Jeffrey Ferrara

mixing concrete
a few petals
don’t hurt

Jeffrey Ferrara
Worcester, Massachusetts

Congratulations on having your haiku selected as the top winner in the United States category in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s 2020 Haiku Invitational contest. How did you first learn about haiku, and how much writing of haiku or other poetry have you done?

I probably first became aware of haiku through a chance reading many years ago of Cor van den Heuvel’s The Haiku Anthology. Haiku just seemed so strangely different from the western poetry I’d always read and attempted to write. Even today I have to continually remind myself to write simply, without ego or ornament, to go in the direction of wordlessness, to show and not to tell . . . I’ve had some acceptances for publication, but my many rejections are just as important. Each one makes me take another look.


What was the inspiration for your winning poem?

I’m 61 years old, but the little boy in me will always stop to watch concrete being mixed, concrete being poured. Aren’t we all tempted to write our initials with a stick? Here, a few petals fell into a wheelbarrow mix. I heard a workman say they wouldn’t hurt the bond. His words had a resonance for me.


Describe the moment when you first learned you had won.

I was about to leave for work in the morning when I checked my email. The news made my day. I decided I’d be late for work. I’m a janitor. It was wonderful. I thank the judges. I told my wife Irma before anyone. She was very happy.


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?

There are so many, including Michael Dylan Welch’s website, an invaluable resource. The Mainichi News, publishing one haiku in English daily, disciplines me to write and submit daily. And one book I especially like is Haiku Enlightenment by Gabriel Rosenstock. More than a haiku-writing guide, it’s really for me a guide to living.


Please tell us more about yourself.

My three brothers and I were fortunate to grow up near fields and streams. Small phenomena of the natural world left early impressions that last. But I’m a book-reader too—American history, especially. And I listen to Lyndon Johnson’s Oval Office telephone recordings just for fun.


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

My home is in a country setting within a medium-sized city. Birdsong is always present, along with the sounds of urban bustle in the distance. It’s a nice balance that often lends itself to haiku.