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World Heavyweight Championship Poetry Bout
Results, 2002

From Anne MacNaughton at the Taos Poetry Circus

Poet Pat Payne, ranked second as a contender in the World Heavyweight Championship Poetry Bout, beat out the top-ranked contender Saul Williams to take the title during the 21st Taos Poetry Circus on Saturday, June 15. The third woman to hold the position, after Anne Waldman and Ntozake Shange, Payne won on a split decision by the panel of three judges, who scored the Bout 95-95, 94-96, 95-95. Held before a crowd of over 900, the event featured the two poets selected by the World Poetry Bout Association to begin a new era of champions following the retirement of four-time Champ Sherman Alexie last fall.

The Poetry Bout consisted of eight rounds of poetry read without accompaniment and one “free form” round that included drumming as backup to Williams' reading, and two superb back-up singers for Payne. The performance concluded with the obligatory “extempore” round, during which the poets drew topics and delivered an immediate poem. Williams drew “burn” and Payne drew “bone” in the tenth round. Three citizens of Taos judged the Main Event, the final show of the nine-day Taos Poetry Circus, and turned in cards giving it to Payne by one round.

Amalio Madueño, President of the WPBA, served as representative of the Office of WPBA Commissioner Al Simmons. He presented Payne with the World Champion Poet's beaded cap; the silver belt buckle designed by Clark Jensen in the shape of the logo on the waistband of a pair of boxing shorts; and the “Max,” a traveling trophy designed by Colorado sculptor Linda Fleming and cast in the shape of a boxing glove on springs.

Each of the two contending poets took two rounds unanimously. Williams took the 5th and 8th rounds on all three judges' cards, and Payne took the 9th and final rounds on all three cards. The judges' cards split for Williams in two rounds, and for Payne in four. An informal “audience vote” gave it overwhelmingly to Williams, with 17% scoring the contest a tie.

This was the 21st year of the popular festival that brings thousands of visitors early each June to this small arts town, high on a mountain plateau above the Rio Grande, by combining performance contests with more standard poetry readings. Also participating in this year's events were such noted poets as Sekou Sundiata, John Balaban, Juan Felípe Herrera, Andrei Codrescu, Anselm Hollo, Sheri-D Wilson and Jill Battson. There were 10 performances in all during the event, as well as daily workshops and free open readings. Videotapes of the performances are available from the World Poetry Bout Association at 877.203.9520. For more information call Morris, 505.758.1800.


1982 Terry Jacobus
1983 Lewis MacAdams
1985 Lewis MacAdams
1986 Andrei Codrescu
1987 Victor Hernández Cruz
1988 Victor Hernández Cruz
1989 Anne Waldman
1990 Anne Waldman (tie, w/ Ed Sanders)
1991 Ntozake Shange
1993 Simon Ortiz
1994 Quincy Troupe
1995 Quincy Troupe
1996 Jimmy Santiago Baca
1997 Jimmy Santiago Baca (tie, w/ Patricia Smith)
1998 Sherman Alexie
1999 Sherman Alexie
2000 Sherman Alexie
2001 Sherman Alexie (tie, w/ Saul Williams)
2002 Pat Payne
World Poetry Bout Association
5275 NDCBU, 232 Paseo del Pueblo Sur
Taos, New Mexico 87571
phone 505.758.1800
email wpba@laplaza.org
a tax-exempt community arts organization

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