2016 Ferndale Cherry Blossom Festival
Haiku Contest Winners

The following are my selections and commentary from the first Ferndale Cherry Blossom Festival haiku contest, held in the spring of 2016. The festival was held in Ferndale, Washington, where I also gave a haiku workshop at the Ferndale library (earlier in the year). The contest sought haiku entries from residents of Ferndale and the surrounding Whatcom County area.

First Place

        Chair facing water . . .
        Blossoms fall on book pages
        Open, but unread

                Denise Binderup, Bellingham, Washington

A beautiful image of spring welcomes us into this poem. The chair seems empty for the same reason that the book is open but unread. Surely the cherry blossoms are the priority at the moment, and the person implied in the poem has risen to enjoy them. Or perhaps the blossoms will greet the person missing from the poem as soon as he or she returns from some distraction or duty. This is a poem I enjoy dwelling in.

Second Place

        Floating in the tub—
        Both cherry blossoms and you
        Pink from your first bath

                Denise Binderup, Bellingham, Washington

I imagine an infant receiving his or her first bath in this poem, and what a lovely touch, as if it’s a special ritual, something to be remembered, that cherry petals have been added to the water. It’s lovely to think that the baby is as pink as those blossoms!

Third Place

        three squawking blackbirds land
        on blossoming cherry tree branch
        pink petals fly

                Janet H. Junkuntz, Ferndale, Washington

It’s almost as if the cherry petals want to escape the raucous blackbirds. This poem presents a strong visual image, and I particularly like how the pink seems pinker because of its contrast with the blackness of blackbirds. This poem reminds us how briefly cherry blossoms last.

Parting Thoughts

Two useful targets to aim at when writing traditional haiku include the season word (cherry blossoms achieve that for this contest) and having a two-part structure in which one image is presented with another. A third target is to focus on being objective in one’s description of images experienced through the five senses. This lets the poem create an experience, which lets the reader interpret the images and have his or her own emotional reaction. We see these targets in each winning poem. Don’t write about your emotions; instead, write about what caused your emotions. Haiku is a wonderful way to sharpen one’s sensitivity to seasonal changes, and what better seasonal change to celebrate than the cherry blossoms of spring? Congratulations to each of the winners, and thank you to all other poets who submitted poems and thereby participated in the celebration of Ferndale’s blooming cherry trees.
        For more information on haiku, please consider joining the Bellingham Haiku Group, Haiku Northwest, or the Haiku Society of America. My website, at www.graceguts.com, also has many helpful links relating to haiku, especially on the Essays, Further Reading, and Haiku and Senryu pages. Extend your appreciation of the spring season to a celebration of all the other seasons, too!