‘Auld Lang Syne’ Or ‘That Song People Sing For the New Year’

‘Auld Lang Syne’ Or ‘That Song People Sing For the New Year’

My aunt took me to see B.B. King on New Year’s Eve once years ago and at the end of his show he sang “Auld Lang Syne” which I only knew from the end of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and other similar holiday programs. At the concert they’d printed the lyrics to the song on the back of the program and everyone stood up and sang along. I kept wondering “Why the hell do people sing this song every New Year and what does it mean?” The lyrics didn’t make any sense to me but I’d heard it so many times it had a strangely nostalgic feel to it. I’ve wondered that same question for years since.

Turns out it’s kind of a cool story. It’s most often attributed to the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who in 1788, admittedly wrote it down from hearing an old man sing it and Burns himself claimed to be aware of it’s long lifespan even then. A ballad printed nearly eighty years earlier shows great similarities to the version we all know now.

The song title translates to mean ‘Olden Days’ and seems to tell the story of toasting to the times that are passing in an effort to recognize a new day. Also the song generally questions the olden times being forgotten (‘forgot’ being one of the few obviously recognizable words in the song) and it appears to encourage the keeping strong of old friendships.

I looked around for an interesting version to spotlight today but I couldn’t find anything that knocked me out. A copy of B.B. King performing the song was uneventful and Rod Stewart’s version was… well anyway I decided to just go for the ole’ standard. It’s a Wonderful Life.

Happy New Year.





Tui Scanlan | Legacy

Tui Scanlan | Legacy

There are a handful of people whose Facebook posts I constantly look forward to and Tui’s is one of them. He is constantly shedding light on injustices but framing his posts in a sensible and humane way. You can tell there is something that drives him about fairness and justice. There is something hard to explain about Touie’s work and I think it has to with who he is as a person, you can read it in his social media timeline.

Tui is one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. He is kind and soft spoken most times, but when he gets behind a microphone you realize how great the purpose he carries around is. I always think of Tui’s work as having an incredible amount of balance. He’s a big intimidating guy, but his work is often based on great subtleties and yet he’s powerful and captivating onstage. He can also conjur a huge message from a small moment, much like he does here. I remember talking to Tui soon after I met him about his studying acting and being really impressed with his understanding different methods and approaches to the craft. When you watch Tui you can tell that he’s able to hold an audience inside a moment, so much so that I don’t know of anyone who can do what he does quite like him.

He’s got another poem that I’ll never forget watching in person where he describes the goings-on of a film set he was working on and the interactions between the director and crew. It is a poem, just like this one where he turns something small into something great. He rallies the audience behind his conclusions which always air on the side of compassion. He’s a rabble-rouser and a riot starter and a sweet, quiet dude. He’s able to pull apart our actions and see into what makes us who we are. And most amazingly, he’s able to do it over and over. Enjoy.



Follow along with Tui here:


Also, check out this TUMBLR page featuring a lot of his work



Rachel Mckibbens | Central Park Mother’s Day

Rachel Mckibbens | Central Park Mother’s Day

Today’s spotlight poet is the incredible Rachel McKibbens, I first met Rachel in 2007 in Austin at the National Poetry Slam. She was on Louder Arts which made it to final stage that year. Rachel is a rockstar whose work I had appreciated from the first poem I heard her perform.

Fast forward two years (I think) to WOWPS (Women of the World Poetry Slam), I had flown to Detroit to support the WOWps and hear some of the best voices in slam compete. Rachel was in this tournament and it was here that I was really able to sit down and just be blown away by her poetry.

When you are in a slam or coaching you really don’t get to enjoy a tournament in the same way that you would as a spectator. This was the first time I was able to do this and I got to hear Rachel perform on more than one occasion.

One of the bouts that she crushed, she did the below poem. Rachel has a way to remove your entire soul from you as she is doing a poem and give it back to you as soon as she walks off stage, Some poets can change the energy in a room, Rachel is one of the few poets I know that can create it, it does not matter what it was before she came on stage, as if her poem is a feature in the middle of a slam, like when the camera freezes everyone but the actor and they look directly in the camera as if they are talking directly to you.

I was in a PACKED black box theater listening to this poem, the hair rising up on my arm, as I had to remind myself to breathe. The room was funeral silent the whole time Rachel was reciting the poem & you could feel the energy shifting to the infection of her voice.

There are poems you hear that just stay with you, not sure the rhyme or reason they just do. This is one of them, I have 1 kid and 1 on the way and I think often about how and what I say to them will affect them in the long run. Since I became a parent I think about this poem from time to time, I think about the trees I am planting inside of them. I hope to always lay seeds that produce good fruit, but sometimes as parents we get things wrong.

This poem is brave and honest and self–actualized (as all of Rachel’s poems tend to be).
The last lines haunt you — as they are meant to

Mom do you remember that day at the park
Do you remember how small I was
how you did
not even say
thank you

And what I love and respect most about this poem, is that she ends it there, she does not go into this soapbox about parenting, she does not spin zone it into her looking like a hero, she just lets it lay there vulnerable….

A great poem from a great writer, one who has set a standard and broken a mold for many poets that have come after her.


 *I wrote this from memory – my memory sucks.. 🙂 if there is anything here that is wrong let me know





Follow along with Rachel here:





An Interview with Poetry Slam founder Marc “So What?” Smith

An Interview with Poetry Slam founder Marc “So What?” Smith

The first time I heard the name Marc Smith was at my first poetry slam years ago when the host, introducing the art and history of slam, mentioned his name and the audience fired back “So What?!” I looked around as if I’d found myself in a room of lunatics. I soon learned that Marc Smith had founded Slam and quickly coined the term so as to remind people that the fact he was a founder was insignificant.

The first time I saw Marc Smith was at a National Poetry Slam in Madison, Wisconsin a few years later where he performed a few poems. What I was most taken with about Marc was how contemporary and visceral his work was. A great number of poets attach themselves to a writing/performance style that can seem outdated after a few years and Marc mowed me over that day at the Legends Showcase. His approach to his work was all about the now and I’ve looked to his poems many times in the years since. I have no doubt that we will spotlight him on the site soon.

This interview is an inspiring resource for anyone interested in spoken word and slam and I’m glad to have found it. I am proud to say I am one of those lunatics these days. I am crazy for the freedom slam offers us. I have a ton of opinions about slam and it’s place in our community but make no mistakes, it is a beautiful thriving, living creature and I am honored to have been any part of it and am blessed that it found me.

Ladies and Gents, Marc Smith.





Follow along with Marc Smith here







Natasha Trethewey | A conversation on what it means to be a Poet Laureate

Natasha Trethewey | A conversation on what it means to be a Poet Laureate

A couple days ago I talked about a conversation I had with a younger poet who did not know who Shane Koyczan was [check out that blog post here]. Which reminded me of a conversation I had at a youth writing workshop recently where the topic of a “Poet Laureate” came up. Most of the youth had blank faces when asked who and what one was, then one poet said “thats the old white dudes that read dull poems at big events right?”


After breaking it down for him we talked further about the place academic poetry has in slam and vice-verse. Every poet has a thought on page vs stage poetry, on academic vs slam. These conversations are getting more and more progressive, and the two worlds are getting closer and closer which in my opinion is a great thing. But no matter where you stand or what your position is, it is my belief that every poet should be educated about all the worlds of poetry. This is why we spent a large part of the workshop breaking it down, and in some ways slowing down the firestorm in all of their heads to simply listen and appreciate the beautiful language & images the poets were creating.

Although I know all of our readers know everything there is to know about this topic 🙂 – below is a brief crash course in poet laureate-ness!

So In ancient Greece, the laurel was used to form a crown or wreath of honour for poets and heroes. When a writer or a great warrior did something crazy big, they would get crowned with a Laurel. This custom, was followed by Petrarch’s own crowning ceremony in the audience hall of the medieval senatorial Palazzo. [side note I could talk about greek mythology all day long, if you ever see me and want to geek out about Icarus and nem I am down]

At the time there were a ton of Renaissance figures who were attempting to revive the Classical tradition but they did not have the detailed knowledge of the Roman precedent they were attempting to emulate, so these ceremonies took on the format of crowing doctoral candidatures. Pretty much if you were honoured with a Laurel you were the shit.

As the concept of the poet laureate has spread, the term “laureate” has come in English to signify recognition for preeminence or superlative achievement (cf. Nobel laureate). As a royal degree in rhetoric, poet laureate was awarded at European universities in the Middle Ages. The term might also refer to the holder of such a degree, which recognized skill in rhetoric, grammar and language.

The United States Library of Congress appointed a Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1937 to 1984. An Act of Congress changed the name in 1985 to Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. A number of American states’ legislatures have created official government positions that are occupied by Poets Laureate who are prominent either locally, nationally, or sometimes both.

Laureates receive a US$35,000 stipend and are given the responsibility of overseeing an ongoing series of poetry readings and lectures at the library, and a charge to promote poetry. No other duties are specified, and laureates are not required to compose for government events or in praise of government officials. However, after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, the then Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, was asked to write a poem to be read in front of a special joint session of Congress. Collins wrote “The Names” which he read on September 6, 2002, which is available in streaming audio and video. When the $35,000 stipend was instituted, the amount was quite large and was intended to allow the poet laureate to abandon worries about earning a living and devote his or her time entirely to writing poetry. That amount has remained the same, so the intent of making it a nice living for a poet is no longer being fulfilled. Now it functions as a bonus for a poet who usually is teaching at a university and earns the bulk of his or her living that way.

Check out the interview below with Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey as she breaks down what being the Poet Laureate means to her and also reads one of her poems “Elegy for my father”