Twilight Punch

Twilight Punch

BandSpoken Word

Twilight Punch is a menagerie of spoken word poetry, bringing together impressive slam poetry and academic credentials. Combining the talents of four acclaimed writers, it promises unforgettable entertainment presented with humor, hunger and heart.


Twilight Punch was formed at the 2007 National Poetry Slam, a gathering of hundreds of the best spoken word artists in the country. Known within the national slam community for their attention to poetic craft and the art of writing, Ryler Dustin, Brian S. Ellis, Denise Jolly and Danny Sherrard straddle the line between academic and slam poetry. Editing experience, works appearing in literary magazines, academic training, teaching experience and a vivacious love of written poetry augment Twilight Punch's impressive slam credentials.
Brian has represented Boston at both national and world poetry slams. In 2007, Ryler was ranked the eigth best slam poet in the world at the Individual Word Poetry Slam, and Danny won first place in the Individual National Poetry Slam. Denise has co-coached the Seattle Slam Team and emceed numerous poetry events. All four poets have performed spoken word around the country in places like Red Rock Amphitheater, Bumbershoot, The Bowery Poetry Club and UC Santa Cruz. These writers are not only able to craft beautiful work, but able to rock audiences with their humor and accessibility. This makes them ideal for literary festivals, colleges, art galleries, poetry series and music venues.

Twilight Punch also offers workshops and classroom visitations that draw upon the group's impressive portfolio of teaching experience. Ryler has served as co-professor for an advanced poetry class focusing on spoken word at Western Washington University and presented/discussed poetry for middle school students through Seattle Arts and Lectures. Denise launched the education program for Eleventh Hour Productions, led a workshop at Young Chicago Authors and has taught poetry at numerous elementary and high schools, Cascadia Community College and Cook County Detention Center. Together, Denise and Ryler taught a poetry workshop at UC Santa Cruz and Boise State University.



Written By: Ryler Dustin

If I ever believed in angels,
I’d believe in street wanderers watching us
from alleyways and the sides of greasy dumpsters,
hanging on gutters,
drinking out of paper bags from rooftops,
muttering in the shadows about
human struggles,
unanswered prayers,
the demons snickering
between our shoulder blades.

They’d communicate with each other
through the curling graffiti
that most of us assume
is the work of some gang
but none of us can really understand.

Warnings like: “Look out for Ryler –
I overheard that kid talking to himself
for the first time in eight years
about how suicide is starting to sound
like another word for clean.”
“Tina’s picked up her crack habit again.
Izrafel and I saw her light up last night
by the warehouse two blocks west.
Be ready for damage control.
She’s gonna cause trouble for people,
gonna start stealing stuff they ain’t never
gonna get back –
and this time
we’re not just talking about
her husband’s wristwatch.”

They’d cover their faces
with knobby, frostbitten fingers
every time we’d stumble past at midnight
hoping we’d be sly enough
to hook someone’s heart at the bar.
They’d grin rotting teeth
and suck their stogies with joy
whenever someone in dread locks
stops to helps a businessman
pick up the papers
that have scattered from his briefcase.

If I believed in angels,
they wouldn’t have white robes
that burnt our eyes like salt
or faces like Roman statues.

They’d be braver than that.

They’d be covert spies
deep in enemy territory.

They’d be the minority –
hunted by things you and I can’t see
except on bad acid trips.

They’d have their heads down, eyes smoldering,
sitting vigilant at closing time
in gasoline painted puddles, sucking rum,
like Vietnam rangers
unable to sleep
for more than forty seconds at a time
not just because they’re keeping watch
but because they’ve seen humans
do things
that only heaven
could wash out of their dreams.

If they ever gave up
and went back.

If I believed in angels,
they’d be the ones
who wouldn’t

They wouldn’t look like Filippo Lippi’s choirboys
or six-winged Catholic seraphim,
wouldn’t part the world’s darkness around them
like Roman candles.

They’d be scared.
And strong.

They’d have broken bottles instead of flaming swords.
They’d be fighting with shadows like schizophrenics.
They’d be sending us desperate blessings
from barrel-fire séances.
They’d be whispering in low voices about
who’s gonna win the war
like Jews
hiding in the shadows of Copenhagen.
They’d shudder from flashbacks
of something terrible they tried to stop
every time
they saw a clothes hanger.
They’d be sending each other encoded
long distance
prayer lists
spray painted on locomotives.

They’d be leather skinned women
and stocking cap men,

and only a few of us would ever notice them:

their black-stained feathers
hidden down trench coats
or hooded sweatshirts,

their insomniac eyes
scanning the streets,

their backs against the walls
of alleyways
with names
and rain.

My Old Man

Written By: Ryler Dustin

My Old Man

When you’re young, love rests awkward against your stomach.
Wears a red hat. Has your left lung tied around its wrist
like a blue balloon. But my love wheezes like an old man
when it sleeps. When it sleeps, I cannot sleep. When it’s awake
I’m even worse for sleep. The old man keeps me up.
He rocks in his old chair, cursing and asking someone to feed the cats.
There are no cats in my chest. The old man is crazy.
I took away his typewriter because the keys kept me up all night
but now he scratches poems on the inside of my tongue.
I don’t know how he gets up there. He writes poems to strangers
just to fuck with me. He writes poems to big breasted women.
He writes poems to the bodies of women and forgets
to put the women in them. He writes poems to men with business suits on
who have forgotten their story isn’t boring, to old ladies crossing the street
and lovers crossing themselves against what their skin wants to do,
to the ones who rush into love too early, knowing it will not last,
praying, Lord, please keep me strong and lonely through all of this
so it does not hurt when I rip pleasure back out of my body.
My old man laughs like a grandmother with a shotgun
blowing my poems out of the sky – not good enough! not good enough!
He is more like a leprechaun than a cupid. He falls in love
with buildings. He falls in love with what people leave behind them: new hairpins
and old archways and apple cores, he hoards apples in my chest
and now my chest is full of apples, my chest is growing into a tree,
trees are aching inside of it like it’s a too-small pot
and the old man is swinging from the branches
yelling Give me back my typewriter, you stupid fuck,
look what you are doing to yourself! So I swallow harder
and type for the both of us,
I type love poems to my mother, saying Thank you for the days
you smiled like a broken fountain and put my problems first,
I type love poems to my father, saying This poem is clearly-phrased
and technical, it is not over-concerned with aesthetics,
this poem reads books like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,
it is like a raft from a desert island or a boy beaten by his father
and then by Vietnam – it survives no matter what,
hopelessness crosses this poem's mind but not its heart,
this poem hopes with all its crossed heart for life, this poem drinks principles,
father, this poem coughs on itself,
father, this poem coughs on itself because it is trying to bigger
than the man who birthed it, but it is just these slung up words,
just these makeshift words slung up in the mouths of strangers
to prop them open and let the light out,
this poem is broken on your knee, father, take it up, like a necklace,
like a wire box, like a birdcage, like something functional, take it up
like a sniper rifle, like a call for backup, like divorce counseling,
like a repairable heart, like fatherhood
and place it on your bookshelf between The Power of Now
and How to Forgive Your Abusive Parent, or inside the cover of How to Forgive
Your Alcoholic Father on his Deathbed
and Then Raise your Children the Way He Should Have,
the way you did, take it into your arms the way you did,
teach this poem to forgive itself so it will stop beating me up
from the inside, hold it softly in your hands like a brittle leaf, like a sunset
you could eat like an orange, like the apples in our backyard,
like the trees in our backyard you used to prune for us every summer,
like every summer igniting into autumn, in our chests,
in licks of red flame and copper wire
and piano notes I want to hang for you in the sky.


Written By: Danny Sherrard

Put me in the distance. you know the distance, right?

(it's out there…)

It's where the truth has this way of answering

all your questions without even having to speak

Like the first time you set eyes on the love

Of your life as they were just walking down the street

Put me in the in the distance.

Where you can riddle rumors

About my existence, like maybe,

(here I name someone in the audience)
will say: I heard Danny was kidnapped
by a renegade Amazon tribe in the Amazon,

but they took him under their wing

so now his blowgun skills are impeccable!

See, when I'm in the distance,

Mythmaking- it wont be my job

Anymore. It'll be yours. and I think

it would be just what the doctor ordered

if I was in the distance so long that there

was a band of Danny impersonators, running

the streets of Seattle (or whatever city I happen to be in)
like quicksand horses

that everyone's eyes could just sort of sink into

and I feel it

Like our heart's are in the distance

Pumping vision into our blood

And blood back into our vision

Distance, It's being able to see things inside-out

distance is where the future grows
distance puts the marrow in tomorrow

Distance is what I want to eat for breakfast

Distance is the bull's eye tattooed to the inside

of my solar plexus and only the sunset can

pierce it, so C.R. when I'm gone I'll be gone, my back

will be turned by the time your arrows are drawn

and the distance that I'm all wrapped up in will

put the potential energy in your quiver, Distance

is the backbone in my swagger and the twang

in my stupid honesty, see? Without the distance

my gunslingers wrists hang lifeless at my sides,

and the gypsy of my lips forgets how to kiss

the sky. without the distance, some nights

I grind my wisdom teeth into a fine powder

and I lace my cigarettes with it, other nights

I use it to fill the empty hour glasses, put them

in the world where things always get turned

upside down to feel like I have more time

I do headstands on escalators.

I Hit my spirit with a reflex hammer

Just to see if its knee jerks, Get used

To the different day same t-shirt

Play with symbols in reverse and reverse

Till I bleed earth, listen, these words

Are patchwork nothing, I left my rags

Right between west 4th and Bleaker,

so now I bare knuckle box the past

with a blindfold On, I keep tomorrow

a breath away and break dawn

like an egg across the home of your hate

Because distance is a dynamite sack of static

Packed with matchsticks stuck

on motion, and I'm a river stone explosion

a chiseled whisper

An echo crumbling into itself

A clover growing its fourth leaf

Check your kinetics

Check my kinetics

striking lightning off the brail of our pulse

Put me in the distance and I will go,

I will go to the pawnshop at the end

Of the universe where the pawnshop

Owner keeps his beard in check

With that razor blade you may of

traded in for a second chance

And he'll look at me with those elusive crossed arms

and wayward smile that pawnshop owners often have

and I think I'll just take a look around. I'll see the angel

wings slung up on the walls and all of our old dreams

bottled in jars on shelves that slant for the weight,

Until I realize that this, this is the farthest I can go

I'll move the distance

Out of the way, walk up

to that pawnshop owner

And say: listen, I've got a great

Story. it's about a spirit trying

to find his way back to his bones.

and I'm willing to trade it in, just

so long as you can give me directions

on how to get back home


Ryler Dustin: "The Lantern Sea," book of poems published by Destructible Heart Press.

Brian Ellis: "Pharmakos" published by Destructible Heart Press, "Kitchen Sink Gothic" published by The Whitehaus Family press, "Toothjuice" spoken word album released by the Whitehaus Family Record.

Denise Jolly: "I've Got a Million Faces" self-published book of poetry.

Danny Sherrard: "Boat Carver" award winning self-published collection of poems.

Set List

Twilight Punch's typical set list consists of approximately 8-12 poems, each an average of two to four minutes in length.
Some of these poems will be duets or group performances, involving the performance of two or more of the poets, interesting choreography or entertaining interactions between the performers.
Between poems, and sometimes during, Twilight Punch is likely to banter with the crowd, engage in humorous or applicable asides and interact in unpredictable and fun ways with the audience.
They may cover the work of poets such as Robert Penn Warren, Walt Whitman, A Tribe Called Quest, Hafiz, Sharon Olds and Shira Erlichman.

Sample Set List:
1. Busboy (Danny Sherrard) - 3 min
2. Voice Box (Denise Jolly) - 2 min
3. Mounting the Earth Part 1 (Brian Ellis) - 1 min
4. Mormon Boys (Ryler Dustin) - 3 min
5. Distance (Danny Sherrard) - 3 min
6. Mounting the Earth Part 2 (Brian Ellis, group) - 1 min
7. Self-Portrait (Brian Ellis) - 3 min
8. My Old Man (Ryler Dustin, group)