Celebrating Shared Subjects

GoodPerhaps the most easily celebrated category of deja-ku is poems that share the same subject. Haiku will often share the same season word, for example, but any two poems that share the same subject, no matter what it is, are bound to find echoes between them. This commonly happens in haiku because human experience itself is common to us all. So it is natural that we would write poems about subjects that move us—and surely we’re all moved by similar subjects, resulting in similar poems. In fact, we often resonate with a poem we read because we’ve had the same experience ourselves, or we hope that others will resonate with poems we write because they’ve had the same experience.

Nevertheless, it’s still useful to write freshly, so as not to repeat what has been done before, or at least not too much. For many years I’ve been associated with the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival and its annual Haiku Invitational contest that seeks poems written about cherry blossoms (its 2016 deadline is coming up on 1 June). I’ve served as a judge for six years, and as an advisor and volunteer for all the other years since the first contest was held in 2006. Over the years many thousands of poems have poured in from around the world, practically all of them on the same subject. And yes, there are too many poems about cherry blossoms looking like snow or confetti—a way of seeing cherry blossoms that long ago lost its freshness. It would be easy to take a cynical viewpoint and think that it’s impossible to write anything new about cherry blossoms, yet each year the best poets find a way, just as Japanese poets have found a way to do the same thing with cherry blossom haiku in Japanese—over many centuries. So while it’s fine for haiku to have shared subjects, it’s still a good idea for poets to provide fresh nuances in presenting each subject.

As an example of a shared subject in haiku that is a kind of deja-ku worth celebrating, the following is a selection of haiku from the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s annual Haiku Invitational contest from 2006 to 2014 (one selected from all the various prize categories awarded each year). Please join me in celebrating these poems and the ephemeral subject they share in common.

cherry blossoms
I fold my résumé
into a crane

            Barry Goodmann (2006)

 

street hockey
young boys shoot cherry petals
into the net

            Terry Ann Carter (2007)

 

cherry blossoms
the baby’s hair too fine
to hold a ribbon

            Ferris Gilli (2008)

 

cherry blossoms—
one more go
on the old swing

            Terry O’Connor (2009)

 

biopsy . . .
but just for today
cherry blossoms

            Laryalee Fraser (2010)

 

we speak
of cherry blossoms—
a safe topic

            Beth Skala (2011)

 

alone at the airport
a cherry blossom
on my suitcase

            Marianne Baharustani (2012)

 

this side of winter
tuning the mandolin
to mountain cherry

            Leah Ann Sullivan (2013)

 

cherry blossoms
interrupting
her fairytale

            Andreea Cirligeanu, age 12 (2014)

 

Alzheimer’s ward
cherry blossoms
in the fog

            Marco Fraticelli (2015)

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