The Cultural Council’s third annual Haiku Contest was a great success with 41 individual entries and over 120 poems. Antoinette Libro and Michael Henry Lee chose one winner from each of the three categories as well as two honorable mentions to fit this year’s theme of Natural Florida.
An orange blossom falls into the Suwannee River as sadly I roam
Emma Hayes is 9 years old and lives in Nocatee where she is homeschooled. She loves dancing at Grace Conservatory. Her favorite subject is creative writing and she enjoys writing poetry.
Michael Henry Lee: Emma creates a nice haiku juxtaposition with an orange blossom falling into the Suwannee River, a timeless river where nature and history meet. Being carried along with wherever the flow takes it and, in her own life, Emma roams along in much the same melancholy way.
Antoinette Libro: This haiku embodies one of the major themes of Japanese literature, the fleeting nature of life—its beauty and sadness— known as mono no aware in Japanese. This is symbolized by the cherry blossom in Japanese culture, but here, in keeping with its location in Florida, we have the orange blossom, also beautiful but fleeting, caught floating down the Suwannee. The last line unites the poem, implicitly comparing the falling orange blossom to one’s life.
Honorable Mention: Leah Galat
Eating and drinking
Waiting for their prey and SNAP!
Down their mouth it goes
Leah Galat is a second grader in St. Johns County Public Schools. She is starting to learn about the different forms of poetry and how others express themselves through writing. “Natural Florida” was a fun theme to work on.
MHL: Leah definitely catches the concept of a haiku moment!
AL: Here we have a snapshot picture of an alligator in action, with the key moment expressed in the middle line, when the alligator actually munches down on its prey, expressed by the all caps word “SNAP.” This word sounds like what it means, or what we call onomatopoeia, an effective literary device to help create the moment.
Honorable Mention: Elsie Hayes
Sand between my toes
Hot sun beating down in rays
Cool waves crash ashore
Elsie Hayes is ten years old and lives in Nocatee where she is homeschooled. She is in 4th grade, her favorite subject is math, and she dances 9 hours a week.
MHL: A good haiku strives to engage all the senses. In this poem, Elsie skillfully captures the sense of touch in her first line, then in line two, we actually feel the sun’s warmth on the skin. Her last line combines an auditory sense of waves crashing along the shore with the cooling sensation it brings to the body. Bravo Elsie!
AL: This haiku presents a succession of vivid imagery that evokes the beach, describing the sensations that we not only see, but also feel, regarding the experience. An effective contrast between the hot sun and cool waves emphasizes the visual and tactile, and then, in the last line, the auditory nature depicting a trip to the beach—its crowning glory, the cool crashing waves.
Winner: Gavin Samples
Itchy scratchy rash
Creeping slowly up a tree
Three leaves let it be
Gavin is the oldest of four, educated at home, and belongs to a Classical Conversations community. His favorite subjects are science, history, and literature. Gavin is active with his church and enjoys jiu-jitsu, wrestling, flag football, and swimming.
MHL: Gavin has taken a well-known adage from childhood and created a clever little poem that succeeds in illustrating the wisdom of avoiding poison ivy.
AL: It is difficult to read this haiku without feeling itchy all over, the suggestion of Poison Ivy brought to life with effective diction, which evokes the experience with its consonantal sounds in the first line, ‘itchy’ and ‘scratchy,’ making us feel the sharpness of poison ivy. The haiku is full of assonance, or the repetition of vowel sounds, such as ‘creeping,’ ‘tree,’ ‘three,’ and ‘be,’ which also unites the poem and pleases the ear.
Adults 18 & Over
Winner: Diane Rabideau-Wise
Shallow creeks glisten,
Tadpoles transform into frogs,
Quiet summer rain
Diane has been published by The National League Of American Pen Women for her poem honoring George Floyd titled Brown Man. She has also been published in two issues of Spindrift, an anthology published by SeaQuills writing group.
MHL: I can see the water alive with tadpoles darting about. There is a subtle contrast between the tadpole’s slow but sure development and the nurture of a light summer rain. This poem uses the life sustaining elements of water both in a visual and auditory combination.
AL: This haiku paints a picture of nature with vivid sensory perceptions. We can see the shallow creek glisten as well as the life that inhabits the waters, with specific reference to tadpoles. We then step back with the third line with an image that unites the poem and appeals to our senses—the ‘quiet’ rain from above, both soothing and calming us in the midst of nature, while life continues below, beneath the surface. The feeling expressed here is being one with nature.
Honorable Mention: Chris Kastle
sweet spring water
Chris Kastle is an award-winning storyteller, poet, musician, songsmith, author, artist, and educator with a number of recordings and publications to her credit. She received the Annette J. Bruce Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Storytelling Association. Her first chapbook, Nonets in Nine Courses: Recipes in Verse, was released in 2022 through Rising Moon Press.
MHL: Chris needs only ten syllables to create a crystal clear picture at one of our numerous artisan springs, perhaps Blue Springs,where a single pebble creates concentric circular waves amplifying the spring’s natural beauty.
AL: This haiku captures a moment in time, when a pebble drops into the water, and the effect it has on the water, which receives the pebble with ever widening concentric circles. It also suggests to us the way a thought can drop into the mind, also expanding our consciousness. The haiku departs from the traditional 5/7/5 syllable count with a 3/4/3 syllable count, with no punctuation, in keeping with trends of modern haiku, each word carrying considerable weight as the picture it paints comes into view.
Honorable Mention: Carol Kramer
Still waters surround
The solitary cypress
Kneeling near the spring
Carol Kramer is a founder of the Lullaby of the Rivers Festival, drawing on her experience of organizing and running events, such as her first Earth Day festival in 1980 in Virginia. Her background as a humanities instructor and her wealth of knowledge about holistic wellness practices make her an effective advocate for environmental awareness and consciousness.
MHL: This haiku utilizes a clever play on words to paint a clear picture. Cypress roots are called knees, so indeed that is what the cypress tree is doing in Carol’s poem.
AL: The haiku is subtle as it suggests a comparison between the ‘solitary cypress,’ and the human element—both may be ‘kneeling near the spring.’ Like the solitary cypress, such an appealing image, we live our lives, drawing sustenance from the spring. The consonance at work in the haiku, namely, the repetition of the “s” sounds—as in ‘still,’ ‘solitary,’ ‘cypress,’ and ‘spring,’ all serve to unite the poem and echo the spring.
Antoinette Libro, Michael Henry Lee, and the St. Johns Cultural Council congratulate all winners, honorable mentions, and everyone who entered the 3rd Annual Haiku Contest to capture the essence of Florida’s natural beauty. We thank everyone for sharing their talent, inspiration, and perspective with the community through haiku.