Mad Hatter Poetry Slam II

Our second Mad Hatter Poetry Slam was held on April 29th, 2011.  We met in Sean and Catherine’s home with mad hats and prepared poetry to celebrate the advent of spring (it was snowing), the end of the semester, and our love of art and literature.  Everyone brought something handcrafted for participants to choose from as party favors.  There was a wide selection of items to fight over: a luscious pound cake, hair accessories, a pillow sham, print reproductions, and fine art pieces in an array of media, including sculpture and pottery, watercolor, acrylic and pastel.

We had two visitors this slam: Karen Call (Tyler’s mom) and Erik Neibaur.

We made introductions and participated in a creative activity.  Each person filled out a questionnaire without writing their name on it.  They were then passed out at random.  Each person had to guess who’s paper they had received.  Here are some fun entries in the slot “What would your gravestone read? (Make it rhyme.)”:

Mathias: “There once was a man named Clyde; Who fell down an outhouse and died.  Off in another; fell down his brother, and they lied interred side by side.”  ————– Mathias’s five word description of his ideal funeral: “funny, relaxed, family, calm, explosion at the end”.  (That was three more words than five Mathias, but you made us laugh.)


Kenna:  “She had to write a gravestone rhyme/And it hurt her head/It looks like she ran out of time/Look, now she’s dead.” —————-Kenna’s five word funeral: “Good food, good stories, family”

Marshall: “Roses are red now I am dead.” ————– Marshall’s five word funeral: “Belly dancers, guitar hero, family.”


Tyler: “Here lies Bob, that punk I robbed.  He looked at me and sobbed.  So off his head I lopped.” ———— Tyler’s five word funeral: “Funky, Jiggy, Icecream, Smelly, Zombie”.  Then we joked about how we would have to have a second funeral for after we killed the Tyler zombie off!

Stewart:  “Here does lie an artistic guy, when push came to shove, he always showed love.” ————— Stewart’s five word funeral: “music, food, family, friends, stories”.

Catherine: “Beloved Mother, above any other.  She was the best, and now she’s dust.” —————- Catherine’s five word funeral: “Celebrate good times, come on! (na na na na nana na na)”

Alicia: “Here lies Lee, the famous artist.  About heart disease, she wasn’t the smartest.” ————– Lee’s five word funeral: “ninja, cheesecake, bluegrass, karaoke, spectacular!”

Jorge: “He done did gone an’ died.” —————– Jorge’s five word funeral: “A kick ass super party.”

Karen: “She was laying in bed but now she’s dead.” ———- Karen’s five word funeral: “quick, packed, tissues, Bloomington, casket”

Geary: “Here she lieth/All men dieth/The sun will always return/Hope it springeth/Love redeemeth/Live my children and learn.” ————– Geary’s five word funeral: “Roses, Sunflowers, Jazz, Orchestra, Chocolate-Cake”

Ginny: “The Favorite Aunt”.  (Ginny didn’t catch the part about it rhyming.)  ————– Ginny’s five word funeral: “ALL the people I love are able to attend & share memories & stories w/each other.” (Guess Ginny didn’t catch the part about five words either!) ❤

Beth‘s five word funeral: “short, sweet, to the point”

James: “A life that’s well lived is full of good friends.  When things go awry, they’re there to the end.  The man who lies here was loyal to his, they trusted and loved, and much more than this.” ————- James’s five word funeral: “friends, family, fun, good times”

Sean: “Here lies a man who’s dead/They pumped him full of lead” ———— Sean’s five word funeral: “Happy, Family, Short, Good Food.”

Erik: “This man had serious clout.  It took an army to take him out.  He may be dead, but let it be said, ‘Even Death mourned his passing.'” —————– Erik’s five word funeral: “Paragon of mourning and parties”




Slam time!

Tyler went first.  He delivered an original poem, complete with costume pieces:


A Close Shave by Tyler Call

I’ve a poem I’d like to share.
Listen closely if you dare.
It’s not about bears, it’s not about beets.
It’s not about stinky skin-shluffing feets.

It’s been seven years since I first shaved.
I had heard that it was great.
One of friends said, “It’s all the rave!”
I got in the bath and picked up the blade.
Like a master I prepared my lathe,
only to slice off my face!

Needless to say, I hate razor blades.
I’m done with my face… now… onto my legs?

I’ll make an end by putting to bed,
your thoughts of how my face bled.
Like that one guy, Confucious said:
“Wise men never shave face, they shave their head!”


Tyler also recited a well known verse, delivered in a serious tone:

Roses are red/Violets are blue/Sugar is sweet/And so …. are…. you.

After which he took a very deep bow.


Marshall presented three pieces: one of his own making and two that he chose for personal significance, since three of his brothers are in the military.

Roses are red/Violets are blue/Welcome to Poetry Slam number two!


The Touch of the Master’s Hand by Myra Brooks Welch

It was battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.

“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”
“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,”

But, No,
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its’ bow.

“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
“We just don’t understand.”
“What changed its’ worth?”
Swift came the reply.
“The Touch of the Masters Hand.”

And many a man with life out of tune
All battered with bourbon and gin
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.

But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.



Daddy’s Little Girl

Her hair up in a pony tail, her favorite dress tied with a bow
Today was Daddy’s Day at school, and she couldn’t wait to go
But her mommy tried to tell her, that she probably should stay home
Why the kids might not understand, if she went to school alone.

But she was not afraid; she knew just what to say
What to tell her classmates, on this Daddy’s day
But still her mommy worried, for her to face this day alone
And that was why once again, she tried to keep her daughter home.

But the little girl went to school, eager to tell them all
About a dad she never sees, a dad who never calls
There were daddies along the wall in back for everyone to meet.
Children squirming impatiently, anxious in their seats.

One by one the teacher called, a student from the class
to introduce their daddy as seconds slowly passed.
At last the teacher called her name, every child turned to stare
Each of them were searching, for a man who wasn’t there

“Where’s her daddy at?” she heard a boy call out
“She probably doesn’t have one,” another student dared to shout
And from somewhere near the back, she heard a daddy say
“Looks like another deadbeat dad, too busy to waste his day.”

The words did not offend her, as she smiled at her friends
And looked back at her teacher who told her to begin.
And with hands behind her back, slowly she began to speak
and out from the mouth of a child, came words incredibly unique.

“My Daddy couldn’t be here, because he lives so far away.
But I know he wishes he could, be with me on this day.”
“And though you cannot meet him, I wanted you to know
All about my Daddy, And how much he loves me so.”

“He loved to tell me stories, he taught me to ride my bike.
He surprised me with pink roses and taught me to fly a kite.”
“We used to share fudge sundaes, and ice cream in a cone.
And though you cannot see him, I’m not standing here alone.”

“Cause my Daddy’s always with me, even though we are far apart.
I know because he told me, he’s forever in my heart.”
With that her little hand reached up, and lay across her chest
Feeling her own heartbeat, beneath her favorite dress.

And from some where in the crowd of dads, her mother stood in tears.
Proudly watching her daughter, who was wise beyond her years.
For she stood up for the love, of a man not in her life
doing what was best for her, doing what was right.

And when she dropped her hand back down, staring straight into the crowd.
She finished with a voice so soft but its message clear and loud.
” I love my Daddy very much, he’s my shining star,
and if he could, he’d be here now but heaven is much to far.”

“but sometimes when I close my eyes, it’s like he never went away.”
And then she closed her eyes, and she saw him there that day.
And to her mother’s amazement she witnessed with surprise
A room full of Daddies and Children all starting to close their eyes.

Who knows what they saw before them, who knows what they felt inside
Perhaps for merely a second they saw him at her side.
“I know you’re with me Daddy,” to the silence she called out
And what happened next made believers, of those once filled with doubt

Not one in that room could explain it for each of their eyes had been closed
but there placed on her desk was a beautiful pink rose.



Stewart performed three original pieces.  The first he wrote in eighth grade.  The second two he wrote ten years ago.


The second two were performed rap style.


 Then Stewart and Alisha presented a mash-up of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and A Whole New World by Tim Rice from the movie Aladdin.


 They performed spoken lyrics as Beatrice and Benedick, playing off of Benedick’s assertion that “There’s a double meaning in that…”.


Their lines could barely be heard over the laughter…


Geary shared a piece by Shel:

Sick by Shel Silverstein

I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash, and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox,
And there’s one more - - that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue –
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke –
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose I cold, my toes are numb,
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have hangnail, and my heart is – what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is … Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play.


Karen shared an original piece:

Untitled by Karen And Calvin Call

I came to the house of Tyler and Lee.
I’m really glad they don’t charge me a fee.

I traveled to Provo from off very far.
A plane would be faster, but I brought my car.

I came all this way for more reasons than one.
At the top of my list is my daughter and son.

I came for Women’s Conference, but now that it’s done,
Let’s all go to Arizona to soak in some sun.

It’s a little bit farther from here to there,
But Arizona is far from everywhere.

We want to spend time with Lee’s father and mother.
And let’s not forget her sister and brother.

And then there’s Lee’s kids, we’ll spend time with them.
Each one to us is an absolute gem.

There’s Cyndal and Luke, the first two you see.
Then Calista and Sam on the family tree.

We’ll enjoy the music and concerts down there.
Then we’ll pick up Ty’s dad who is traveling by air.

After that comes a much longer trek.
We all will be praying we don’t have a wreck.

We’ve saved up the money as if we were misers,
So we could go to Yellowstone and check out the geysers.

We hope to see elk and bison and bears.
This time of year we should see them in pairs.

We hope that the bears are in a good mood.
We don’t want to become some of their food!

If all of our carefully made plans go well,
We’ll spend our nights in a comfy motel.

Then it’s back home to Denver we go.
I hope we don’t encounter the snow.

Although it’s been silly, my rhyming is done.
If this were a contest, I probably would have won!


Mathias shared quotes:

To every man there openeth…
A high way and a low, And every man decideth. The way his soul shall

– John Oxenham


We are all blind until we see That in the human plan Nothing is worth
the making If it does not make the man. Why build these cities
glorious If man unbuilded goes? We build the world in vain Unless the
builders also grow.

~Edwin Markham

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

~William Wordsworth

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

~Alfred, Lord Tennyson


He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands, his head and his heart is an artist.

~T.V. Smith




Kenna shared Rumi, a 13th century Persian mystical poet.  She also performed two original pieces:

Cry Out In Your Weakness by Rumi

A dragon was pulling a bear into its terrible mouth.

A courageous man went and rescued the bear.
There are such helpers in the world, who rush to save
anyone who cries out. Like Mercy itself,
they run toward the screaming.

And they can’t be bought off.
If you were to ask one of those, “Why did you come
so quickly?” he or she would say, “Because I heard
your helplessness.”

Where lowland is,
that’s where water goes. All medicine wants
is pain to cure.

And don’t just ask for one mercy.
Let them flood in. Let the sky open under your feet.
Take the cotton out of your ears, the cotton
of consolations, so you can hear the sphere-music.

Push the hair our of your eyes.
Blow the phlegm from your nose,
and from your brain.

Let the wind breeze through.
Leave no residue in yourself from that bilious fever.
*             *                    *
Tear the binding from around the foot
of your soul, and let it race around the track
in front of the crowd. Loosen the knot of greed
so tight around your neck. Accept your new good luck.

Give your weakness
to one who helps.

Crying out loud and weeping are great resources.
A nursing mother, all she does
is wait to hear her child.
Just a little beginning whimper,
and she’s there.
God created the child, that is, your wanting,
so that it might cry out,
so that milk might come.

Cry out! Don’t be stolid and silent
with your pain. Lament! And let the milk
of loving flow into you.

The hard rain and wind
are ways the cloud has
to take care of us.

Be patient.
Respond to every call
that excites your spirit.

Ignore those that make you fearful
and sad, that degrade you
back toward disease and death.



Untitled by Kenna Rieske

Springtime bird of thunder grey,
How proudly you hold out your chest.
And there I spy a pleasant flash
Of radiant blue upon your breast.
The epitome of optimism,
Your presence is such a treat.
Surely your song would be transcendent!
Grace us, please, with notes so sweet.
Oh! Most abhorrent, hideous beast!
Of dismal grey and dingy blue!
Such ugliness has no place
In this season!  Get away! Shoo!
I Can Tell That We Will Never Be Friends by Kenna Rieske
On the bus, next to you.
Introductions, how’dee do?
You like books, so do I.
Did you say you like Twilight?
I can tell that we will never be friends.
I can tell that we will never be friends.

Excuse me if I seem terse
The writing couldn’t be much worse.
People of intelligence
Know the plot does not make sense.
It’s dumb and shallow and a waste of time.
It’s dumb and shallow and a waste of time.

And what kind of icky creep
Watches girls when they’re asleep?
He is manipulating
Trust me, he is not worth dating.
What’s to like about this Edward guy?
What’s to like about this Edward guy?

Bella’s smart, supposedly
Yet she has no self-esteem.
She’s pathetic on her own
Needs a man, can’t be alone,
Is that what you think a woman should be?
Is that what you think a woman should be?

This has been the longest bus ride.
Hopefully, you get off soon.
You may think this comment rather snide,
But I can feel my IQ dropping
Just by listening to you.

What I’d hoped was just a phase
Has turned into a Twilight craze
Artists, writers: let’s unite
Against the fans of Twilight!
Just can’t see how we could ever be friends.
Just can’t see how we could ever be friends.




Jorge shared some found poetry:


Catherine performed an original piece:


Sean shared two original pieces:

Angry Words … (Pause for Laughter) Get It? Or, Why I Hate Valentine’s Day by Sean Hess

Roses are red / Violets are blue / But you are undead / And this poem is NOT funny.



Different  by Sean Hess

Back when I used to write poems —
Good ones, mind you, not these soft self-referencing ones —
I ate big, ripe emotions.
The kind you bite into and they drip juice onto the floor,
then you forget to wipe it up and wonder why your socks are sticky.
But then someone tells you that for 10 bucks you can buy them
pre-sliced in bulk from Costco.
So you put them in a bowl,
and eat them slowly with a fork while you read the news,
Forgetting that you liked them the other way.



James presented an original piece from eighth grade about choices and consequences.  He also shared a poem by Walt Whitman in the style of Garrison Keeler.


O Captain, My Captain by Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.
Beth shared some Shel:

Reflection by Shel Silverstein
Each time I see the Upside-Down Man
Standing in the water,
I look at him and start to laugh,
Although I shouldn’t oughtter.
For maybe in another world
Another time
Another town,
Maybe HE is right side up
And I am upside down.
Alicia shared some Rumi, illustrated in the Crazy House Sketchbooks:
Various Selections by Rumi:
Rise up nimbly
and go on your strange journey
to the ocean of meanings.
The stream knows
it can’t stay on the mountain.
Leave and don’t look away
from the sun as you go,
in whose light you are
sometimes crescent,
sometimes full.
Let yourself
be silently drawn
by the stronger pull
of what you really love.
Keep walking,
though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see
through the distances…
that’s not for human beings.
Move within,
but don’t move the way fear makes you move.
Let the beauty we love
be what we do.
What strange beings we are,
that sitting in Hell at the bottom of the dark,
we’re afraid of our own immortality.
I have lived
on the lip of insanity,
wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door.
It opens.
I’ve been knocking
from the inside.
A night full of talking that hurts,
my word held back secrets:
everything has to do
with loving
and not loving.
This night will pass.
Then we have work to do,
painstaking work,
then the swan spreads its wings.
Alicia also shared two original works, one published and one not.
Small Robot by Alicia VanNoy Call
Sweep in concentric circles
Scour the floor
Brush and mop

Under beds
In every corner
Search for debris
A dust mite
An eyelash
A speck of soil

quest to maintain
a perfect spotless expanse.

And yet,
a leaning back,
the rest of wired arm on canister body
(almost hand on hip),
the invisible desire for something more
than an endless clean.

A longing,
the flash of visions:

A taste of strawberries,
shimmered with dew,
plump, red.

Barefoot stroll on spring grass
as sun arches down through layered clouds.

The stroke of paintbrush across canvas,
of bow across strings,
the ache of art.

A smiling woman
twirled around a dance floor;
she wears a green dress,
her yellow hair tied back,
pearls at her throat.

An emerald pool
in a cleft between hills
full of fish and starlight.

The brush of eyelashes on skin.
A whispered secret.
A haircut.
A bee sting.
The flutter of birdsong.

The mechanics of straightening,
a whir that is almost a sigh,
the vibration of movement as brushes are activated.



Gap by Alicia VanNoy Call
The child of my body
is a shadow
on the rising sun
so far
from me.
bruises the hollow of my throat
and speaking
like a bone stuck to stop my breath.

Swallows dance
among curled green leaves
nest deep with twigs
and feathers
to protect their young.

But you
my child
far from me
downy, flightless:

What will you be
when I see you again?

Ginny shared a poetic MadLib she created, with our help:
Creature Crashes Poetry Slam: MADLIB
By Ginny Tilby

This is my poem.
The poem that I wrote.
And so did you and you and all of you!
As you’ll soon hear me quote.

Soon as in …now.
There was a dark and stormy cow.

A superfluous creature
Carrying some garbage
Defenestrated through the woods
Til he came upon a cabbage.

He danced his head
And picked up a cloud.
He sat on a dragonfly,
And remembered his shroud.

A bird named Griffindor
Started singing runningly.
Unlike Bubba the frog,
Who was croaking quite swimmingly.

Our creature grew bored.
Something he can’t afford.

Said he.
“I’ve a brilliant idea!
Hee hee hee!

For why didst I not consider this sooner?
I art such a silly mantis!”

He snorted and leapt
Upon his large desperate feet.
He scratched his neck,
Waved goodbye to his fleas.

“Tis the 29th April Evening of Friday!
I go where the most spiky people be!
Required is just a hat of mad, a cool craft,
And a piece of my own defensive poetry!”

Trembling with excitement,
And very toothy grinned
He knocked on the door
And was invited right in!

Our creature blinked twice
And looked from poet to poet
The remembered their hands
And said, “Dontcha know it!”

Some poets read of hats,
Some about snow.
Some were exhausted,
And the rest were aglow.

The creature was delighted.
Twas the best night of his fat life.
He finally stood to read
And he read with all his bird house.  And might!

Upon finishing the poets cheered,
And said, “BANZAI!!”
He asked them in great hopes,
May I have that cool craft? That looks like Grom’s eye?

“Yes!” exclaimed James.
“That one is mine!”
And the creature went home happy.
When he slept, he dreamt of spine.

As for the lovely poets,
They decided to lift
For the rest of their lives,
In honorable remembrance of the gift.

Geary was encored to reprise her Jabberwocky from last slam:
Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.



Tyler holds aloft the flame of inspiration!


Tyler and Marshall create the heckling couch.

Sean said that this could be some kind of show.  We all agree.


Thanks everyone!  The next slam is in four months.  See you there!


Inaugural Mad Hatter Poetry Slam