Tazuo Yamaguchi

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Tazuo Basho Yamaguchi (born 1966) is a Japanese American poet/filmmaker,[1] and a two-time national head to head haiku champion. He is also master of the English form of haiku and senryū. He has published four books of poetry, six recorded volumes, and produced the national Poetry Slam DVDs from 2002 to 2007.


He was born to Edward and Betty Yamaguchi on September 2, 1966 in Tokyo, Japan, into a Japanese American family with direct royal descent to the royal shigin poets and samurai class of ancient Japan. Tazuo was named after his master shigin poet grandmother, Tazue Sakaguchi. He was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of eleven and told his left arm would need to be amputated. It was estimated he had only seven more years to live. For treatment, his mother used alternative methods of healing.

In 1991, Yamaguchi earned a position out of 8000 applicants from around the world to work with George Lucas on several innovative educational entertainment based projects. During this year and half residency working for LucasFilm Ltd. He discovered the power of mythic storytelling through digital media.

From 1992–1995, Yamaguchi ran a San Francisco, California based company called Xstudios that innovated in emerging digital technologies i.e. Interactive Multimedia[disambiguation needed], computer based training. He was one of the forefront leaders of the multimedia revolution of the San Francisco Bay Area. Where the traditional arts of storytelling, poetry, illustration, and the fine arts really started to integrate with emerging digital technologies.

In 1996, Yamaguchi participated in the 15th annual Taos Poetry Circus in Taos, New Mexico. He met Bob Holman and was introduced to the 1981 Chicago invented oral tradition of Al Simmons' original World Heavyweight Poetry Bouts which years later morphed into Poetry Slam. He then proceeded to take his film gear to Portland, Oregon to the 1996 National Poetry Slam. He filmed most of the event and participated in a competition of haiku, a genre of poetry he had practiced since grade school and became the "1996 National Head to Head Haiku Champion". He also collaborates with Paul Devlin national sport videographer/editor on the famous Saul Williams classic Slam Nation.

In 1997, Yamaguchi helped bring the famous Chicago "poetry slam" to the northern state of California. He formed the first National "poetry slam" team from northern California with members - Sacramento based jazz poet Mario Ellis Hill, punk poet Matt Rouse, and bluesman from Grass Valley, John Barbato. He and the team attended the 1997 National Poetry Slam in Connecticut and filmed a majority of the competition.

In 1998, Yamaguchi attended the National Poetry Slam in Austin, Texas to film the competition. He ended up documenting some Poetry Slam's finest moments. The superheroes Jason Edwards, Jason Carney and Gno perfect ten on finals night and the incredible spoken-word breakthrough of that year's national champion Reggie Gibson.

In 2001, Yamaguchi returned to the National Poetry Slam in Seattle, Washington and works with the first official crew to film together at the nationals. He also produced his first documentary film about the Asian American spoken word national movement called Pass it Around (PIA). He took the second Chico Speaks Out National Youth Slam team to Ann Arbor Michigan to compete in Brave New Voices put on by the Neutral Zone.

In 2002, Yamaguchi produced the first DVD of the individual finals and team finals at the National Poetry Slam. He took the third Chico Speaks Out National Youth Slam team to Ann Arbor, Michigan to compete in Brave New Voices put on by the Neutral Zone.

In 2003, Yamaguchi returned to the birth city of the Poetry Slam, Chicago, and produced the second DVD in the Greatest Poetry Slam series. He takes the fourth Chico Speaks Out National Youth Slam team to Chicago to compete in Brave New Voices put on by the Young Chicago Authors. The Chico Speaks Out Youth team won the best of show national spirit award and performed on the finals stage.

In 2004, Yamaguchi won his second national Haiku head to head championship in Greenville, South Carolina at the Individual World Poetry Slam Championships. He filmed this event and also produced the National Poetry Slam DVD of the 2004 nationals in St. Louis. He took the fifth Chico Speaks Out national poetry slam team to Los Angeles to compete in Brave New Voices put on by Youth Speaks

In 2005, Yamaguchi produced the Individual World Poetry Slam DVD live from Worcester, Massachusetts. He produced the National Poetry Slam from Albuquerque, New Mexico. He took the sixth Chico Speaks Out National youth slam team to compete in San Francisco at the Brave New Voices Festival. They took third place in the nation.

In 2006, Yamaguchi became the official host of PSI Haiku head to head matches in the United States. He hosted the 11th annual match in Austin, Texas at the national poetry slam. He produces the Individual World Poetry Slam from Charlotte, North Carolina and National Poetry Slam from Austin.

In 2007, Yamaguchi hosted the first ever Haiku head to head matches at the Haiku Society of America Conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He also documented the conference and began production on the first film about English writing Haiku....called "Haiku".[2][not in citation given] He hosted the national Head to head Haiku bout in Austin, Texas to the sold out audience of 300 plus at the famous blues club - Antone's. He formed the first American Haiku Battle Duo with Adam 'Henzbo' Henze.

In 2008, Yamaguchi worked on two graphic Haiku novels: Orugen and TheAmericanBuddhas. He planned to film the first Women of the World Poetry Slam in March 2008 in Detroit. The Film Haiku will be released in spring of 2008.


  1. ^ http://www.newsreview.com/chico/content?oid=998510
  2. ^ (26 October 2008). Carlos Colon, The Times (Shreveport), Retrieved December 3, 2010 ("Tazuo Yamaguchi also a poet filmed the documentary at the biennial Haiku North America conference in Winston-Salem N.C. last year")

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