Last month, a friend coaxed me to enter the 2020 Lougheed House Haiku Contest. A seventeen syllable poem struck me as an amount of writing I could manage during a busy summer.
I checked the contest guidelines. No entry fee. They allowed three haiku submissions per person. Themes suggested were gardens, nature, Calgary community, and life during the pandemic.
Gardens made me instantly think of my next-door neighbour, who spends four hours a day tending her beautiful outdoor plants. One of her flower beds borders my front lawn. I started to think of this burst of colour as a connector between her and me during our pandemic isolation.
I knew haiku had lines, but needed the internet to remind me the traditional pattern is 5,7,5 syllables per line. My high school English teacher taught that haiku should refer to a season, although I gather that’s no longer necessary.
My thinking and research led to this haiku:
my neighbour’s garden
bursts colour beside my yard
links us through summer
The contest required entrants to include a video of us reading or reciting our poems. I nabbed my husband Will for a cell phone recording. I stood behind the front yard flower bed and had to speak loudly to be heard, while resisting the urge to check that no one was passing by and watching me strangely.
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After I drafted this first haiku, Will and I set off on a bike ride to downtown Calgary. While pedaling by the Bow River, I mentally composed a haiku about how the pandemic closure of cafes, bars and gyms inspired people to go for walks along the river; a healthy, easy and free activity. We made a recording at our lunch spot beside the Bow River. Then we biked through a park and passed a group of women sitting in a circle of lawn chairs placed two metres (6.5 feet) apart, Canada’s social distancing recommendation.
I realized the phrase ‘two metres apart’ is five syllables – the ideal haiku first line length!
To suit the contest themes, I placed the ladies in a garden. I liked the slightly archaic word ‘ladies’ for a contest sponsored by Calgary’s historic Lougheed home. Drinking tea also evokes the past to me and what do ladies discuss at a garden tea? Their gardens. Present and past blended into my next haiku:
two metres apart
ladies sit in the garden
drink tea, talk flowers
Will and I recorded this haiku in my neighbour’s back yard. Since the video was too large to save to my computer, we uploaded it to dropbox. I sent my three haiku to the contest.
A week later, I got the word that my poem ‘two metres apart’ placed first in the Lougheed House Haiku Contest and ‘my neighbour’s garden’ received an honorable mention. The contest judges commented that they appreciated the garden imagery, since the Lougheed home is known for its splendid Beaulieu Gardens.
The Lougheed House is posting the winning haiku recordings on its social media. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Writing the haikus was fun and an opportunity to reflect on the links between gardens, people and the pandemic.
I thank my good friend
& historic Lougheed House