In 2016, Whole Life Soaps started its annual Haiku poetry contest. The contest is offered in conjunction with the Wrightwood Literary Festival, which occurs every September and is organized by Timothy Green, editor of the poetry magazine Rattle. For conference attendees, the contest is free (and accounts for 90% of all entries). For people who cannot attend, they pay a small reading fee and submit via the Whole Life Soaps website.
As you may or may not know, the winner of the contest gets $50 and will have their poem impressed on our soap from January 2018 through July 2018. After that, we try and sell any remaining inventory to get ready for the next Haiku cycle.
just want to say how I view a haiku and what I look for in submissions. According to poet Ken Jones, “Many of the best haiku present unexpected and contrasting images. These can arouse profound and subtle emotions and can convey layers of subtle meaning. The Western convention is to write haiku in three lines, but haiku of one, two or four lines are acceptable where that makes the best “fit”. Often the first line sets the scene, within which the second line makes an observation. The third line then presents an image contrasting with the second line, throwing our normal expectations out of gear, as it were, and opening up a wider perspective which may be both allusive and elusive.”
I look for that elusiveness, that contrast between joy and grief. When I started this contest, I made it a point to look for those layers of meaning. I also look for Haiku’s that aren’t simply about my soap, but use soap to express an emotional contrast.
There were several interesting haikus considered for the prize. I'd like to share some of the ones I enjoyed. Although runners-up do not receive a prize, I believe it's important to acknowledge good work.
Runner up #3: Brittany Mishra
Oats cast into shape,
Honey and sweetest almond;
A feast for your skin
Runner up #2: Mary Torregrossa
in the sunset.
Marshmallows on a stick.
Runner up #1: Anna Dimartino
evening unveils October's
tattered amber dress
So, with that said, I’d like to announce this year’s winner: Cheryl Heineman
My dad held me up.
I smell him almost in the
soap you left behind.
Cheryl graduated in December, 2017 from the Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing at San Diego State University. She also has a Master’s degree in Jungian Psychology.
She has published two collections of poetry, Just Getting Started and something to hold onto. Both are available on Amazon. Her poems have appeared in the San Diego Poetry Annual, San Diego Writer's Ink, 8West Press, 1001 Journal, the Magee Park Poets 2017 Anthology and the Round Top Poetry Festival Anthology, among others. She has won several awards from the Palm Springs Writers Guild.
After finishing the MFA program, she will be publishing a new collection of poetry in early 2018 titled Cowboys and Honeysuckle and is currently working on a memoir consisting of letters addressed to her two sons. In addition, she will return to her home in La Quinta, CA to help as a volunteer in reading and writing programs at local elementary schools.
The following are her responses to a few interview questions:
WLS: So, Cheryl, what did you think about winning a poetry contest that will result in you being published on a bar of soap?
CH: When I was told I won the soap-ku contest sponsored by Whole Life Soaps at the 2017 Wrightwood Festival, my first thought was “What an honor, and what fun to be published on a bar of soap!”
WLS: I know Haiku is a pretty constrictive form, so what type of poetry do you tend to write?
CG: I would say I am a narrative poet who plays loosely with form. My passion is to share small bits of truth I’ve discovered in my life, a life in which luck has played a big part.
WLS: Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
CH: To begin a poem, I start with a thought or an image, write for a while, go back, circle words and phrases I particularly like, and then slowly refine and revise the piece further. I build it out from there.
WLS: Who do you read? What are a few writers that inspire you?
CH: Certain poets inspire my stylistic choices, including Mark Doty, Raymond Carver, and Ellen Bass.
WLS: What inspires you to write?
CH: I have two granddaughters ages two and four, who force me to get up off the floor, and I am fascinated to hear their growing use of language. My hope is for them to read and appreciate Nana’s words someday.
As of January 1, 2018, all of our soaps feauture Cheryl's winning Haiku.