The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival began in 2006. From the beginning it featured a Haiku Invitational, for which I have served as a judge. It 2008, the Haiku Invitational resulted in a haiku stone being placed in VanDusen Botanical Gardens.
The haiku stone is situated on a slight hill next to a grove of cherry trees that bloom beautifully in the spring. These photos were taken on 12 April 2008.
Haiku stones are very common in Japan, usually with one haiku by a prominent poet per stone. Very few haiku stones exist in the world that feature English-language haiku.
The stone featured winners from the 2008 Haiku Invitational on this side, with winners from 2007 and 2006 on the stone's other two sides.
A closer view of the 2008 Haiku Invitational winners. Later in this album are close-up photos of each individual poem. The judges for 2008 were Carole MacRury, Michael Dylan Welch, and Ed Zuk.
The 2006 Haiku Invitational winners. The judges for 2006 were Carole MacRury, Vicki McCullough, Michael Dylan Welch, and Ed Zuk.
The 2007 Haiku Invitational winners. The judges for 2007 were Carole MacRury, Michael Dylan Welch, and Ed Zuk.
Yes, that's me, Michael Dylan Welch. The stone is about five feet tall (I'm six feet tall).
The best British Columbia and best Canadian poems from 2008.
The best U.S., international, and youth poems from 2008.
The best Canadian and U.S. poems from 2006.
The best international and youth poems from 2006.
Another view of the 2007 haiku winners. Isn't this a beautiful setting?
The best Canadian and U.S. winners from 2007.
The best international and youth poems from 2007.
Jessica Tremblay wrote the best British Columbia poem for 2008.
Marilyn Potter wrote the best Canadian poem for 2008.
Ferris Gilli wrote the best U.S. poem for 2008.
Stephen Henry Gill, who uses the pen name of Tito, wrote the best international poem for 2008.
Damian Margolak, age 16, wrote the best youth poem for 2008.
Helen Baker wrote the best Canadian poem for 2006. For 2006 and 2007, we did not yet have a category for best British Columbia poem.
Barry Goodmann wrote the best U.S. poem for 2006.
Rosa Clement wrote the best international poem for 2006.
Sophia Frentz, age 13, wrote the best youth poem for 2006.
Terry Ann Carter wrote the best Canadian poem for 2007. This is the only poem on the haiku stone that had to be slightly altered to make it fit. In the original poem, the word "petals" is at the end of the second line.
Karen Cesar wrote the best U.S. poem for 2007.
Grzegorz Sionkowski wrote the best international poem for 2007.
Candis Rooker wrote the best youth poem for 2007. Her age was omitted from the stone, but she was 15 years old.
Each of the Haiku Invitationals has averaged around a thousand entries, with close to 1,400 in 2009. The poems came from dozens of countries around the world, even from Africa, South America, the Middle East, and all over Asia, Europe and Australasia.
It's fun to listen to passers-by talk about the haiku. They are easily appreciated, I think, and the comments I've overheard have nearly all been positive. The few that are less than positive have amounted to puzzlement as to why the poems are not 5-7-5 syllables. Haiku in Japan are indeed 5-7-5 sounds (not strictly syllables), but it's a sort of urban myth that haiku should be 5-7-5 syllables in English (the word "haiku" is two syllables in English, for example, but counts as THREE sounds in Japanese). What matters more are the kigo (season word), kireji (cutting word, which divides the poem into two parts), and primarily objective sensory imagery. Haiku is widely mistaught in North American schools, and perhaps Vancouver's annual Haiku Invitational will help to correct the rampant misinformation.
My mother, in white, my wife, in red, and my two children were patient with me while I took these photos!
I'm very grateful to Linda Poole, director of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, for the opportunity to be involved as a judge for the Haiku Invitational, for which I've also given presentations on haiku at the Vancouver Public Library and at VanDusen Botanical Gardens.
I served as a judge, so my name doesn't need to appear on the stone, but I'm jealous of all the winners! I'd love to have one of my haiku on a stone like this someday. Perhaps other haiku contests could engrave winning haiku on stones elsewhere around the world, too.
If you're ever visiting Vancouver, and you enjoy haiku, be sure to visit VanDusen Botanical Gardens and ask to see the haiku stone!
I feel proud, not just for me but for literary haiku, to have served as a judge for this valuable contest. You can find out more about the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival at http://www.vcbf.ca/ (click the Haiku links to learn more about the Haiku Invitational and to read all of the past winners and dozens (hundreds?) of Sakura Award winners and honourable mentions.
If you've not entered the Haiku Invitational before, please do consider it! Since the beginning, it's been free to enter. The top winning poems also appear on a beautiful placard that appears in 500 Vancouver metro buses and skytrains for a couple of months each spring. To enter, visit http://www.vcbf.ca/ for more information.
Okay, I think I've got enough photos now! Thanks for taking a look. For more information about haiku, please visit my site at www.graceguts.com.
Thanks again to Linda Poole and the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival for having the vision and foresight to sponsor the annual Haiku Invitational.