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:: By Amy Braverman Puma

:: Photography by Dan Dry

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In Every Issue ::

Editor's Notes:
A pond: haiku bloom.

Contest reveals alumni’s
cold, gray memories.

photo: Botany Pond’s blooming colors offer a bright antidote to gray Gothic.
Botany Pond’s blooming colors offer a bright antidote to gray Gothic.

The 409 haiku submitted for the Magazine’s Alumni Haiku Contest (see “Lite of the Mind”) tell a lot about which Hyde Park images endure. As contest judge John O’Connor, AB’86, MAT’87, notes, there were several entries about Henry Moore’s Nuclear Energy sculpture, Gothic towers, and Botany Pond. Because the contest emphasized counting—the poems had to be in five-seven-five format—some quick word searches seemed in order to confirm the anecdotal evidence. The Moore sculpture, it turned out, showed up (by name or description) five times; the word “Gothic” 13; and Botany Pond eight.

Regenstein Library proved another popular subject, surfacing as “Regenstein” or “Reg” 15 times, paired with words like “late,” “night,” or “2 a.m.” For many writers the Reg meant social life, knowledge, even “a friend.” “Gargoyle,” meanwhile, showed up in 20 haiku, gazing upon or “monitoring” the campus.

But the most common images, the ones that seemed to strike the haiku writers hardest, reveal campus as a cold, dark place. The word “cold” appeared 13 times, “wind” 21, “winter” 27, and “gray” or “grey” 39 (not including a reference to former president Hanna Gray). Writing on a toe-numbing, face-burning, zero-degree day in February, I get the fixation. It’s all true: “Grey Gothic, chilling wind, snow,” “Cold gray fortress oasis,” “unforgiving winter wind.” Raven Deerwater, MAT’83, PhD’91, used the g-word five times in 17 syllables: Gray Buildings. Gray Snow. / Gray Sky. Gray Clouds. Gray Faces. / Chicago Winter.

Still, we Chicagoans can sense—if not yet see or feel—the future. Warmth and greenery return, even if we can hardly remember. Here’s proof, in a photo Dan Dry took last year. Botany Pond, as some haiku writers recalled, blooms anew. We shed our coats, hats, and gloves and feel the sun on our faces. Here’s hoping that soon after this issue comes out, the photo becomes reality.

In the meantime, several haiku succeeded in warming the Magazine staff on the in--side by making us smile. For instance, Peg Duthie, AB’91, gave us an English professor in motion: Bevington speeding / across the quad on his bike: / Time flies. Time remains.

From Zimri Yaseen, AB’99, a philosophy professor, ditto: Was that Ted Cohen / windswept in a swirl by Cobb, / or an autumn leaf?

Paul Cobb, AM’91, PhD’97: Wednesday is Shake Day. / For one dollar it is yours: / Sweet brain-freeze of bliss.

Lisa Fein Siegel, AB’79: “Ho. Ho. The UC / Is funnier than you think,” / reads my old T-shirt.

Jacob Schiff, AM’04: “Where fun comes to die”? / Hardly... but fun does seem to / get pretty sick here.

Finally, from computer-sciences professor Michael O’Donnell: Unworthy of our / scholarly community / is syllable count.

Perhaps so. Still, thanks to all who entered. Readers can search for their own themes here, where all the poems appear.