My haiku was one of 15 by U.S. authors recognized with Sakura Awards in this year’s competition. In addition, a single poem was named Top Winner in the U.S. category, and another 25 U.S. poems were given Honourable Mentions.
Of the 41 U.S. poems granted awards, fully six – close to 15 percent – are by poets living and working in my home state of Ohio.
The theme of this year’s Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational was “freedom.” My poem speaks to the world of possibilities that await people of all ages and from all corners of the globe who seek to build their lives in freedom and peace:
an old man
learns two new words
My heartfelt congratulations to the winning poets in all divisions of this year’s competition, and my sincere gratitude to the competition judges, Angelee Deodhar, Billie Wilson, and DeVar Dahl.
I am greatly honored to have been invited to kick off the 2017-18 speaker series of the Central Ohio Branch of the National League of American Pen Women Tuesday evening. This amazing group of women artists put on a classy event at the Upper Arlington Public Library and could not have been more welcoming or more gracious.
Based in Washington, D.C., the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW, or “Pen Women,” for short) is a venerable organization comprised of women artists in all mediums working throughout the U.S.
I was asked to talk about my multiple careers in music and letters, including my work as midday host and music director for WOSU Public Media’s Classical 101 radio station; my work writing about classical music for print, broadcast and online media; my career as a poet and my work as a performing singer.
For me, the highlights of the evening were meeting some of the chapter members in the “preception” before my talk, and having a chance to chat a bit more and enjoy some photo ops with them afterwards.
It was especially wonderful to see Mary Hoffman (pictured to my right in the photo above), one of my predecessors in my role as Classical 101 music director. Mary was music director of WOSU Public Media’s classical music radio station when I was a teenager in Columbus and listening to that station every day. Her work inspired me in innumerable ways, and I feel a special honor to carry her torch forward.
These talented and generous ladies sent me home with vase of gorgeous roses (!) and an invitation to join their group. But most importantly, they reminded me what a tremendous privilege it is to work in creative careers and to be inspired by the gifted artists who make Columbus’ vibrant arts scene what it is.
My thanks to branch president Darlene Yeager-Torre, Deborah Anderson and all of the members of the Central Ohio Branch of the National League of American Pen Women for the great honor to share my work and my story with you.
A couple of weeks ago, I created my very first haiga – haiku plus visual art in symbiotic relationship. Today, it became a media celebrity.
This morning, I was named Haiku Master of the Week on the NHK WORLD TV (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) series Haiku Masters for my haiga “alone,” shown above. You can watch the mini-episode of Haiku Masters which aired on NHK TV this morning at this link.
Two of the hosts and judges of Haiku Masters wrote some thoughtful comments about my haiga, which was selected in a process of blind judging.
“One of the most important points of this piece is how although the narrator may be looking outside, he or see seems to be more focused on an inner dialogue. […] Furthermore, the word placement on the photo is wonderful, as isolating the word ‘alone’ increases the sentiment of loneliness,” wrote Japanese haiku poet Kazuko Nishimura.
“What exactly is the space between raindrops, we wonder, and imagine what thoughts slip in between,” wrote the American-born poet and photographer Kit Pancoast Nagamura. Read the judges’ full comments here.
I wish to congratulate this week’s runners-up – Joelle Ginoux-Duvivier (France) and Kanchan Chatterjee (India) and to thank Ms. Nishimura and Ms. Pancoast Nagamura for seeing something meaningful in my work amidst a pool of thousands of submissions worldwide. I am delighted and humbled by this honor.
Some of you have asked when I will be compiling a full-length collection of haiku for publication. I have decided that the time is now. Imagine: a big book of little poems.
I pulled together into a Word document all of my haiku, published and otherwise, that are strong contenders for membership in a full-length collection. That’s the stack of papers in the center of the ginormous desk – which I inherited from a dear friend when she downsized her dwelling a few years ago – in my poetry studio, shown in the photo above.
I then cut the document so that each poem would occupy its own little piece of paper. Here is the resulting heap o’ ku:
Then I laid each of the poem “pieces” on my desk and moved them around, noting the themes that emerged. I gave each theme a “name,” which will become the headings for each section of the book. Here is the “draft” of my entire haiku collection, all laid out poem by poem, and with section headings written on yellow Post-It Notes:
Once I’ve slid and scooted the poems into a satisfying order, the fun and games will end. On the rest of the book publication journey, I will submit the manuscript, wait for acceptance, and eventually, at the advice of the formidable editor I am asking the Universe to send to curate my poems, likely murder at least some of my proverbial darlings.
Ah, the romance of poetry.
But in the end, there will be a book of poems that, I hope, will bring some reader somewhere feelings of wonder, joy, connection, and hope.
It was announced recently that one of my haiku received a merit award in the first Montenegrin Haiku Festival Competition – Nature in My Eye.
My poem was one of 20 haiku named among the winners in the competition, in which 167 authors from 31 countries entered a total of 835 poems. I am honored and humbled to be in the company of some great haikuists, whose work I look forward to reading in the festival anthology.
The festival will take place August 25-27 in beautiful Montenegro.
Congratulations to all of the winners, and my sincere gratitude to the contest judges.
We were happy. And at the same time, we were wrecked.
Fifteen years ago, my then brand-new husband and I were walking around beautiful Charleston, South Carolina, on our honeymoon hot and wilted. All the hype and hoopla of our wedding the day before had taken the starch out of us, so we just thought we were dragging from plain old exhaustion.
But we learned later that day the we had actually been walking around Charleston in 104-degree heat. And, given that this was June in Charleston, heaven only knows what the humidity was.
But though we were wrecked, we were happy.
So, on June 2, the fifteenth anniversary of that sweltering day, it was a delight to see my haiku inspired by our honeymoon published in Japan’s leading daily newspaper, The Asahi Shimbun, in a special column devoted to honeymoons. My sincere thanks to editor David McMurray. Here is my haiku:
I love it when a project of unassuming origins takes on a life of its own.
My “paper roses” haiku, which the Italian haiku poet Elisa Allo recently featured and translated into Italian on her blog, Ama no gawa, recently found itself in the middle of such a project. Little did I know that my haiku contains a pun that is impossible to translate into Italian. Elisa presented the haiku with a beautiful graphic and an explanatory note about the translation:
My “paper roses” haiku might not have come about in the first place had it not been for the phenomenal artwork a group of Columbus-area elementary school students and a recent event of the Ohio Poetry Association.
In April, the Ohio Poetry Association published a statewide anthology of ekphrastic poems (poems inspired by other works of art), A Rustling and Waking Within. The anthology was a project many years in the making and was guided into the world with selfless love and generosity by editor Sharon Fish Mooney.
The anthology launch party last month at Columbus’ Wexner Center for the Arts (“the Wex”) featured poets, including myself, from all around Ohio reading aloud poems in the anthology.
In the run-up to the event, I volunteered to acquire flowers to adorn the small reception tables where poets would gather to nosh and sip before and after the readings. Unable to secure a donation of real flowers, I turned to Plan B: paper flowers.
I asked one of my co-workers if her husband, an elementary school art teacher, might think it a good project for some of his art students to make a few dozen paper flowers for the anthology launch party. It just so happened that one of his classes of third graders loves to do origami – so much so that their teacher often has to collect any artwork they create on paper right after they finish it, lest they fold it into something else!
Moreover, my colleague’s husband knew just the right pattern for paper flowers, one which he himself made many times and sold at modest cost. Over the next few weeks, Jon Juravich, the art teacher at Liberty Tree Elementary School in Powell, Ohio, led his students in making three dozen paper flowers, which they then donated to the Ohio Poetry Association for use at the anthology launch party. As you can see from the photo Jon took, the students’ work is simply gorgeous.
But the final presentation was stunning. Jon hot glued the paper “blooms” onto tree twigs he had painted black. I placed one or two stems into each of several tall bud vases and placed a vase on each of the small tables at the Wex. Quite simply, the students’ flowers were a hit.
At the anthology launch, I asked OPA president Chuck Salmons and other organizers of the event to sign a thank-you card for Jon and his students. For my part, I wrote an original haiku – my “paper roses” haiku, which Elisa Allo later featured and translated into Italian – inspired by the students’ phenomenal paper flowers. Jon shared the thank-yous, kudos, and haiku to his students.
On the cover of Beverly’s chapbook, in the center of a swirl of gardenia blossoms, is a picture of one of the vases of the Powell students’ paper roses sitting on one of the tables at the OPA anthology launch party.
So, finding flowers (or rather failing to find flowers) for a major poetry event inspired a creative project for some talented third-graders, which both turned into a haiku inspired by the paper flowers they made and which is now translated into a foreign language on a blog an ocean away, and became cover art for a poet’s chapbook published right here in Ohio.
Somewhere in this story is a lesson about synchronicity. But here’s the most powerful lesson: positive energy begets positive energy, and the creative spirit, when embraced, nurtured, and loved, cannot be stopped.
I thank Elisa Allo for welcoming my “paper roses” so beautifully into the world, and I thank Jon Juravich and the third grade art students at Liberty Tree Elementary School for their talent, generosity, and inspiration.
Photo: Free for Commercial Use/www.gratisography.com/Creative Commons/Flickr
31 days. 27 poets. 48 poems.
The first International Women’s Haiku Festival on Inner Voices was a big success. You sent me an overwhelming number of submissions from every corner of the English-speaking world. With deep sensitivity, humor, and skill, your poems covered a broad swathe of women’s experience – the horrors of breast cancer, the nuanced relationships of mothers and daughters, marriage, divorce, domestic violence, singlehood and solitude, the glass ceiling, children, childbirth and motherhood, dementia, body image, age discrimination, cougars, and even the politics of lingerie.
Some of your poems tugged at the proverbial heart strings. Some of them made me giggle. All of them made me think and, I hope, will continue to make others think about the richness that women bring to the world, and about the ways in which the world does – and, in many instances, still does not – appreciate it.
In addition to your submissions, your support for the festival also came in the form of the comments you wrote on the festival’s featured posts, and in the many lovely comments you sent me privately. I appreciate them all.
Thank you for entrusting me to curate your work in this festival. I was an honor.
The poets of the 2017 International Women’s Haiku Festival:
Photo: Christopher Crouzet/Creative Commons/Flickr
Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff explores the wonder of childbirth and the unique dynamic between mothers and daughters in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.
around my neck
of Mother’s scarf
What woman doesn’t know this “tightness of Mother’s scarf”? The tightness of the scarf around the “neck,” specifically, suggests the restriction of the poetic speaker’s voice by way of the mother’s enduring influence. Woerdehoff’s metaphor is a powerful one for that extraordinary dynamic, somewhere between too close and not close enough, that so often exists between mothers and daughters.
birthing at dawn
light on the lake
Here, the image of “light on the lake / bending” suggests that the physical world shifts to accommodate the arrival of a new human being by way of refracting or diffracting light, just as the world awakens with the arrival of the sun at dawn. In Woerdehoff’s haiku, all of nature, including the mystery of childbirth, is gathered in a profound expression of wonder and awe.
Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff (USA) holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Loras College in English: Writing and Theology, respectively. She is originally from Northern California, but has spent the last 30+ years in Dubuque, Iowa. She has served over 30 years as a higher education professional, and has written poetry since childhood. Over 250 of her poems, including numerous haiku, senryu, and rengay, along with articles have been published in magazines, journals, and anthologies. She has taught courses on publishing and has judged writing contests at the local and national level. Her writing garnered a grant from the Iowa Arts Council and awards in local and national competitions, including earning her River Arts Association Writer of the Year honors.