Winning Haiku

Mignon Fogarty
3-minute read

National Grammar Day Winning Haiku

For the last few years, the American Copy Editors Society has held a haiku contest on Twitter for National Grammar Day, and I run the winners in my podcast because it’s fun.

Here’s the winner from 2013, which is still one of my favorites. It’s by Arika Okrent who is a linguist and author of In the Land of Invented Languages:

I am an error

And I will reveal myself

After you press “send”

What Is Haiku?

There’s a bit of a funny back story behind the haiku contest because I had wanted to do a haiku contest years ago, and I happened to be at a writing retreat with an accomplished, serious haiku poet—I mean, someone who has published books of real haiku, and I mentioned the idea to him, and he was horrified. Politely horrified, but he practically begged me not to do it. 

It turns out that what most of us learn in grade school about haiku is incredibly simplistic and is sometimes considered almost an affront to people who take their haiku seriously. From what I read afterward, a traditional haiku is almost always about nature and should also include some kind of juxtaposition. And the 5-7-5 syllable pattern many of us learned isn’t considered a hard-and-fast rule.

So I was scared off the idea of running an ongoing grammar haiku contest, but then the American Copy Editors Society decided to do their contest, I warned them about the haiku issues, and they essentially said “Heck with that. It’ll be fun,” and I’m glad they did. 

But I still felt compelled to add that little lesson so we all understand that there’s a difference between the serious and traditional craft of haiku and our entertaining little game. Not to say that these aren’t poems too, but let’s just call them a different genre. I’ve heard some people call these kinds of poems as redneck haiku or modern haiku. And my explanation here is still probably simplistic. Haiku has a long history in both Japanese, where it started, and in other languages where it spread, so if you’re interested, you should definitely read more (and more).

2016 National Grammar Day Haiku Winner

And without further ado (that was a lot of ado, wasn’t it?), here’s this year’s winning National Grammar Day haiku, by Tom Freeman of London, who is @SnoozeInBrief at Twitter and runs the StroppyEditor blog at stroppyeditor.wordpress.com.

Verb would like to meet

An agreeable subject

To give complements

And that’s a play on words because compliments in the poem is spelled with an E, which makes it a grammatical term rather than being spelled with an I, which is the kind of compliment we usually think about giving, which is a type of praise. So the whole poem hinges on the clever juxtaposition of the two spellings and meanings of the word compliment/complement.

Thanks to everyone who entered by using the hashtag #GrammarDay on Twitter and congratulations to Tom and all the runners-up.

Second Place Haiku Winner

The second place winner in the haiku contest is Monica Sharman, who is @monicasharman on Twitter and the author of Behold the Beauty:

"Edit" in Latin

means "He eats" or "She eats"—

We devour your words

Third Place Haiku Winner

The third place winner is James Harbeck of Toronto, who is @sesquiotic on Twitter and the author of Songs of Love & Grammar.

Sentence fragments? Sure!

And the more the merrier!

Well, judiciously.

Fourth Place Haiku Winner

The fourth place winner of the National Grammar Day haiku contest is Larry Kunz of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, who is @larry_kunz on Twitter and blogs at https://larrykunz.wordpress.com/.

She said, I love you.

Her beau replied, I loved you.

Then the time passed, tense.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.