PRESS ADVISORY: Congressional Candidate-Poet Schedules Two Key Performances
Use Date: June 4, 2012
Contact: Mikel Weisser, 928-234-5633, firstname.lastname@example.org
Long time performance poet turned Congressional candidate, Mikel Weisser (Dem-AZ CD-04), is including two June poetry performances into his otherwise busy political campaign schedule. But both events are the kinds of shows any poet would be hard pressed to pass up. One, this Tuesday (June 5) at Glendale’s exclusive “Words in the Alley” poetry show hosted by Dani Garrity, has a waiting list for stage time that is booked over a year in advance. The other might launch Weisser to a position of national honor in poetry, not politics, when Mikel Weisser joins the twelve finalists who qualified to compete for a slot on Sedona’s first national poetry slam team which will perform at the annual National Poetry Slam championships, which, coincidentally, will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina in Aug. Weisser is scheduled to appear In Charlotte with his wife Beth, an ADP delegate to the Democratic National Convention a month later. “I have never been to Charlotte, but I sure wouldn’t mind going twice,” Weisser laughs.
Garrity’s long running poetry review, “Words In the Alley” is hosted at the Shot of Java coffeeshop (7003 N 58th Ave (rear), Glendale, AZ 85301), a Glendale staple that is literally in a hole in the wall. Just off of the square in old downtown Glendale, Shot of Java squeezes itself half way up an alley around the corner from Glendale Avenue at 58th Ave. “When we first started talking about me doing the show, we were looking at a date somewhere in 2013. The show is that popular,” Weisser explained. Some of Phoenix’s finest page and performance poets flock to squeeze some stage time during the open mic. Weisser performed there in 2010 and credits the trip with the creation of one of his more popular performance pieces, the literally gut wrenching “E. Coli,” which compares a bad relationship to food poisoning. In addition to popular slam pieces such as “Manifest Destiny,” My Hair is Here to be Dangerous,” and “Vocal Javelins,” Weisser expects to include some shorter pieces and work from his earlier four books of poetry. Weisser did not start focusing on slam poetry until his 2010 collection, Leaving the Empire. Show starts at 7.
Slam, however, will be the focus of Weisser’s other June poetry show, as the slam poet turned Congressional candidate, reverts to form and challenges for a slot on Sedona’s first ever national slam team at Sedona Slams’ grand slam championship, Saturday June 16th. A hot spot on AZ’s slam poetry circuit, poets travel from across the country to feature at the Sedona Slam and AZ slammers trek from across the state to battle it out with Arizona’s best. Hosted monthly by slam poetry superstar, Christopher Fox Graham, 6 time member of national slam teams and a founder of the celebrated NORAZ poetry association, Sedona qualifying slams have been packing the house all year at their digs in Studio Live on Coffeepot Street in West Sedona, but organizers are expecting huge crowds for the season finale and have booked the Mary D Fisher Theater on US Highway 89 to hold the larger crowds. Weisser, a long time fixture at the Sedona Slams, began the calendar year training to try to earn a spot on the newl organizing Sedona team. “I spent the summer touring with Jason Lalli, Flipside Daniels and the incomparable Shaikh Sammad. I landed a couple of higher profile shows in L.A. and San Francisco this fall, I was performing around the state pretty heavily and got a couple of third place finishes this past year, so I had resolved my year to planning on trying to make earning a spot on a national team happen … until something kind of important came up.”
The “something” that “came up” was the January 2012 quarterly Arizona Democratic Party convention when no candidate emerged to take on the race for Arizona’s newly created Congressional seat, the sprawling western and rural CD-04, which Weisser jokingly refers to as “The Left Coast of Arizona.” After a weekend round of discussions with party officials, Weisser, a Kingman junior high social studies teacher and Mohave County Democratic Party delegate, officially launched his “testing the waters” campaign at the end of January and had registered with the FEC by his birthday, February 7th. As Weisser, age 53, explains, shifting priorities on such a major scale was not an easy decision. “I told myself, I had waited so long to launch my slam career, I can wait another year to reach for nationals and I’ll just be stronger. I look at it that way: I’m investing a year in my country. What a great way to invest a year. The crisis is now, you know?” Weisser grins, “But I still tried to keep my hand in, at least a little, just in case.”
Throughout the year, Weisser curtailed his normally packed poetry travel schedule in favor of scheduling political events, but managed to only miss two of the monthly Sedona slams required to qualify for the year end grand slam (he’s currently tied for 6th), in addition to working in an L.A. feature with L.A.’s slam champ Matt Sedillo in Boyle Height’s hotspot Corazon de Pueblo and a co-feature with Pushcart Prize nominee, Debby Mitchell at downtown Phoenix’s trendy art spot Deus ex Machina for Shawnte Orion and Jack Evans’ celebrated monthly series, “Caffeine Corridor.”” When you get a chance to perform in shows like that you shouldn’t pass them up. Besides, there is an amazing amount of overlap in the skill sets for these two arts: poetry and politics,” Weisser grins. Weisser further claims that should he earn a spot on the slam team, he will work out the way to build the trip into his campaigning schedule. “You work something like that into your schedule. Sedona itself is not in my Congressional District, though it is in District 6 where my good friends Angela Lefevre and Doug Ballard are running for state offices. But that’s beside the point. I have been a poet for a long time. This is like a chance to compete in the Olympics or something. You make time for an opportunity like this. Besides, how many other Congressional candidates are likely to make it into NPS [National Poetry Slam]? That oughta earn me a little media!”
This is not the only significant time during the campaign, where Weisser insisted poetry come first in a major way. In May, Weisser shifted his Congressional campaign into “maintenance mode” for a solid week to once again host and co-organize Kingman’s annual KABAM (“Kingman-Area-Books-Are-Magic!”) book festival. Now in its seventh year, Weisser has been the behind the scenes “disorganizer” and public face of the immensely popular regional event, and has orchestrated the gradual expansion from a Saturday in the park book faire to a week-long tour of guest poets in schools and in library branches around the county. This year, thanks to the organizational skills of steering committee co-chairs, Mohave County Library System’s former NASA rocket scientist, Bruce Carter, and event programmer, Kristie Turman, as well as grants from both AZ’s Arts and Humanities Commissions, Weisser got to work with Phoenix poetry phenomena Aaron Johnson and Grammy and Pulitzer nominated poet Michael C Ford, entertaining hundreds in schools, hosting a regional slam featuring poets from Phoenix, Vegas, Flagstaff and Prescott who converged on Kingman to compete for prize money and bragging rights, plus being the musical entertainment and emcee for the original day-long Saturday book festival, which has grown to the point where, this year, well over a twelve hundred people attended the Saturday festivities. “You see, you can’t show, or rather I can’t show, people that I am dedicated to advancing the arts by turning my back on the arts projects I am already working on, right? This event is my crowning achievement. We work on it for a year. You don’t turn your back on that. Well, I don’t anyway.” Weisser laughs. While Mikel Weisser has already booked most of the rest his June travel schedule with political events, aside from the NEA and 99% national conventions around the 4th of July, the rest of Weisser’s summer travel plans might have to wait until the results at the June 16th Sedona Grand Slam. The National Poetry Slam championships run August 7-11th in Charlotte, North Carolina.
To quote the Facebook announcement for the event: “Tickets are $15, available online at studiolivesedona.com. Proceeds help fund the team’s trip to Charlotte. Additional donations will be gladly accepted. The Mary D. Fisher Theatre is located at 2030 W. SR 89A, near Coffee Pot Drive in West Sedona. For more information, call (928) 282-2688. For videos from past slams and updates about the grand slam, visit foxthepoet.blogspot.com”
Mikel Weisser for US Congress
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So-Hi, AZ 86413
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