Henryk Czempiel

cherry blossoms
opening a rusty wicket
to the neighbor

Henryk Czempiel
Strzelce Opolskie, Poland

Congratulations on having your haiku selected as the top winner in the international category in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s 2019 Haiku Invitational contest. How did you first learn about haiku, and how much writing of haiku or other poetry have you done?

I’ve always liked reading short literary forms. Once, I was impressed by a volume of Japanese and North American haiku, translated into Polish by the Nobel Prize winner Czesław Miłosz. Although I created my very first haiku ten years ago . . . in a dream (it was quite good), I have only been writing regularly for two years. I don’t have many successes, but they include several mentions in competitions and publications of individual works. I am a member of the Polish Haiku Association. I do not have my own style crystallized yet. At the moment I am most interested in haiku, which through nature motifs refer to the human condition.


What was the inspiration for your winning poem?

I live in a suburb of a small town, where families have known each other for decades. My wickets to neighbors are not rusty, but contacts between us are not as intense as they should be. In spring, when fruit trees bloom in our gardens, the need to open to other people always becomes stronger—for me and my neighbors too.


Describe the moment when you first learned you had won.

Late in the evening, after watching a soccer match on TV, I looked through the mail. At first, I thought I was honored with a mention. Only after reading the email again did I understand that this was the top award. “Why are you jumping for joy?” asked my son. “It’s already long after the match.”


Do you have favourite books or websites relating to haiku that others might benefit from in order to learn haiku as a literary art and to share one’s haiku?

I read many, mainly Polish haiku authors. Critical articles too. In English I mostly use the site of The Haiku Foundation with its digital library.


Please tell us more about yourself.

Together with my wife, daughter, son, and mother-in-law, we form a three-generation family. We have a dog and three cats. I am an engineer by profession. I work in the municipal office, where I am responsible for economic promotion. My passion is chess. I am a player, coach, and referee—of course not at the same moment.


How does where you live and what you enjoy doing affect the way you write haiku?

In my wife’s family home, full of tradition, we have a garden, which has cherry trees. There is a large forest park behind the meadow. I walk there every day with the dog. These are my inspirations.