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Lite of the mind
(a light-hearted look at all things Chicago)

Champion haiku

The Magazine’s haiku-contest judge, John S. O’Connor, AB’86, MAT’87, praised the 409 entries alumni sent in. “There were so many great ‘U-Chi-ku’ to choose from,” writes O’Connor, author of the haiku collection Room Full of Chairs (Deep North Press, 2000), “it was difficult to pick these winners.”

Entries, he notes, “ranged from the profound to the hilarious and covered almost every aspect of campus life—parties (Friday nights at the Reg), dorm food, Rockefeller Chapel, Kuviasungnerk, the Linné statue, the Lascivious Ball, dollar shake day in Hutch Commons, and of course books.”

The rules stated that poems had to be about the University and follow the five-seven-five format. Because haiku “are not usually given titles,” says O’Connor, a former Lab Schools and current New Trier High School English teacher, “I’ve removed them from these poems.” In addition to a cash prize, winners receive a copy of O’Connor’s book. All the entries are online here.

First place:
Giuliana Fargnoli Chapman, AB’96

Japanese tourists
standing around the Atom
photograph themselves

O’Connor: “There were several poems about the Henry Moore sculpture, but this one was the most moving. The casualness of this image (‘standing around’) is striking, as is the implicit statement that the tourists’ lives and perhaps their national identity has been forged by the sculpture’s subject. The author’s decision to capitalize the A in atom is especially potent.”

Second place:
Anne Parsons, AB’04

black/white strategy
conquering 53rd street
—a hyde park chessboard.

O’Connor: “I like the chances this poem takes in confronting the difficult topics of race relations and urban planning within the confines of a haiku. The word ‘conquering’ seems highly ironic here since 53rd Street is a space to be shared and not won, yet the tension between University and non-University needs is the subject of a great deal of strategizing and positioning. On a personal note, I loved to watch those chess players in Harper Court.”

Third place:
Sem Sutter, AM’73, PhD’82, AM’85

Rustling gold ginkgo,
Languid koi circling below
in Botany Pond.

O’Connor: “I had to pick one poem from the many that referred to Botany Pond, and this one was the most painterly. The language is nicely evocative and the images are strong—those beautiful gingko leaves and the mottled fish below. The great Japanese haiku master Buson would be proud.”

Honorable mention:
Frank Creel, AM’73, PhD’78

I, lost in the stacks,
Wife, working in Regenstein.
No time for babies.

O’Connor: “What sadness in this poem. And who hasn’t felt the tension between scholarship and society, work and family?”

Honorable mention:
Merri M. Monks, AB’74

Gray Gothic towers
Stretch into the winter sky—
Framed by black branches.

O’Connor: “There were a number of poems about Gothic towers, but the images are most stark and striking in this haiku.”