Did you know that this is National Poetry Month? “Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April” (www.poets.org).
In celebration, the Danville Public Library here in Danville Indiana, has a poetry contest every year. They collect submissions all month and then judge and award cash prizes in early May. It is called the Melba Geoffroy Memorial Poetry Contest.
[Yes, you read correctly. There is a small-town public library offering cash prizes for poetry! Thank you, Melba! All is NOT lost!]
I am a fiction writer, but this is the second year in a row that I will submit poetry to the contest in order to support the important effort by our small local public library to promote a critically important art form.
Last year I submitted a traditional, non-form piece and was awarded second place in the adult division. I was delighted and humbled. This year however, I will be submitting haiku*.
This is by happenstance, but I think it is also in keeping with the spirit of this poetic form. One day last month, while writing, I happened to look up and out my desk window to see that it was snowing – one of those spring snows where there is no wind and the flakes come in huge clusters and fall like cotton on the grass. It struck me as poetic, if you will, so I captured the moment in time by jotting down a few phrases of reflection. Later, I read the phrases I saw in them a kernel, a seed.
I have concluded that one doesn’t write a haiku; instead the haiku is spotted in everyday life and then revealed in the laying out of the language. This sounds a bit mystical, but to anyone who does creative work, it is a fact.
One thing is for sure, the DPL poetry judges will be counting syllables this year.
*For an excellent primer/reader on haiku, you can’t do better than “The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa”, Edited by Robert Hass.