Haiku Death Match Held -- Vanfosson Emerges Victorious

Haiku Death Match Held -- Vanfosson Emerges Victorious
Jacklyn Larew, student intern

What do you get when you combine a “death hat”, 90 seconds, and 17 syllables? The Fifth Annual Haiku Death Match!

This fall, the Death Match went eleven rounds as three combatants battled to combine 17 syllables into a winning haiku. Haiku is a major form of Japanese verse written in 17 syllables divided into three lines of five, seven and five syllables. 

For the first time this year, the combatants were three FSU alumni: Jason Vanfosson, Angela Rehbein and Molly Born. After topics were selected from the “death hat” by the Master of Ceremonies, Jack Hussey, their poems faced the judgment of former Death Match combatants: “Mighty Podman” Adam Podlaskowski, Assistant Professor of Philosophy; Fran “Capt’n” Kirk, Associate Professor of Communication and Theatre; and current title holder, Chris “The Godmutha” Lavorata, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.         

After an eleventh-round tiebreaker Fairmont State University alumnus Jason Vanfosson,“Sgt. Jason Van Gothsome”, emerged victorious over two fellow alums and was named the 2012 King of Haiku.

Angela Rehbein, “Punny Honey”, came in second place.  Molly Born, “The Molly Born Ultimatum”, came in third place.

This year’s haiku topics included cheese, love, liquor or beer, zoo animals, fishnets, skin, menopause, your mom, Haiku Death Match, “Moby Dick” and “50 Shades of Grey.”

All of the combatants agreed that menopause was the most challenging topic to write about in a haiku. “The worst one was menopause. I really struggled with that one,” Rehbein said. However, it wasn’t the only topic the combatants found challenging to write about.

“‘Moby Dick’” was really hard for me because I haven’t read the book,” Born said. Although it was a tough one for Born, it was easy for Vanfosson. “‘Moby Dick’ was my favorite. It’s going to be a chapter in my dissertation,” he said.

Vanfosson is currently attending graduate school at Western Michigan University and is working toward a Ph. D. He graduated from FSU in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. He added, “I think all of the alumni served all of their classes very well [at the haiku death match]. I’m very proud to represent the class of 2009.”

He has been involved with the haiku death matches since their very beginning. “I was actually a part of the very first haiku match. I hosted and I tried to stay involved. I try to come back every year for this because I helped create it with Elizabeth Savage,” Vanfosson said.

Dr. Elizabeth Savage, Professor of English, helped create the event.       

“It’s been a vision I’ve had from the beginning that students would at least eventually become participants, and I’m hoping this will operate as a kind of bridge that will encourage students to consider entering the competition,” Savage explained.

Unlike Vanfosson, Rehbein had never been to a match before. “I didn’t know what to expect. It was probably just about as rowdy as I thought it would be,” Rehbein said.

Rehbein graduated in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She is now a faculty member at West Liberty University as an assistant professor of English in the Humanities Department.

Like all of the alumni, Rehbein was honored to be a part of the competition. “I have a lot of fond memories of being here at Fairmont State. I loved my time here, and I was really happy to come back,” she said.

Born graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French. She currently works at the “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” as a reporter. “Elizabeth invited me and I haven’t been on campus for awhile. I live in Pittsburgh, but it’s a couple of hours away and I hadn’t been home in awhile. I really wanted to come back and see everyone and see all these professors that helped me get where I am,” Born said.   

All of the combatants praised the event. Born added, “I love that it’s interdisciplinary. The judges are from all different parts of the University and have been contestants in the past.”

The Haiku Death Match organizer, Dr. Elizabeth Savage, is a Professor of English in FSU’s College of Liberal Arts. Jack Hussey is an author and retired as a faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts. Chris Lavorata is FSU’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Fran Kirk is an Associate Professor of Communication and Theatre in the FSU School of Fine Arts. Adam Podlaskowski is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts.