First Haiku Slam at the National Poetry Slam

Yes, it’s true. In 1993, more or less on a whim, I entered the first-ever Haiku Slam held in conjunction with the National Poetry Slam in San Francisco, 29 September to 2 October 1993. I don’t remember the location, but I do remember that the room was packed with at least a hundred people. I got third place. The eventual winner, whose name now escapes me, graciously told me that I was clearly the only poet writing “real” haiku and should have been the winner. I recall that I won my round to get third place by reading the following poem, instead of reading senryu that normally pleased the crowd, and that perhaps the unexpected seriousness of the poem caught the attention of the audience:

after the quake

the weathervane

pointing to earth

I’ve generally not participated in poetry slams, haiku or otherwise, but have twice been featured poet at the Seattle Poetry Slam, where I read selections of my haiku. These two performances, once with James Whetzel accompanying me with music, have both been for the organization’s annual Haiku d’Etat haiku slam. The Haiku d’Etat event in Seattle takes place in November every year, in the week before Thanksgiving, and always attracts a hefty crowd.