HANCEVILLE — A few Wallace State students celebrated Christmas as winners in the haiku poetry contest sponsored by the WSCC English Department, the Sigma Kappa Delta English honor society and The Lion’s Den Writing Club. The contest, featuring the Japanese style of literature, was held in conjunction with the exhibit “Fleeting Pleasures: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Georgia Museum of Art” at The Evelyn Burrow Museum, which closed on Dec. 10.
The winners of the contest were sophomore accounting major Stephen Franks of Hanceville in first place, freshman computer science major Jamie Garner of Cullman in second place and sophomore visual communications major Natalie Murphree of Oneonta in third place. Franks earned $150 for his winning entry, with Garner and Murphree earning $100 and $50, respectively.
Haiku is a descriptive form or poetry originating in Japan. While the subject of a haiku can be about any matter, it typically discusses subjects from the natural world, such as seasons, months, animals, insects or any other element of nature. The structure of a haiku includes three lines and 17 syllables, with a first line of five syllables, a second line of seven syllables and a third line of five syllables.
Franks, who prefers working with numbers to words, said he didn’t think he had much of a chance to win. “I never thought of myself as a very good English person,” he said. “It was a little difficult to come up with the rhyme and the correct number of syllables.” He said it took him about two days to come up with the haiku, which was an assignment for his American Literature II class.
The contest generated 250 entries from students and the general public. Entrants were limited to three entries each, with each work required to be an original piece not previously published. Members of Sigma Kappa Delta and the Lion’s Den Writing Club picked the winners in an anonymous selection process.
The winning haiku are below.
“Untitled haiku” by Stephen Franks
Winter. Oh so cold
To face her wrath. You are bold
persevere, I’m told.
“Night’s Day” by Jamie Garner
Night’s perfect answer
Is day’s perfect alibi
Never to be known
“Butts” by Natalie Murphree
So perfect and round
They are the backwards bosom
Pants hide their beauty
English Instructor Sally Warren said they were pleased with number of entries they received, even though that made their job a little harder when it came time for judging them.
“There were so many noteworthy, impressive entries on a variety of subjects,” Warren said. “They were impressive in different ways: witty, moving, well-worded; good for a variety of different reasons.”
The first place entry was one of many dealing with nature and the seasons, Warren said, but the writer’s word choice helped in marking it as the top finisher. Word choice was also a factor in the second-place haiku. “It was exceptional, thought-provoking and intriguing,” she continued. “It made you think.” The third place poem won for its whimsy. “It was witty, with alliteration and diction and a different topic choice,” Warren said.
Mary Barnes, Chair of the WSCC English Department added the contest was a simple and easy way to introduce students to a different culture. She took her English 102 class to see the “Fleeting Pleasures” exhibit. “The students were excited about it and were able to see how sometimes people express themselves simply and that poetry reflects that.
“It taught them that poetry can be simple and profound at the same time,” she said.
Because of the participation and the fun everyone had with the contest, Warren said the English department would consider holding another haiku contest again next year.