Posts Tagged ‘haiku’


Photo: Wycliffe College/PA
English school girl
Gracie Starkey wrote a winning haiku. Here she is at the prize-giving ceremony in Tokyo.

I’ve always liked the standard 17-syllable haiku poem and taught the form to fifth graders years ago. Asakiyume remembers one I wrote for her at a business magazine where we worked. It was about a dream she’d recounted, and it referred to the moon as “trending downward” (business jargon we heard a lot).

Of course, most experts are Japanese. Until now. Here is a story my husband emailed me about a young girl in England who won a haiku contest.

Steven Morris writes at the Guardian, “A British schoolgirl inspired by an autumnal stroll across a newly mown lawn has become the first non-Japanese person to win a prestigious haiku competition.

“Gracie Starkey, 14, from Gloucestershire, beat more than 18,000 entries to take the prize in the English-language section of the contest organised annually by a Japanese tea company. …

“As she and a friend took a walk after [her school’s haiku] workshop, grass cuttings stuck to her footwear and the haiku came to her:

“Freshly mown grass
“clinging to my shoes
“my muddled thoughts

“Her poem – a non-traditional form that does not follow the classic five-seven-five syllable pattern – was entered into the competition organised by the multinational Ito En, first held in 1989. For the first 27 years the English-language section was won by Japanese people. …

“Gracie said she was amazed when she heard she had won and had been invited to Tokyo.

“ ‘I could only tell my mum and dad and sister and my Japanese teacher at Wycliffe College,’ said Gracie. ‘I told my friends that I was going to Wales for a week and that I wouldn’t have any phone reception.’ …

“As well as winning the trip, Gracie’s poem was rendered by a famous calligrapher, and she received a cash prize. Most thrillingly, her poem is being reproduced on thousands of bottles of green tea. …

“Previously she had little interest in poetry. ‘This has certainly made me more interested in poetry and in Japanese culture.’ ”

More at the Guardianhere.

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“New York City is using poetry to boost traffic safety. The city is installing 200 colorful 8-inch square signs featuring haiku about safety at cultural spots, schools, and high accident areas. In an age when many messages compete for attention, officials hope that ones such as

‘Oncoming cars rush
‘Each a 3 ton bullet
‘And you, flesh and bone’

“will encourage pedestrians to exercise caution.”

So writes the Innovators Insights listserv, linking to the CBS New York news story, where you will find some amused and amusing comments from New Yorkers.

“ ‘What we’ve learned that is that the more innovative the message and with a little bit of humor, or something a little off beat, is much more effective form of communication,’ Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said.”

Reminds me of my October post on traffic mimes in Caracas. Remember? There’s something delightfully incongrous about traffic adminsitrators being the ones, out of all possible professions, to use mimes and haiku to further their work objectives.

But maybe I don’t know much about traffic administrators.

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Dear Poetry Lovers,

Please send me a haiku of yours to post. You may use the e-mail suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com or put your haiku in Comments. Let me know if you want me to use your first and last name or not.

I’ll start with one of mine.

Struck by lightning bug
Years ago, I know to look
For veiled messages.

Jane is letting me share this one of hers


 A child’s crayon suns,
Galaxies strewn on green skies;
The leaves are bitter.

Here is one Asakiyume wrote on a Halloween in the 1990s. She has probably forgotten.

Leaves salute the sun
Then fade away; the planet
Tilts toward dark, and night.

You can subscribe to A Poem A Day from the Academy of American Poets. I signed up after a tip from Ronnie, and I like the daily fix. It reminds me of book my friend Pam gave me when I moved to Minneapolis for a few years. It, too, was called A Poem A Day, and I liked getting into the habit of a daily read. Later, during a year of cancer ups and downs, a photocopied book of daily readings selected by patients was soothing. It’s out of print, and I’ve yet to find one I like as much for friends going through the same business. If you know a good one, I’m all ears.


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Every once in a while the urge to write doggerel just overwhelms a person, and you have to give in. It seemed to happen more often when I had young children in the house.

Basil, Basil, you’re a cat
Never try denying that
Stand up for your kitty mother
Turn your back on no cat brother
When the cat god calls your name,
Let there be no cause for blame.
Future generations all
Will praise the cat that heard the call.

Or how about this ditty, which I associate with Suzanne’s friend Joanna, who must have been visiting when the urge overcame me:

Think how lovely it would be
Living always by the sea
Eating muffins with our tea
And jam.

Finally, when Asakiyume and I were working at a famous management journal and hearing lots of jargon, I used one such hackneyed phrase in a haiku I wrote about a dream Asakiyume described:

Watercolor moon
Grows larger nightly and yet
Is trending downward

My father was his class poet at Princeton, and I think he must be turning over in his grave right now.

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