2007 Drevniok Award—Haiku Canada

First written in April of 2008, and published in the 2007 contest results flyer in May 2008. Also published in Playing a Lullaby: The Betty Drevniok Awards 1998–2011 (Ottawa, Ontario: Éditions des petits nuages, 2012), compiled and edited by Mike Montreuil.         +
 
                Michael Dylan Welch, judge
 

First Prize

the paramedic feeling

for a pulse

                      fireflies

 

                Francine Banwarth

                Dubuque, Iowa

 

Such a contrast of emotions here. The trauma of an accident rakes against the contemplative tranquility of noticing fireflies. We may wonder if the paramedic detects no pulse, and then notices the fireflies. Or maybe, just as the paramedic notices the fireflies, he or she also feels a pulse. Or perhaps the paramedic merely notices the fireflies, but still doesn’t know if the victim is alive or not. The fireflies may symbolize the victim’s life that continues despite an accident, or perhaps the ephemerality of fireflies echoes the loss of the victim’s life. Either way, how does it feel to be that paramedic caught between these two extremes? This poem shows us, and as readers we oscillate between these two meanings, caught between living and loss.
 

Second Prize

in her hand

the downed branch

dancing again

 

                Carol Pearce

                New York, New York

 

This poem has a lovely ambiguity. The last line can refer not only to the branch but also to the person who picks up the branch. We may wonder if some sadness or loss has afflicted the woman in the poem, keeping her from dancing—or from feeling like it. And then, despite the loss of the downed branch, the woman picks it up and not only helps the branch to “dance” as it once did in the wind, but also dances again herself. This spring, where I live, we had a surprise late snowstorm that damaged many blossoming cherry trees. It was particularly poignant to see cracked and downed branches that were already in full bloom. The joy of this poem inspires me to dance with one of those branches.
 

Third Prize

white ice on the willows

my hand slipping

                                   into yours

 

                Lin Geary

                Paris, Ontario

 

I seem to have a weakness for poems about hands. One hand slipping into another indicates affection and also, in this poem, perhaps a need for safety or the offering of safety. We normally think of willows in spring and summer as protective and romantic, but here ice threatens them. That ice also makes walking difficult. The simple act of joining hands brings together both love and safety, and the safety is both physical and emotional. The protective nature of the willow may remind the observer in the poem to offer his or her partner the extra safety of a held hand, or perhaps, on seeing the willow, the observer fears the danger of ice, and seeks that hand to hold. The ice in this poem takes the romance of holding hands under a willow deftly from summer into a freshly different season.


Honourable Mentions

 
long spring evening:

double-decker

gets fitted with new ads

 

                Merilyn Peruniak

                Athabasca, Alberta

 

 

a sliver of clay

flies off the potter’s wheel

the moon almost full

 

                Barry Goodmann

                Hackensack, New Jersey

 

 

fading harbour light

becoming brisker

her brush strokes

 

                André Surridge

                Hamilton, New Zealand

 

 

first warm day

father gets out

his cap and cane

 

                Irene Golas

                Sudbury, Ontario

 

 

        The train’s whistle

for a moment long grass

        blowing west

 

                Leanne McIntosh

                Nanaimo, British Columbia

 

 

the wad of paper

uncrumples

longest night

 

                Francine Banwarth

                Dubuque, Iowa

 

 

more news of the war

looking deeper

into my dog’s eyes

 

                John Quinnett

                Bryson City, North Carolina

 

 

sugar maple

the fingerless gloves

of the fiddler

 

                Roland Packer

                Hamilton, Ontario

 

 

The honourable mention poems, presented in a loosely ranked order, show much variety and freshness. Have you ever seen a poem about a double-decker bus getting new ads? That act of renewal fits nicely with spring. The shape of the clay flying from the potter’s wheel is surely the same as the shape that’s still missing from the almost-full moon. And the painter’s brush strokes quickening in the fading light reveal the tenacity of painters who value the light at the start and close of day (this poem also echoes Dee Evetts’ classic poem, “summer’s end / the quickening of hammers / towards dusk”). I like the joy of “first warm day” where father still enjoys his walks when it’s warm enough, despite the challenges of growing old. We hear the train’s whistle, but of course it’s the rush of wind from the train itself that makes the long grass blow west for a moment, and here “west” may symbolize change and progress, against what seems to be a usual “eastern” wind. We feel the frustration, on that longest night of winter, of crumpling up a piece of paper, yet notice its uncrumpling as we struggle with some task or idea that keeps us awake. While war continues in the Middle East, we are prompted to look deeper not only into the eyes of our pets that don’t know the trouble of war, but also deeper into ourselves, as if we might somehow find answers there. And finally, we can feel the onset of autumn in fiddler’s need to wear gloves while the maple sap runs (lovely sounds in this poem, too).

 

The 2007 Haiku Canada Betty Drevniok Contest received 170 entries. Thank you to Ann Goldring for coordinating this contest, and for giving me the opportunity to serve as judge. Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to all who entered for supporting Haiku Canada.