This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 670,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

GumptionFest's annual Haiku Death Match only 2 days away ....

Time to get writing, poets. The Haiku Death Match nears.
You need about 20 haiku to compete. The more, the better, however.

GumptionFest VII's Haiku Death Match, aka GF7HDM

As in past years, we will hold a Haiku Death Match, (not a "death match" per se, but a Head-to-Head Haiku Slam), at GumptionFest VII. GumptionFest VII will be Friday to Sunday, Sept. 14 to 16, along Coffee Pot Drive and State Route 89A in West Sedona.

The Haiku Death Match will be held Saturday, Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. at the Szechuan Martini Bar, on the north side of State Route 89A.

Challenge last year's champion, Teresa Newkirk,
and vie for the
Grand Prize of $17

A Haiku Poetry Slam is a competitive poetry duel that is a subgenre of poetry slam. The Haiku Poetry Slam is a prominent feature at the annual National Poetry Slam, replete with full costume for the host, in the style of former NPS hosts Daniel Ferri and Jim Nave and current NPS host Taz Yamaguchi.

At GumptionFest VII, we will attempt to hold a Haiku Death Match as similar to the NPS Haiku Poetry Slam version as possible.

Can you beat The Klute, the 2010 GumptionFest Grand Haikuster?
What is haiku?
Haiku (俳句) is a form of Japanese poetry consisting of 17 syllables in three metrical phrases of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.

Japanese haiku typically contain a kigo, or seasonal reference, and a kireji or verbal caesura. In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line, while haiku in English usually appear in three lines, to parallel the three metrical phrases of Japanese haiku.

What is slam haiku?
Slam haiku used in a Haiku Death Match is far simpler: Use of three or fewer lines of 17 syllables. Slam haiku can be anything from a single 17-syllable line or simply 17 words.

A standard Haiku Death Match is conducted thus:
The host randomly draws the names of two poets, known as haikusters, from the pool of competitors.
The haikusters adorn headbands of two colors: Red and Not-Red (white).
Red Haikuster and Host bow to each other.
Not-Red Haikuster and Host bow to each other.
Red Haikuster and Not-Red Haikuster bow to each other.
Red Haikuster goes first.
The Red Haikuster reads his or her haiku twice. The audience does not clap or make noise (usually, though, they laugh or vocalize, but, of course, we must pretend that this is completely unacceptable).
The Not-Red Haikuster reads his or her haiku twice. Again, the audience does not clap or make noise.
The host waits for the three judges to make their choice for winner, then signals them to hold aloft their Red or Not-Red flag.
Simple majority (3-0 or 2-1) determines the winner.
The host asks the audience to demonstrate “the sound of one hand clapping,” i.e., silence, then “the sound of two hands clapping,” at which point they can finally applaud. The mock ceremony involving the audience is half the fun.
The winning haikuster then goes first.
Depending on the round, the winner will be best 3 of 5, 4 of 7, best 5 of 9, etc., of a number determined beforehand for each round.
After the duel, Red Haikuster and Not-Red Haikuster bow to each other and shake hands. The next duel begins.
Rules for the GumptionFest VI Haiku Death Match:
  • Titles: Haikusters can read their haiku titles before they read the haiku. (This gives the haikusters technically more syllables to put the haiku in context, but the haiku itself must still be only 17 syllables. While this is not “pure” Haiku Death Match rules, it’s much more fun for the audience.

  • Originality: Poets must be the sole authors of the haiku they use in competition. Plagiarized haiku are grounds for disqualification. We all love Matsuo Bashō, but he’s 300 years too dead to compete.

  • On-page or memorized?: Poets can read from the page, book, journal, notepad, etc.

  • Preparation: Poets can have haiku written beforehand or write them in their head while at the mic. As long as the haiku are 17 syllables, we don’t care how, when or from where the haiku originates.

  • Rounds: Will be determined by the number of haikusters who sign up to compete.

  • Quantity of haiku needed: Depends on the number of rounds. 30 haiku will likely be enough for poets who push rounds to the last haiku needed and go all the rounds, but 50 to 100 gives haikusters enough material to be flexible in competition. Most veteran haikusters have several hundred to compete with.

  • Censorship: Adult themes and language are acceptable. There may be children present so you may have to deal with their parents afterward, but that’s your call.

  • Register early: E-mail me at
What’s the Best Strategy to Win?
  • A winning haikuster is flexible.

  • If your opponent reads a serious or deep haiku, read one that is more serious or more profound, or go on the opposite tack and read something funny.

  • If your opponent reads a funny haiku, read one that is funnier, or go on the opposite tack and read something serious or deep.

  • If your opponent makes fun of you, make fun of yourself even bigger or make fun of them. A good head-to-head haiku can work wonders and often wins a Haiku duel. For instance, my “Damien Flores Haiku,” “Easy way to win: / Damien is 20, Officer, / and he's drunk."

  • If you’re on stage and you get an idea for a haiku, feel free to write it down immediately. That might be the next round’s haiku that wins you the duel.

  • Have a good time. Even if don't get past the first round, it's still a great time for all.

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