1. Father of The Pittsburgh Poetry Slam
2. talented lunatic who succumbed the myth of The Tragic Poet
3. yet another brilliant poet who committed suicide.
4. Jan Beatty hates M. Christian Robinson for what he did to Regina McCullough

"sometimes, in the middle of the night,
I count my dead friends.
I've run out of fingers and toes."

- M. Christian Robinson

Today, while browsing the web, I learned of the death of M. Christian Robinson, whose sobriquet was "scratch poet"; and although the Pittsburgh Poetry Slam, which evidently he co-founded, noted his death was by suicide, they made little mention of circumstances, and saw fit mostly only to print that he was hated for beating his girlfriend.

Christian was known to me. One of his short poems

Not until
I find out whether
Jack Abbott
is guilty or not

appeared in my 1986 chapbook Skate Scam. He made a fuss about the idea that I would steal the copyright and make money. I'd never really thought about mental illness before. He tended to lurk on the street corners looking very dour and I suspected him of being one of the Wilkinsburg folks who gloated when Peter Shell's carrot tape hit their mark, got Fripp incensed and was later used to torture me into seizures. He was the type who would say that I was ratting on Pittsburgh by talking about child molestation crime...or maybe that's not fair, I mean, he never actually said that to me.

I went to Letsche Alternative High School in the Hill District for a long time. I know how angry and isolated Black intellectuals are, young, rowdy, mischievous, given a lot of rope to hang themselves and virtually no meaningful mental health care exists in Pittsburgh. When he appeared on the cover of Pittsburgh Magazine I frankly found the Peter Leo styled gesture warped. It goes far in what I've always hated by The International Poetry Forum and Sam Hazo that nobody intervened with Christian while there was still time. The ACLU in Pittsburgh are so busy defending the rights of the drug addled that they stalk anyone actually trying to get meaningful intervention for ... in this case, a poet in danger to himself and others.

Pitt is an atrocity and Western Psychiatric might as well be razed to the ground.

Christian, like Gary Fuss, ironically, also deceased in a tragedy, were together I understand in a place I never saw myself, it was a runaway joint for kids in high school, called Hell House. Many, many people knew for a long, long time how troubled and struggling M. Christian Robinson. No one ever found a way around his stubborn nature, and I suspect few ever gave it much thought. Learning of his death, I am just reminded that even though I went to Pennsylvania's Governor's School thanks in no small measure to social and academic rehabilitation that I experienced at Letsche, and always identified myself as a poet, I was there for forty years and I didn't pull together my own first booklet until after I moved to Seattle.

Christian they say beat his girlfriend piteously and then somehow took his own life. All of this was in the making for years. He tried and tried to reach out. Something should have been done about it before, from somewhere. I have absolutely no doubt that that vulgar, chronic outsider group of rich, decadent assholes, including many fairies, who haunt Pittsburgh from that whore: Carnegie Mellon University, made it impossible with their constant jests at the idea of society's right to be concerned about violent artists (and you will weary yourselves to no end maliciously lying about what they did to a non-violent artist who was troubled), just as Pittsburgh sees to it that the homeless are driven into despair.

The reason it angers and saddens me so very much isn't just that a life I valued was lost, and it isn't just that a man who hurt me was never stopped from hurting others, it is because Pittsburgh consciously created this sad story. Christian became and did what Peter Leo and all those other creeps downtown insisted he become as they dogged him through high school, and taunted him with celebrity gestures and his fifteen minutes of fame. His absolute terror that I would steal his verse from him upset me then and it upsets me now.

The pricks of Pittsburgh, even those like Jan Beatty who publicly condemned him after he was gone, are really the ones to blame. M. Christian Robinson was a victim of that terrible society.

I don't say that about everyone I ever met there. Maybe it's just that he was so into poetry that it riles me so bitterly to learn of his demise.

Thank you, Christian, not for how you lived, but for how you tried to.

The Interrogator
for M. Christian Robinson

Crying is on the radio
of penury in Pittsburgh.
What does Otis Redding want?
Nobody told me a thing.
Nobody tells me nothing.
Another man ended his stint
took his own life
with the hardware of hints.
Just between you and me,
London and Berlin,
I'm sorry to hear about that.

The Interrogator,
you didn't like him
you prefer a man
with all the answers.

Bad, bad news
about bad, bad news.
You won the fight
I went looking for today.
That surly man
you might only half-believe
how he loved to dance.
He lived on his feet
in every corner of a big town.
In high school
he turned up in class once in a while
with bigger questions than me.
Hip Hop played his game
or he didn't play.
In the pot smoke
he would laugh just like a kid,
haunt remotes
where police trembled
and showed up
in student activities
at the college.

The Interrogator
you didn't like him
you prefer a man
with all the answers.

In a safer world
for ugly truths
with a punching bag
in his garage
and a little money
to buy
some thinking space
he might not
have overdosed
on angry questions.


I know it isn't my place, but I had black friends all over Pittsburgh growing up who watched me from a distance, read my letters to the paper and cared about me. Christian was one of them. When my counselor for deafness and overly lucid tendencies saw that I was moved to emotion by his death, she asked me, "If you were asked to write a eulogy for Christian, what would you say?" So, I came to Douglass-Truth Library.

Maybe it's good that I wasn't there, in Pittsburgh, didn't see or contribute to the breakdown that led to this, because it means I can eulogize Christian the Miracle, the ideal, Christian ... the sakura (cherry blossom) without being forced to dwell on Christian the byproduct of Pittsburgh. I simply cannot help wishing that Christian, instead of me, had gone to the Governor's School.
It is bad enough to live in a world where people do not know how to care, and I mean anywhere, it is a problem all over America, people who do not know how to stop a moment and consider, much less to lend a hand, even if they do not dare to take a hand; it is bad enough ... without having to live out your days in a city that hates.

Thinking about Pittsburgh last night, not Christian so much at that late hour, just a city I haven't wanted to look at or hear from, into whose Poetry SLAM website I recklessly wandered looking for Christian only to hear the glum news, for one moment I sympathized with the ultra-rich in the class struggle. How wonderful it would be to live in a world where someone's tears meant something.

The image the Slam conveys is of an angry, hostile man who finally died by his own ropes. Sorry, but I don't buy it. I believe that Christian died in tears. He died a little boy in pain. He died in sorrow He died sad. He killed himself because he saw that he had given his life ... his whole life ... all of it ... tooth and nail, to people who just wanted him dead from the day he was born and for nothing would hear him out.

If someone had tried to stop him from the bad acid or puffing the doobie or whatever it was that was going in without coming all the way out, his friends, and I mean even what you would take for his good ones, would be all over that poor soul with, "What's wrong with you!" They dreamed of Christian being a super-griffin in that lucid dream from hell. I didn't. I saw him as a decent human being stalking, if anything, understanding. Without a soul to be found, even when he yelled to a packed hall or a basement mob scene in Wilkinsburg; a man who wanted you to listen because he had something to say and didn't feel the need to wait a hundred years to say it.

When I first learned about Christian on my own reconnaissance I wanted and I still want to punish that City of Faceliars and those terrible ideologues of academia who just sit in their fairy tower and rape that poor city black and blue. Christian was groovy and he was on the move.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.