Monday, April 25, 2005

Youth National Poetry Slam

Just got back from four wonderful days in San Francisco at the 8th annual Youth National Poetry Slam. The final event was the best attended poetry slam in the history of slam with 3000 poetry fans going nuts. New York won and will host the event next year. The team pushed the boundaries of poetry into what is being called "Hip Hop Theater." It is quite amazing to see 3000 people leap to their collective feet to cheer a poem.

The real success story on the festival was the Chico Team, who also made the finals. The team put together by Aaron Yamaguchi had strong writing and dynamic group pieces. More on this latter but for now many thanks to James Kass and everyone at Youth Speaks who put together the event.

NPR's "All Things Considered," aired a segment on the Precision Poetry Drill Team and you can listen to the story here:

I am off to the airport for a reading at a school in Savannah!

Poet's Plaza

One of my favorite chapters in How to Make a Living as a Poet, is on the Poet's Plaza.
I like it because the project started out as an exercise how an architecture class and everyone got so enthused with the idea it ended up being a real flesh and concrete project. Here is the project directors' description of the ground breaking ceremony, which was held on April 22nd.

"I wanted to tell you a sweet little story from the Poets' Plaza groundbreaking. We did all the background and thanks, then Dale Harris read a beautiful poem and then Masood, one of the kids from Escuela del Sol, read one his poems. As we started to scoop up some earth to scatter (with our gold shovel) someone hollered to look into the sky and there was a perfect little rainbow across one of the clouds (someone said it was a sun dog?!?). We scattered some earth, sprinkled flower petals around and lots of folks, little children, parents, poets, artists, and grandparents, wandered in and out of the circle Cassandra (the artist who designed the plaza) traced in the ground. Very lovely. And auspicious, I think." Susan McAlister, Harwood Art Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico

For more info on the Poet's Plaza you can reach her at

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Turns out Chicago poet J.J. Jameson was leading a double life. Check out this spin on the story:

Here is excerpt one of Jameson's poems from

The Puttering Penis

Las week, late last week,
I went to the theater to listen, raptly,
to the vagina monologuing.

I put my ear down close,
I mean really, really close,
I wanted to hear every spluttering syllable,
I wanted to bite very pulsating enunciation.

I put my other ear down,
I mean really, really down,
I did not wish to miss fondling, aurally,
any climatic sentence even a fragmented one,
preferably a compound one.

Kurt Heintz, has some interesting comments:

Slam Pappy Marc Smith is quoted as saying to the Chicago Sun-Times,"This is a huge one, It will be shocking to everybody and a little disconcerting. That's pretty wild."

Is it true that if you could be arrested for bad poetry he would have been caught years ago?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Bowery Poetry Club

This post is out of sequence and goes back to March 29th. The flight into New York was delayed because of weather and we circled Chicago for an hour as huge clouds filled and exploded with lighting. I wonder what Wordsworth would have written about wandering lonely clouds if he could have seen them from 30,000 feet. Coming off the plane it was made clear that I had missed my connection and would have to spend the night in Chicago. As I was heading to take the train into town, I heard my name over the intercom system being paged to a certain gate. The short of the story is that the airline actually brought the plane back off the tarmac and allowed about 6 passengers to board.

I got into New York about 1:30am and recited, "The Owl and Pussy Cat," while standing on the bar. Two of the regulars got into a shouting match, each telling the other they should listen to me. When I got to the "O pussy, O pussy what a beautiful pussy your are," line, the woman regular said, "Please talk about my pussy," and the man regular went crazy, yelling about her pussy, which ended with her punching him in the face and him returning the punch, but she had got the best of him and they both were exiled from the bar. That's Slam Poetry!

Robert Creeley Saved Sam Hamill

Tucson Poetry Festival

Was interviewed with Sam Hamill yesterday on the local public radio station. He did a poem in the voice of his long time friend Robert Creeley, turns out Sam can do a perfect imitation of Creeley's dry voice, so accurate that Sam used to call up Creeley's house when Creeley was on tour and talk to his wife as Creeley, which of course pissed off both wife and poet. That led to me asking Sam to tell a story about Bob. Sam said, "I owe my life to Creeley," and proceeded to tell how when Creeley had run off with Rexroth's wife Martha, Sam was addicted to heroin and how Creeley had told him, "Your heroes Miles Davis and John Coltrane both kicked heroin because it was killing them and their music." He then locked Sam in a bedroom for five days as he kicked his habit. Sam ended, "So if Creeley hadn't been diddling Martha I might not be alive." Later we started talking about Haiku and Sam made the point that translators always get Basho's frog poem wrong its not a frog splashing into an old pond, its a frog jumping into water sound.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Alpha Rooster

Ithaca New York

Often when engaged in a poetry tour, one finds themselves crashing on someone's couch. Andy Slamtractor runs a great reading series up in Ithaca and the evening ended with an invitation to crash on his friend Mina's couch with the caveat that I help her with a rooster problem. She had adopted this fine fellow from a friend and now it was temporarily in a garbage can, with hay and chicken wire top, waiting to be moved into his new coop. The idea was that I would move the rooster in exchange for sleeping on the couch. Luckily one of Mina's friend's is a poultry expert and gave me instructions on handling roosters. It seems that because roosters subscribe to the pecking order theory that all one has to do is establish that one is the alpha rooster in order to control the lower rooster. In order to help all touring poets who find themselves in this position here is a step-by-step guide to becoming an Alpha Rooster:
1. Get a firm grip on the rooster's back.
2. Push it to the ground.
3. Reach underneath the rooster and grab its legs.
4. Flip the rooster on its back.

You now have complete control of the rooster and can move it as needed. Caution, you have about 3 seconds between grabbing the rooster's back and pushing it to the ground to establish dominance before the rooster realizes you are not the Alpha and pecks the shit out of your hand.

All night I thought about the rooster. In the morning Mina and I went outside and approached the rooster. I made my first mistake when I moved the garbage can closer to the coop, this enraged the rooster and when I removed the chicken wire top he puffed up, his feathers swelling with anger. I reached down grabbed his back, his beck dug into my hand and he pulled loose. He winged out of the can and began to race around the yard, me splashing in the mud after him. Mina shouting, "Catch him, catch him. He was fast and darted from out the can each time I tried to put it over his head.

Then he turned into a fenced in section of the yard and banged his head against the fence and in his dizzy state I grabbed him, pushed him down and got hold of his legs. Mina, shouted, "Flip him," and he went limp as I put him in his coop.

What a male ego opportunity. Don't forget poetry sounds like poultry.