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The Heron's Nest

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Volume IV, Valentine Awards: February 2002.
Copyright © 2002. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

Overview • Readers' Choice • Most Popular Poet • Editors' Choice
Favorite Haiku • Popular Poets • Editors' Runners-up • Special Mention

Readers' Choice
Connie Donleycott
Most Popular Poet
Peggy Lyles
Editors' Choice
John W. Wisdom
Favorite Haiku
John Crook
John W. Wisdom
Yu Chang
Paul David Mena
Popular Poets
Connie Donleycott
John W. Wisdom
Yu Chang
paul m.
Editors' Runners-up
Lenard D. Moore
John Crook
Special Mention


John W. Wisdom
Grand Prize and Readers' 2nd Runner-up

            the slow turn
            of a barber’s pole—
            afternoon heat

Winner of the Heron’s Nest Award in February 2001, this haiku by John Wisdom epitomizes the overall feel of a hot summer day. It veritably exudes lethargy. As the poet watches the red, white, and blue stripes of the pole rotate, it seemed to him to be in slow motion. The pole’s movement was in keeping with the sluggishness he and everyone else was feeling on that hot, muggy afternoon. Dogs and cats flopped into shadows. People in sweat-stained clothes plodded along sidewalks from which heat-waves were radiating. Leaves hung limply in the stagnant air. It was as if the world was grinding to a halt and along with it, time. Yet, the stripes on the pole spiral endlessly on, and the afternoon felt interminable.

Ferris Gilli wrote a brilliant commentary for this poem. If you haven’t yet read it I recommend that you do, and if you have, it’s definitely worth rereading. John Wisdom’s haiku transported Ferris from the cold winter day in which she was writing her commentary, back to a summer in her youth. She vividly described the scene she recalled. To me, both the haiku and the commentary have the look and feel of a Norman Rockwell painting. I too remember staring at barber poles when I was a child. I remember wondering how so many stripes could emerge from the bottom of the pole; where did they all go when they got to the top. A barber’s pole is a magical thing to a child.

Thinking about them recently, as an adult, I ponder anew. Could the perpetually spiraling stripes symbolize the ceaseless growth of hair, and the continual need to have it cut or trimmed? Nope. I looked into the origin of barber poles and, since I can think of little more to add to what Ferris has already written in praise of this remarkable poem, I’ll share with you what I discovered. Barber poles originated in days when bloodletting was one of the principal duties of barbers. The red and blue stripes represent long bandages. One was used as a tourniquet, the other a dressing. Originally, a pole was actually the storage place for fresh bandages; they were wrapped around it. Said pole was then situated in a prominent place to attract customers. Later, for convenience sake, the bandage-pole was kept where it was more accessible to the barber and another pole, painted as they are seen today, was used for a sign.

One of the attributes of haiku I delight in most is its capacity to give rise to emotion, atmosphere, or mood. With words, haiku poets attempt to recreate moments of inspiration. When this is done effectively, the essential mood of an experience is made readily accessible to readers. “the slow turn” is just such a haiku. Paul, Ferris, and I are delighted to award the Editors’ Grand Prize to John Wisdom.

Christopher Herold


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