This past event at BON in Cville, I suffered my first ever haiku death match loss, to my own daughter. I promise to never lose again.
- August 14: BON, Charlottesville, VA, 7:00 pm sign-up, 7:30 pm kick-off
- August 27: Balliceaux, Richmond, VA, 8:00 pm sign-up, 8:30 pm kick-off
- September 11: BON, Charlottesville, VA, 7:00 pm sign-up, 7:30 pm kick-off
- September 24: Balliceaux, Richmond, VA, 8:00 pm sign-up, 8:30 pm kick-off
- October 12: BON, Charlottesville, VA, 7:00 pm sign-up, 7:30 pm kick-off
- October 22: Balliceaux, Richmond, VA, 8:00 pm sign-up, 8:30 pm kick-off
- November 8: BON, Charlottesville, VA, 7:00 pm sign-up, 7:30 pm kick-off
I hope to see all of you and talk in real life and conspire against these fucking robots that are starting to control every aspect of our lives and communications and creations. If you have any questions email me at ravenmack inside google dotcom or hit me up on Facebook where I am Raven Doctorlounge Mack or better yet twitter where I am the rambling subconscious of the Piedmont foothills at SSVa_Raven.
Rojonekku Hand-to-Hand Haiku tournaments are a variation on haiku battles that have existed as an off-shoot to poetry slams for the past decade. Our version was established with students in my Rojonekku Word Fighting Arts school, and has been adapted for public performance/competition. The idea is to be all-inclusive, of styles of poet, of types of people, of modes of thinking, of anything really, so as to cultivate as wide a diversity of short poems as possible. Our world needs more diversity. And then that diversity needs to be more diverse. Ten shades of the same thought is not diversity. Ten different thoughts is.
WHAT HAND-TO-HAND HAIKU ENTAILSA Hand-to-Hand haiku battle works as a single-elimination tournament, meaning any number of people can participate. The first round works to eliminate the field down to the closest number divisible by two, in one-on-one matches. From that point on, it’s a simple matter of one-on-one match-ups to narrow the participants down to four, and then a final two competitors. All early rounds are a best of 3, the semifinals a best of 5, and the finals a best out of 7. The number of rounds required depend on how many competitors.What does “best of” mean, and how does that work? Easy, yo. There will be three judges pre-selected for the night’s festivities. They will have two flags (different ones obviously, we’ll assume red and blue for ease of explanation). In each match-up, one competitor will have a red flag, and the other a blue flag. Red flag reads a haiku first, then blue, then after a brief moment of thought, the three judges, who hold both colored flags, raise the flag of who won that round, in their on-the-spot opinion. Whichever flag a majority of judges raises is considered the winner of that round, meaning if two out of three judges say blue, then blue wins the first round, and is up 1 to 0. Loser of any round reads first the next round, so red would read a second haiku, followed by blue, followed by judges’ decision, and so on, until one of the competitors wins 2 rounds. At most this would need 3 rounds to be completed, thus it is called a best-of-3. The same process is repeated, but with more rounds for the semifinals and finals.This means for all people reading haiku, you may need up to 25 or so different haiku, in the off-chance the first round, the semifinals, and finals all go to their maximum amount of rounds, and that you advance accordingly. Thus, I say you need a minimum of 20-some haiku, although if you are eliminated early or win rounds quickly, most likely very few of you will actually use that many haiku, perhaps even using as few as 2 or 3. No worries; save what you wrote for the next one.Here is the thing though: you select which haiku you read for each round, rather than reading them in a set order, so to have a larger, more varied arsenal of haiku gives yourself the freedom to choose ones that might fit your opponent or the moment more easily, to tap into the flow of the evening, or which one you would assume might strike a favorable mood with the judges. I look at it as each haiku is an arrow, and the more arrows you have in hand, the more likely you are able to find a sharp one. So come equipped as you see fit.On a personal aside, as a man who has literally written several thousand haiku over the past decade, a method I use is writing them one per index card. This is a good method for a hand-to-hand haiku battle, as you can have your handful of index cards, mark out ones you use, and shuffle them around and use them accordingly. Just a tip; you can use it or ignore it as you see fit. Once you use a haiku though, you can’t re-use it in the tournament format again, so if you put them all on one page, put an X next to the ones you’ve used so as to not repeat yourself.
WHAT ABOUT HAIKU?Ah yes, the terribly pretentious question us westerners are forced to ask ourselves with regards to a Japanese literary tradition based on a language of characters while we speak syllables. Haiku traditionally was tied to the seasons, and the most common western translation has been a three-line poem of five syllables, seven syllables, and five syllables, which is often times seen as the truest replication of the Japanese poem. For the sake of our Hand-to-Hand Haiku purposes, to keep everybody on even ground, I tend to encourage that we go with this. Now somebody may say, “Wait, counting syllables goes against what haiku actually is, Raven Mack!” I can assure you, I know this form on a deep and personal level, and could tell you that haiku is not even a poetic form on its own, but is part of a larger group form of poetry called renga where the first part was called hokku and became the title of famous renga poems, thus it became its own thing as literary time passed. So haiku is not even technically what the hell it is supposed to be. So for all haiku traditionalists insulted at counting syllables, once you are holding mass parties where groups of people compose poems as a group with 100 verses per poem, you can hold your complaints to yourself. We cannot accept part of a tradition but pretend the rest doesn’t exist and call ourselves traditionalists. I mean, we could, and in fact that’s what most people do, but I’m not supporting that.So for our sake, our haiku will be three-line poems, preferably of 5-syllables, 7-syllables, and 5-syllables. I will not count them though, and if you feel overly confined by this structure (form is good for you though), you can stretch the definition of haiku to mean a short poem of 17-syllables (or less).Also, traditionally, these have been tied to the seasons, or nature, but I regard the act of haiku as more a meditation or habit of observation, which means all the screwed up parts of the world made by man are as natural as nature, and more than perfect for haiku. You can go traditional or you can go with observing the world around you or you can go experimental. Whatever’s clever. For me, it is a meditation on the world around me, and this can be natural or it can be spiritual or completely inside my own head. I use it as word medicine, so whatever I feel like I need the form to give me, to make me feel better, to help me process the world I’m in, that’s how I go.And obviously, you should write your own haiku. If you have competed before in a different Rojonekku Hand-to-Hand tournament, you're expected to come with fresh material. Obviously there are no haiku police who will count syllables or be like, "Didn't she read that one before?" We, as the viewing community, will police ourselves, so if you are in the crowd at an event and it seems someone's gone long on syllables or repeating themselves, I encourage you to chatter amongst yourselves about it to create that uncomfortable buzz thing that happens in public events. If the competitor repeats these shady activities, hopefully the buzz will turn to outright booing and jeering. In fact, unlike your standard poetry reading, I encourage the crowd to make noise and respond. This is not to be a silent awe affair.
BUT HOW WILL THESE BE JUDGED?A valid question, as none of us wants to be judged, and yet judges will be involved. Honestly, there is no right or wrong way to pick a winner, and this method will always be subjective. Always. But I am going to have three judges, and attempt to curate each of them from a different angle of cultural sensibilities. Judges’ decisions will be final, and also subjective, so never take it personally. This is meant to be fun, and will be fun, so nobody needs to get all, “Damn, why wasn’t my poetic greatness not properly recognized in this damn hand-to-hand haiku thing? This is bullshit!”Judges: You will judge as you feel appropriate. Like I mentioned above, I’ll pick you because I'm thinking you'll observe from a certain perspective, but I might be completely off on judging your personality, so feel free to toss that aside completely and just go with your heart. In fact, the whole point of haiku is to go with your heart, and this whole nonsense endeavor of a tournament is meant to motivate people to go with what’s in their heart, not worry and become anxious.
SO WHAT DO WE WIN?Winner of the night’s tournament will receive the accolades of an adoring attending public, and generally I try to have some sort of prize to present to the winner, depending on what I get my hands on from willing accomplices. As part of hosting the festivities, I'll share some of my own Rojonekku writing, or unique perspective, or perhaps just talk crap about what I've been cooking up in the kitchen. The entire motivation behind Rojonekku WFA (Word Fighting Arts) is to battle the complacency of routine life with words, and this means not just books or printed matter but stories and jokes and strange tales from stranger places and just everything and anything to be honest.So that is how the Hand-to-Hand Haiku Tournament works. If you are interested in participating - which I hope you will be - contact me at ravenmack at gmail dot com. Even though this is developed from the slam poetry tradition, my goal with this is to bring different styles of poets from different backgrounds into a mutually accepted format, and interact. Then we cross-pollinate each other, and everything will taste better.