Haiku Death Match returns April 21

2017 Haiku Death Match contestant Dianne Borsenik delivering her 17-syllable poem.

On Saturday, April 21, at 7 p.m., eight haiku poets will meet on the Ensemble Theatre stage to battle for audience approval and the 2018 Haiku Death Match Master title. This year marks Heights Arts’ sixth Haiku Death Match, held in April to celebrate National Poetry Month, which raises funds for Heights Arts’ literary activities.

“The fame of the Death Match is spreading,” said Rachel Bernstein, executive director of Heights Arts. “Last year, the event sold out, and this year, we have new contestants from all over Northeast Ohio—some from as far away as Toledo! We’re thrilled this event is getting so popular because everybody has a good time, and it helps fund Heights Arts’ literary programs, like Ekphrastacy and the Cleveland Heights poet laureate.”

Among the haiku warriors competing will be last year’s winner, Ray McNeice. The seven other poet-contestants are Michael Ceraolo, Lorraine Cipriano, Christine Donofrio, Cordelia Eddy, Azriel Johnson, Pat Robertell-Hudson and Bill Schubert. Vince Robinson, the well-known poet, musician and actor, will be the master of ceremonies.

In the competition, pairs of poets read their original haiku aloud, and audience members vote for the poem they like best, with the lower-scoring contestants eliminated. Equal time will be given to both the rowdy and the serene aspects of haiku. In the first half, poets will read contemporary haiku on five subjects: personal relationships, politics, animals in our life, the daily grind, and all things Cleveland. The four poets with the highest scores advance to the semi-finals, in which they will read only classical, nature-oriented haiku. The two highest scorers from this round then battle to the “death,” with the audience deciding the 2018 Haiku Death Match Master.

Tickets are available online at www.heightsarts.org (go to “events” and click on Haiku Death Match). Tickets are $15 general admission; $10 for Heights Arts members. Tickets will be available for purchase at the door, but advance online purchase is encouraged, as the event sells out. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. on the evening of the event.

“The Haiku Death Match is a great way to involve people with poetry, as the audience cheers on the contestants,” said outgoing Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate Christine Howey. “It’s like an arm-wrestling contest with words.”

Think it’s odd that an ancient, contemplative literary form concerned with nuanced observations of nature is the subject of a bare-fisted fight to the finish? Well, there’s plenty of competition in nature, as Howey pointed out: “Consider the daffodil that struggles up through a crack in concrete. Nature is tough, it can handle some competition.”

This year, for the first time, the Haiku Death Match will be held at Ensemble Theatre, housed in the former elementary school at 2843 Washington Blvd., on the grounds of what is now known as the Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus.

Celeste Cosentino, executive artistic director of Ensemble Theatre, said, “I am really excited to have the Haiku Death Match here. What a great new audience it will bring to our theatre!”

Meredith Holmes

Meredith Holmes, a freelance writer, is a former Cleveland Heights poet laureate.

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Volume 11, Issue 4, Posted 10:25 AM, 03.27.2018