a regular reviewer and broadcaster. She moved from London to Manchester in 1996 and began to lecture in poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her papers were acquired by the Robert W. Woodruff Library of Emory University in 1999, and in October 2000 she was awarded a grant of £75,000 over a five-year period by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

Her adult poetry collections are Standing Female Nude (1985), winner of a Scottish Arts Council Award; Selling Manhattan (1987), which won a Somerset Maugham Award; The Other Country (1990); Mean Time (1993), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award and the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year); The World's Wife (1999); Feminine Gospels (2002), a celebration of the female condition; and Rapture (2005), winner of the 2005 T. S. Eliot Prize. Her children's poems are collected in New & Collected Poems for Children (2009).

She also writes picture books for children, and these include Underwater Farmyard (2002); Doris the Giant (2004); Moon Zoo (2005); The Tear Thief (2007); and The Princess's Blankets (2009).

Anthologies edited by Carol Ann Duffy include Out of Fashion (2004), in which she creates a vital dialogue between classic and contemporary poets over the two arts of poetry and fashion; Answering Back (2007); and To The Moon: An Anthology of Lunar Poems (2009).

Carol Ann Duffy is also an acclaimed playwright, and has had plays performed at the Liverpool Playhouse and the Almeida Theatre in London. Her plays include Take My Husband (1982), Cavern of Dreams (1984), Little Women, Big Boys (1986) and Loss (1986), a radio play.

She received an Eric Gregory Award in 1984 and a Cholmondeley Award in 1992 from the Society of Authors, the Dylan Thomas Award from the Poetry Society in 1989 and a Lannan Literary Award from the Lannan Foundation (USA) in 1995. She was awarded an OBE in 1995, a CBE in 2001 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1999.

Carol Ann Duffy lives in Manchester and is Creative Director of the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. She became Poet Laureate in 2009, succeeding Andrew Motion.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Banned Books Week: "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg

Howl
By Allen Ginsberg

For Carl Solomon
I

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of China under junk-withdrawal in Newark's bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grandfather night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels who were visionary indian angels,
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the impulse of winter midnight streetlight smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the brilliant Spaniard to converse about America and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fireplace Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the FBI in beards and shorts with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incomprehensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping and undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also wailed,
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons,
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to pierce them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman's loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake,
who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver—joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses' rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of basements hung-over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the East River to open to a room full of steam-heat and opium,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime blur floodlight of the moon & their heads shall be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of Bowery,
who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in their lofts,
who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht & tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable kingdom,
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were growing old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alleyways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of the subway window, jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street, danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed phonograph records of nostalgic European 1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans in their ears and the blast of colossal steamwhistles,
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying to each other's hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other's salvation and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible criminals with golden heads and the charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave,
who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with their insanity & their hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism and subsequently presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy,
and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia,
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East,
Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon,
with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination—
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you're really in the total animal soup of time—
and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use of the ellipsis catalogue a variable measure and the vibrating plane,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death,
and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America's naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.


II

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years' animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!


III

Carl Solomon! I'm with you in Rockland
where you're madder than I am
I'm with you in Rockland
where you must feel very strange
I'm with you in Rockland
where you imitate the shade of my mother
I'm with you in Rockland
where you've murdered your twelve secretaries
I'm with you in Rockland
where you laugh at this invisible humor
I'm with you in Rockland
where we are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter
I'm with you in Rockland
where your condition has become serious and is reported on the radio
I'm with you in Rockland
where the faculties of the skull no longer admit the worms of the senses
with you in Rockland
where you drink the tea of the breasts of the spinsters of Utica
I'm with you in Rockland
where you pun on the bodies of your nurses the harpies of the Bronx
I'm with you in Rockland
where you scream in a straightjacket that you're losing the game of the actual pingpong of the abyss
I'm with you in Rockland
where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul is innocent and immortal it should never die ungodly in an armed madhouse
I'm with you in Rockland
where fifty more shocks will never return your soul to its body again from its pilgrimage to a cross in the void
I'm with you in Rockland
where you accuse your doctors of insanity and plot the Hebrew socialist revolution against the fascist national Golgotha
I'm with you in Rockland
where you will split the heavens of Long Island and resurrect your living human Jesus from the superhuman tomb
I'm with you in Rockland
where there are twentyfive thousand mad comrades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale
I'm with you in Rockland
where we hug and kiss the United States under our bedsheets the United States that coughs all night and won't let us sleep
I'm with you in Rockland
where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own souls' airplanes roaring over the roof they've come to drop angelic bombs the hospital illuminates itself imaginary walls collapse O skinny legions run outside O starry-spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is here O victory forget your underwear we're free
I'm with you in Rockland
in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night

San Francisco, 1955—1956


Banned Books Week: Obscene Odes
Posted by Jenna Krajeski


Out of all banned poetry, perhaps the most notorious, in America at least, is Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and for good reason. The work attracted controversy almost immediately, which culminated in an obscenity trial brought against its publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and that history is virtually inseparable from the poem, and the poet. This is not to belittle Ginsberg’s artistry. As David Gates wrote in his contribution to “The Poem That Changed America: ‘Howl’ Fifty Years Later,” from 2006:

Banned literary mandarins such as Joyce and Nabokov may simply have wanted to go about their hermetic work unmolested, but Ginsberg was a public poet and a provocateur. “Howl,” for all its affirmations, is a profoundly oppositional poem, and it counts on being opposed.…It’s a radically offensive poem, or used to be—offensive even to received notions of what poetry is, and it needs offended readers whose fear and outrage bring it most fully to life.

Since its publication, “Howl” has hardly left our literary consciousness. Now Gus Van Sant is set to produce a star-studded movie about the trial. But where does this leave the poem itself? Even in 2008, it’s hard to imagine that small black-and-white book being part of an established American curriculum, and not just the occasional revelatory tool of a rebellious teacher. Had it not been for one of the latter, who in high school nudged me toward an anthology of Beat literature, I would not have discovered “Howl” until college.

In 200, on the 50th anniversary of the obscenity trial, a radio broadcast of the poem was halted because of FCC laws. Never mind that the judge ruled, in 1957, that “Howl” was not obscene. It’s depressing that our national discourse moves in baby steps. But perhaps the banning of books is a useful barometer of prejudice. And it’s a sign of our particular time that, barred from the airwaves, the poem found another home, in the most egalitarian place of all: as a podcast on the Internet.