Featuring top haiku writers in the city, The Annual Toronto Head-to-Head Haiku Deathmatch took place at the Supermarket Restaurant and Bar this past Thursday. The annual event was produced by Toronto Poetry Project which runs the Toronto Poetry Slam at the Drake Hotel. The host of the show was Cynthia Gould for the evening.

Participation in the event was voluntary; Gould took note of audience members who wanted to participate and randomly selected their order of presentations for different rounds. The participants would each present one of their haikus. Following this, participants won by the number of points distributed by judges. These judges were selected from the audience.

During the first round, the winner had to achieve three points;  in the second, five; and in the final round, it was seven. An incorrect number of syllables in a participant’s haiku resulted in the point going to the opponent.

One of the contestants, Derek Li, described the entire event as being similar to a “rap battle for poetry nerds.”  My favourite haiku of the evening came from the first round: “Friends with benefits?/ I’ve had better benefits/ Working at Walmart.” The crowd erupted with laughter. A similar reaction was seen with Silverberg’s own haiku about Canadian sex: “Thanks a lot eh, nice/ great, you cool, sorry, oh shit/ Canadian sex.”

The deathmatch boiled down to two contestants: Derek Li and Valentino Assenza. This haiku deathmatch was Li’s first ever, while this was Assenza’s third time competing. In the end, Assenza took home the gold.

Assenza won a golden notebook while first, second, and third place contestants received a bag filled with goodies that would help them in their writing

The event was lighthearted and fun. The haikus were clever, funny, original, and very creative. Notably, the contestants displayed good sportsmanship. If you’re ever in the area next year, I highly recommend it, even if you’re not really into poetry. With a low entry price and free participation, this event is a highly enjoyable experience for everyone.


This article has been corrected.
  1. September 19, 2017 at 7 p.m.: The name of the host was corrected, a wrong haiku was replaced with the correct haiku and details about the winner were corrected.
    Notice to be printed on September 25, 2017 (Volume 44, Issue 4).