Canada Winner, 2017 VCBF Haiku Invitational
transience . . .
petal by petal
we let go
Congratulations on having your haiku selected as the top winner in the Canada category in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s 2017 Haiku Invitational contest. How did you first learn about haiku, and how much writing of haiku or other poetry have you done?
To be recognized in this competition is a particular honour, as I lived in Vancouver for ten years, and it holds a special place in my heart. I extend my thanks to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, the judges, and to Michael Dylan Welch, for this opportunity to share my haiku story. Weaving words into poetry, stories, and songs has been my passion since childhood. Though I was introduced to the rudimentary basics of haiku in school, I did not begin to concentrate my efforts on short forms until joining social media in recent years. I now devote several hours each day to writing haiku and tanka, and to creating haiga [paintings with haiku]. This practice serves as a form of meditation for me, and is a welcome distraction from physical limitations. I am grateful to the editors of leading publications worldwide who have welcomed my offerings, and to the judges of respected haiku and tanka contests who have warmly responded to my work.
What was the inspiration for your winning poem?
My poem was inspired by the “freedom” theme. I tried to achieve a sense of ambiguity in this haiku so that readers could enter into the work on their own terms. “Transience” acknowledges that all life is in a perpetual state of change. “Petal by petal” represents the passage of time, as well as the ever-evolving layers of our internal and external lives. “We let go” refers to the shedding of metaphorical shackles (worry, anger, hurt, etc.), and to the transitioning of life into (and perhaps beyond) death. By casting off the chains that bind us, we are freed to become more than we imagined, and the best versions of ourselves.
Describe the moment when you first learned you had won.
After being immersed in autumn’s quiet beauty while on a camping adventure, I reluctantly returned to the noise of the city, to find dozens of mundane emails requiring my attention. Buried beneath all of the ordinary business of living was the extraordinary news of this award, which I immediately shared with my husband and sisters. I am beyond thrilled to have my haiku included amongst those of so many gifted writers!
Do you have favourite books or websites relating to haiku that others might benefit from in order to learn haiku as a literary art and to share one’s haiku?
I am affiliated with Haiku Canada (http://haikucanada.org/), Tanka Canada (http://tanka.a2hosted.com/), and several other organizations. Links to excellent online and print journals may be accessed through my publication archive at my blog, Warp and Weft: Images and Words (http://debbiemstrange.blogspot.ca). For those interested in an introduction to haiku, without being overwhelmed by “rules”, I recommend the lovely pocket-sized primer, Hue: A Day at Butchart Gardens by T. A. Carter. The Haiku Foundation website (www.thehaikufoundation.org) shares a wealth of information, as do Graceguts (www.graceguts.com), NeverEnding Story (http://neverendingstoryhaikutanka.blogspot.com/), and Call of the Page (www.callofthepage.org/home/haiku/). Online sites that promote bodies of work by individual haiku writers include the Mann Library’s Daily Haiku (http://haiku.mannlib.cornell.edu/) and the Living Haiku and Senryū Anthologies (http://livinghaikuanthology.com/ and http://livingsenryuanthology.com/). Snapshot Press (http://www.snapshotpress.co.uk/) and Red Moon Press (www.redmoonpress.com/) produce fine books, and for online translations of the classics, you can’t go wrong with Blue Willow Haiku World (https://fayaoyagi.wordpress.com/), and the Haiku of Kobayashi Issa (http://haikuguy.com/issa/).
Please tell us more about yourself.
I was born on a small farm in Saskatchewan, and my love of learning began in a one-room schoolhouse. My father introduced me to classical poetry, and my sister taught me to sing and play guitar. I have been an avid photographer since my teens, and favourite subjects include the minutiae of life (dewdrops, lichen, feathers), and all things rusted, broken, and abandoned. Macro photography has taught my mind to be still, open, and aware of my surroundings, and I often use my photographs as writing prompts.
How does where you live and what you enjoy doing affect the way you write haiku?
I have lived on the prairies, in the mountains, and at the ocean’s edge. My travels have taken me across Canada. A sense of place, coupled with direct observation of nature, is integral to my writing. In 2015, Keibooks released my full-length collection, Warp and Weft: Tanka Threads, and Folded Word released my haiku chapbook, A Year Unfolding, in 2017. A showcase of award-winning poems that I have incorporated into art may be viewed in The Haiku Foundation Haiga Galleries (https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/thf-haiga-galleries/haiga-of-debbie-strange/).