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First Annual Picayune Writers Group Haiku Contest

Into the cage of

fireflies, mostly dead,

I send a breath

20th century Japanese haiku poet Kasho as translated by lucien Stryk in “Cage of Fireflies”.

The Picayune Writer’s Group is proud to announce its first annual haiku contest. The contest is open to applicants of all ages and from every walk of life. To encourage maximum participation in the contest, application forms upon which to write and submit your haiku as well as the collection boxes to put them in will be available at the following locations: Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library, Barze’ Place Antique Mall, 213 Hwy. 11 South, Bill’s Quick Stop and at the Senior Center. The contest will be open on January 1, 2012 and will close on March 31, 2012. There will be a first, second and third place winner as well as honorable mention. No entry fee is required, and winners will be published in the Picayune Item. The Picayune Writer’s Group reserves the right to publish your haiku in their anthology. Except for this, all rights to your poem revert to you. Entries will not be returned to you, so be sure and save a copy of your haiku for yourself.

What is a haiku? First, a haiku is a short poem that originated in Japan. Typical haiku generally have seventeen or fewer syllables. A trend in haiku publishing since the 1980’s has been to write shorter poems-often haiku containing nine to sixteen syllables. Occasionally, a poet will exceed seventeen syllables by one or two syllables, but after reading thousands of poems I have only seen one as long as nineteen syllables. Typical haiku are written in three lines of short, long short length, although some poets will write in another form. Unlike some other poetry forms, haiku are written in the present tense.

As important as form, the content of your haiku will be of prime importance to the contest judges. The content of a haiku should contain a moment of keen insight and heightened perceptual awareness. Haiku also traditionally contain a seasonal reference that links nature to human nature, although in some haiku you might see a key word instead. Haiku contain one, two or rarely three images, and the poems offer the reader a flash of intuitive insight. Often they are about common things and ordinary experiences as in this haiku by Bernard lionel Einbond:

the thousand colors

in her plain brown hair

orning sunshine

Haiku also contain a pause either at the end of the first line or at the end of the second. This pause. called the cut or kireji. Notice where the cut occurs in this fine haiku by the late haiku poetess Peggy Willis lyles:

child’s play —

salt from a lost ocean

for the robin’s tail

Did you choose to pause after the sentence fragment “child’s play”? If so, you found the cut in this poem. In some poems, however, the reader may choose more than one place to pause, and this can offer more than one meaning for the same poem.

There are other qualities that set these Eastern- style poems apart from tradition Western-style poetry. Haiku poems do not use complicated language, flowery words or Western poetical devices like simile, metaphor or personification. And, they are very condensed and concise, so every word counts. In addition, modern haiku do not use rhyme at the ends of the lines. Finally, haiku poetry requires the reader to engage and participate in interpreting the poem. Below is a poem by the first great haiku master, Basho:

Old pond a frog jumps in the sound of water

Many readers are struck by the image of an old, established order being awakened by the frog who jumps into the sound of the water. We hope you will view our contest as a chance to jump into a new creative experience with us, and to help keep our town’s old pond lively!

To see more examples of written haiku, you may wish to Google Jane Reichhold’s internet site, “Aha! Poetry” and other haiku sites. There you will find the work of top notch haiku poets of today and yesterday, rules and writing guidelines and current wisdom about haiku. You may also explore a number of books about writing haiku. Several are available at Barnes and Nobles and at Amazon. Two that I have found useful are “The Haiku Handbook,” by William J. Higginson and Penny Harter, and “Haiku: A Poet’s Guide,” by lee Gurga.

But, for hands-on writing advice and creative interaction we’re extending an open invitation for you to come and visit The Picayune Writer’s Group for yourself. We meet on Tuesdays except for the first Tuesday of the month. We are currently meeting in the Bank Plus building located behind P J. ‘s Coffee House at 6 p.m. We hope to see you soon.

Good luck to all you aspiring writers! We look forward to receiving your entries in this exciting new writer’s contest.