How haiku can be like riding around on trapezoidal tires

About a week after judging North Carolina's press competition at work, coincidently, I was contacted by the North Carolina Poetry Society. They asked me if I would like to judge the haiku portion of their contest.

They seemed pretty organized so I said yes, and I have been enjoying the process.

I made my way through the entries. I broke them down into categories like "No Thanks" and "Hmmm…."

As I did this thoughts of editors filled my mind, particularly the ones that gave me a hard time -- you know who you are and we are certainly friends by now! The voices of the editors who told me not to "just tell things" in poems, but to build poems that let people come to their own conclusions stood out the most. It seemed like that mistake was made most often.

Haiku is also a form in which poets can't be heavy handed. Clear language works better for the task than overly poetic language. Overly sentimental can also be a problem, since these little poems serve more as a window into a moment of existence, as opposed to a self-conscious attempt at making a work of art.    

I also made a pile for poems that showed their authors read haiku. The most useful encouragement I've gotten from others came in the form of discussions about craft where everyone was looking to participate in conversations with our forebears.  

Together, my critics and I have wondered about how Basho used his senses in his poems. Together we debated whether or not Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" really could be considered haiku.  

When artists make their art in response to fellow artists who came before them, they can get to the point quicker. They are more likely to stand on the shoulders of giants instead of wasting time reinventing the wheel while riding around on trapezoidal tires.

After multiple passes through North Carolina's submissions, I've put them away for a few days to see which ones will be calling to me--which ones yearn to be part of the dialogue!

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