2010 Haiku Invitational

Judge’s Comments
on the 2010 Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational

The following comments originally appeared in the Haiku Invitational section on the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website in the fall of 2010. With a different introduction, the following text also appeared in a Haiku Canada sheet in the spring of 2011, distributed with the Haiku Canada Review (5:1, February 2011), and in Terry Ann Carter’s Lighting the Global Lantern: A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Haiku and Related Literary Forms (Yarker, Ontario: Wintergreen Studios Press, 2011). The following image shows a bus placard used in 2011 to promote the festival throughout greater Vancouver on city buses and SkyTrains (featuring winning poems from 2010). See also the “VCBF 2010 Haiku Canada Sheet” on the Trifold Downloads page.      +       +

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is pleased to announce the following winners of its 2010 Haiku Invitational. These five top poems will be read at a spring 2011 performance of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and will appear on TransLink buses and SkyTrains in and around Vancouver, British Columbia, in the spring of 2011. This website lists many additional Sakura Award and Honourable Mention poems that you can also enjoy. Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to everyone who entered for helping to celebrate spring and cherry blossoms. The following comments on each poem are by 2010 Haiku Invitational judge, Michael Dylan Welch.

Best British Columbia Haiku

biopsy . . .

but just for today

cherry blossoms

        Laryalee Fraser

        Salmon Arm, British Columbia

In the Japanese tradition, cherry blossoms are the supreme symbol of life’s fleeting, ephemeral nature. In this case, the blossoms offer respite from the sometimes harsh reality of daily living. Despite a biopsy, and whatever unwanted news that procedure might bring, the poet finds relief from her anxiety upon seeing cherry blossoms. Nineteenth-century agriculturalist Donald G. Mitchell has written that “I love better to count time from spring to spring; it seems to me far more cheerful to reckon the year by blossoms than by blight.” This poem brims with optimism that we can only hope will spill into the future and not remain for today only.

Best Canadian Haiku

holding hands

for the first time

cherry blossoms

        DeVar Dahl

        Magrath, Alberta

Romance may well be the impetus for two people in this poem holding hands for the first time, or there may be motives other than romance. Whatever the case, the magic of the blossoms has inspired two viewers to hold hands, and thus commemorate the moment of enjoying the blossoms as a shared moment. This is a poem of joy, and also a poem of shared joy. Sharing is one of haiku’s goals, too, as the poet imparts his or her moments of perception and feeling to the reader.

Best United States Haiku

a sudden hush

among the children

cherry blossom rain

        Melissa Spurr

        Joshua Tree, California

It is easy to imagine children playing loudly and enthusiastically, no doubt heedless of the beauty of cherry blossoms—until a gust of wind, or perhaps just a breeze, causes a shower of blossoms to flutter down among them. The children are momentarily captivated, and thus become quiet. At such moments, too, don’t we all become children, reveling in the wondrous beauty of nature? Here, too, we can equate the fleetingness of cherry blossoms with the fleetingness of childhood.

Best International Haiku

cherry trees in bloom—

if only I could stop

the wind

        Lucas Garczewski

        Poznan, Poland

Cherry blossoms are more beautiful because we know how briefly their beauty survives. Here the poet expresses a desire to sustain their beauty by wishing to stop the wind. And yet, despite this wish, we can see that a wind has swept through the cherry trees, setting blossoms to flutter down to the ground. In this poem we see a clear image and also see through a window into the poet’s mind, and his yearning for the beauty of cherry blossoms to linger. Yoshida Kenko once said that “Blossoms are scattered by the wind and the wind cares nothing, but the blossoms of the heart no wind can touch.” This is a poem that speaks of the heart.

Best Youth Haiku

the inspiration

for my wardrobe choice today—

pink cherry blossoms

        Rukshila Dufault, age 17

        Port Coquitlam, British Columbia

This poem salutes the changing of seasons to spring, where vibrant blossoms make the poet aware of the colour pink after a possibly drab winter. She is thus inspired to wear pink herself. The blossoms not only inspire but validate her choice. Perhaps, too, her wardrobe choice validates the cherry blossoms, or we might say that her choice recognizes the cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms may ask no more of us than simply to recognize that they exist, as fleeting as they may be. But this is no small gesture, recognizing not only our relationship with nature, but even, at times, our identification with it. Perhaps Rukshila’s poem might encourage other students to enter the VCBF Haiku Invitational. I look forward to reading such poems in the future.