Newly published in the Golden Haiku Contest

I have a thing for daffodils. They are the first flowers of spring in my neighborhood, and they crop up in odd places.

Last year, a poem I wrote about daffodils was chosen to be displayed as public art in the Golden Triangle District of Washington, D.C.

This year, I entered the same contest. Again, I didn’t win, but it was yet another poem about daffodils that was chosen for publication in this unusual and clever fashion. I hope they place my poem next to an errant daffodil.

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You can read the winning contest entries here, along with other poems, like mine, that were also chosen for display.

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Evolution of the Poem: charcoal landscape …

If you’ve read my poetry, or follow my Instagram account, you’ll notice that I have an obsession with clouds (see photo above!). Last December, this poem of mine was published in the new Autumn Moon Haiku Journal:

charcoal landscape
a smudge of nimbostratus
on the horizon

I like this poem because it captures the ephemeral nature of clouds. I can almost visualize the artist at the easel, trying to get the effect just right before the cloud changes shape again.

When I was very small, I took an art class and used charcoal pencils. Over the years, I’ve taken more of a liking to pencil sketches, but the technique of shading – or attempting to capture a moment through shading – is similar. For me, this reminds me of smudging and erasing and smudging again, coupled with watching clouds and trying to capture their beauty in words or by photograph.

Now, similar to other poems I’ve explored through Evolution of the Poem, this one didn’t start out this way. An early draft read:

shaded charcoal lines
smudged slightly at the edges …
nimbostratus clouds

In retrospect, there’s a lot wrong with this picture. First of all, there is no picture. What are we even looking at? L1 doesn’t tell us.

L2 doesn’t fare much better. The phrase “slightly at the edges” is wordy and doesn’t add anything to the image.

L3 is redundant. I remember thinking that it was a heavy line, ponderous like a dark cloud ready to rain, but in reality, it just weighs down the poem.

I played around with this haiku for at over three years – and it was rejected at least twice – before it found a home.

Thoughts on Mindfulness

I was sitting in the doctor’s office yesterday, scrolling through an app on my iPhone, when a television commercial caught my eye.

“Is that lady orange?” I asked the woman sitting next to me.

Her eyes moved from the mounted television to my face. “Oh,” she said, as though I’d woken her from a dream, “I wasn’t paying any attention.”

It occurred to me then that mindfulness in this age of media saturation is truly a challenge. On one hand, in order to experience some semblance of internal peace, you need to be able to ignore the constant barrage of “Pay attention to me!” screaming from a wide range of electronic devices. Even pumping your gas or grabbing a burger, there’s a constant stream of “news” blaring from nearby screens, demanding your attention.

On the other hand, mindfulness requires that we sit in the present moment and experience what is going on around us. It’s the main reason that I write haiku poetry – it forces me to stop and pay attention to my surroundings. What do I see when I look at this acorn? How does the air smell right before a thunderstorm? How does this chili taste?

I don’t have any answers for maintaining a balance between tuning out what I am starting to think of as the rage machine of today’s media, and focusing on what truly matters to us. I suspect that the answers lie with folks who have grown up in the digital age – people who don’t remember four TV stations (CBS, NBC, ABC, and a pixelated version of PBS) or the excitement of playing that new game, Pong. I need to ask my kids for advice.

How do you retain your mindfulness in the digital age without getting overwhelmed? Let me know in the comments.  

  My cousin took this great picture of me last summer at the Missouri Botanical Garden. I was so intent on taking a picture of the dragonflies circling the lily pads that I almost missed the one on my phone!

Newly published in the Golden Triangle

Today, I received notice from the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District that one of my haiku placed as a runner up in their recent garden haiku poetry contest. 

daffodils —
freshly cut
bangs

This means that somwhere, in downtown D.C., my haiku is posted as a sign in a flower bed. How cool is that!


Coming to my Senses

I write a monthly naturalist column as part of my volunteer work at a local nature sanctuary. These mini essays are posted near the trailhead to help visitors enjoy their experiences at the nature center. January is kind of a tricky month, because, at first glance, there’s not much to see. The trees are lifeless, the ground is muddy, and the animals are all holed up because it’s cold.

So, I decided to write about using your four senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch – to really experience nature. (You can’t use taste – it’s a nature sanctuary and you aren’t supposed to eat anything!)

I also thought I’d include a haiku poem of mine to illustrate this point, so I scoured my files for a winter-themed poem that focused on sound.

What a rude awakening! Not only do I have very few haiku written about winter, I have just a handful of haiku written about sound, and most of those are spring-themed. I am partial to frogs and woodpeckers, so frog calls and rat-a-tat-tatting show up with some frequency in my poetry. But I am seriously lacking in sensory imagery apart from visual.

I think, for the next month, I am going to focus on sound in my haiku. Care to join me? What sense are you ignoring in your poetry? If you write haiku, does a certain season dominate your work?

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My Favorite Free Haiku Contests

HaikuNow! Contests
The Haiku Foundation holds three separate contests concurrently each year. You can enter one poem in English per category: traditional, contemporary, innovative. The winner of each category receives $100 and a certificate. (Deadline: March 31)

The Peggy Willis Lyles Haiku Award
Offered by The Heron’s Nest, this contest is entering its second year. You can submit up to five haiku in English. Winners receive cash prizes and other goodies. (Deadline June 1, 2014)

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational
If cherry blossoms inspire your poetry, enter two poems about sakura here. This year’s theme is “Meet your neighbours.” There’s no monetary prize for winning this contest, but you do get publication, fame, and glory. (Deadline: June 2, 2014)

International “Kusamakura” Haiku Competition
You can enter two haiku in this contest offered by the city of Kumamoto. The grand winner receives 50,000 yen. (Deadline: mid-September)

Polish International Haiku Competition
Poets are invited to submit one poem in English. Books and diplomas are awarded to the winners. (Deadline: October 31)

Do you have a favorite free haiku contest? Share it in the comments!