You’re 17 syllables away from fame in Arlington’s haiku contest

A haiku contest

In Arlington, Washington

Hey, what’s up with that?

Long before Twitter seduced us with the dastardly task of expressing ourselves in no more than 140 characters, there was another exercise of complex simplicity.

The haiku.

Poets get 17 syllables to use in three lines metered in a 5-7-5 count.

Haikus make everyday people sound profound. No brain drain required to make these mini-masterpieces of visual imagery.

Here’s your chance to have at it. The Arlington Arts Council is sponsoring a haiku poetry contest. It’s part of the Arlington-Stillaguamish Eagle Festival that also has photography and art contests.

The theme of the haiku has to be inspired by nature, which is the conventional focus. In other words, no silly rhymes or ditties like this infamous haiku:

“Haikus are easy. But sometimes they don’t make sense. Refrigerator.”

Also excluded are haikus ripped from the headlines, such as the one a blogger made from Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump: “Like a Match.com, date that looks good at first but, goes horribly wrong.”

Arts board member Virginia Hatch said the haiku can be about a cat, the weather, a snake that startles you in the grass, an observation. Stuff like that.

But not about a motorcycle or a refrigerator or politician.

Well, you get the gist.

Hatch came up with the idea for the haiku contest in 2014. “It’s so accessible, whatever your age,” she said.

The format is simple for young kids to master. “If you ask someone to write a poem they go, ‘Ohhh!’ But haikus are easy,” she said.

The contest’s first year drew entries from Texas and Paris. It’s limited to Snohomish County residents.

Winners in 2014 got their poems engraved in granite blocks embedded in the concrete in the plaza on 67th Avenue across from the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum.

A $50 prize will be awarded this year in three age groups: kindergarten through fifth grade, sixth through 12th grade and 19 years and older.

Deadline to enter is Jan. 31. Limit two per poet.

Need inspiration? Google “haiku” or go to #haiku at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information about the contest, go to www.arlingtonwa.gov/haikucontest.

Submit by mail: Arlington Recreation Haiku Contest, 238 N. Olympic Ave., Arlington, WA 98233.

“Haiku” entry collection boxes are at the Arlington Library, Arlington City Hall and Arlington Boys &Girls Club.

Eagle Festival Winners, 2014 and 2015

The woods grow mushrooms

On logs or hidden by trees

Some are homes for gnomes

—Carl Richardson

Above the tall trees

And the birds among the skies

Rain stirs in the wind

— Jacob Dietz

warm smelly farm dogs

snug in beds of old blankets

leave winter outside

—Judy DuBois

walking by water

eagle shadows flash over

for a breath I’m prey

— Greg Beatty

pattering raindrops

pockmark the pond’s glassy peace

waterstriders skim

— Carly Bair

the proud and strong bird

searches for tasty salmon

a “fast food” dinner

— Heather Broyles

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