The Grand Slam
This year’s Flagstaff National Poetry Slam team has been chosen. On Sunday, the year’s most experienced and respected slam poets competed at Sundara for a chance to go to the national competition being held in Charlotte, N.C. Some of the team members are veterans while others are new to the community, but all four poets are creative, intense and talented.
The competition consisted of three rounds in which each poet gave his or her best performance and received scores from judges in the audience. The topics were as widely ranged as you could think of. From pieces about murder and mutilation to sweet and sentimental love poems, the mood in the room was in constant swing.
Christopher Fox Graham, or CFG as he’s known in this community, is a well-seasoned slam poet. He has been performing since October 20, 2000 and has slammed at over 300 different venues. After 12 years, Graham still gets sick before every show. Needless to say, as a part of the 2012 National team, Graham will have quite the nervous stomach to deal with.
“I throw up before every slam,” Graham says. “Yeah, still after 12 years. I’ve tried breathing exercises but I still throw up. I threw up during the third poet tonight.”
Graham is no stranger to Nationals, though. This will be his sixth time as a part of the Flagstaff team, but Graham is just as excited as he was for his first Nationals in 2001. Another veteran, Ryan Brown, who will be competing in his fourth national poetry slam, will accompany Graham in Charlotte. Newer poets Shaun Srivastava, who goes by Nodalone, and Tara Pollock are also on the team.
“I’m really excited about this team. It’s Ryan’s fourth time around; Tara is the newest poet on the team — this is her first year — and Nodalone was with us last year,” Graham says. “This year is going to be awesome on the national level. I think everyone’s just kind of gotten over the Def Poetry thing. So it’s not like, ‘Hey, there’s this thing people do on HBO; I’m going to try it too.’ It’s more serious and committed writers and poets now.”
Pollock is ecstatic to have been accepted into the Flagstaff slam community and even more excited to have the opportunity to go to nationals in her first year.
“I’m totally stoked about Nationals! I’ve only been slamming for about 6 months but I’ve been writing my whole life,” Pollock says. “The competition is in August so I’m sure I’ll write new poems by then, but I’ll use some of my older ones too. We also have the opportunity to do group poems so we’ll definitely do that as well.”
Other poets at the weekly slams are confident in the ability of the Flagstaff team. Jackson Morris is fairly new to the scene but has already formed close friendships with many of the other poets and become a regular favorite at the Thursday night slams. Morris was originally inspired by Brown and Graham to try his luck on stage.
“I’ve been slamming for three months and I’ve been writing for about six,” Morris says. “CFG was really the first one to inspire me to try poetry out. He’s the first poet that made a big impact on me. Ryan Brown is also an amazing poet and he got me really excited about poetry. Tara and Nodalone are awesome, too, so it’s going to be a great team. I can’t really imagine people being better than them but I’m sure there will be really amazing poets there, so I guess we’ll find out.”
The audience and poets at Sundara’s weekly poetry slams have heard incredible pieces that have made them laugh, cry and snap in excess. Enthusiasts look forward to hearing the what the foursome comes up with for nationals. No matter the outcome of the August contest, Flagstaff poets are proud to send Graham, Brown, Pollock and Srivastava as prime examples of the talent that can be found here.