Christine L. Villa
United States Winner, 2018 VCBF Haiku Invitational

yaezakura petals
a child learns
to count beyond 5

Christine L. Villa
North Highlands, California

Congratulations on having your haiku selected as the top winner in the United States category in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s 2018 Haiku Invitational contest. How did you first learn about haiku, and how much writing of haiku or other poetry have you done?

Thank you so much! I would also like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival and judges for selecting my haiku. I’m honored to receive this award and to share my haiku story. I thought I learned from school all that I needed to know to write a proper haiku until I stumbled on Berry Blue Haiku, an online haiku magazine for kids, in 2010. The magazine’s submission requirements and recommended books and articles opened a new window of learning for me. I became friends online with the editor, Gisele LeBlanc, who directed me to several haiku journals. Since then I’ve been hooked, especially when I discovered haiga (combining haiku with artwork). One thing led to another. Before long, I started writing tanka, too. Writing haiku and tanka has been a part of my everyday meditation and healing therapy. Both have not only made me appreciative of life and my surroundings, but have also helped me heal from grief, loss, and depression. My passion for both have resulted in numerous acceptances for online and print journals, a few awards and recognition, and my first poetry book, which is a collection of short-form poetry entitled The Bluebird’s Cry.

What was the inspiration for your winning poem?

Every spring, I enjoy daily late-afternoon walks in my neighborhood where there is one cherry tree. I’ve watched it bloom for several years, but this year I had a different way of looking at it with my dog named Haiku. She sniffed around, and bounced on a bed of fallen petals like a little child who had just seen it for the first time. She made me smile so widely that I imagined what I would have done if I had a child and she were doing what Haiku was doing. I would have picked a cherry blossom and examined it up close with her. And perhaps I would have plucked the petals of a fallen cherry blossom and taught her how to count. When I was thinking of what to submit for the contest, I researched online the different kinds of cherry blossoms. When I came across the word yaezakura, which means cherry blossoms with more than five petals, I recalled my experience with Haiku. And that is how the birth of my winning haiku came about. It also fits the theme of the contest. Just by marveling at nature’s bounty, we can be in harmony with each other and be one with our surroundings.

Describe the moment when you first learned you had won.

I was almost in tears when I received the email! I couldn’t believe that my haiku was selected among all the numerous entries. I can’t count the times I had wished my name would be there on the very top of the list. I’ve always thought it was difficult to create a refreshing haiku after so many wonderful cherry blossom haiku had been written. And then suddenly, my haiku as the best in United States category? I was so thrilled that I couldn’t wait to share the good news to my friends and family.

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 started learning from Jane Reichhold’s online teaching guide, “Bare Bones School of Haiku,” and her book entitled Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide. But what really honed my haiku writing skills was the generous early mentorship of Michael Dylan Welch. His warm community group on Facebook, NaHaiWriMo (short for National Haiku Writing Month), has been a place to go back home to whenever I need a jumpstart, a refresher, or a place to share and give support. In addition, his website,, has provided a wealth of information and guidance to keep me right on track. Other than learning and being inspired from others people’s work published online or in printed journals, I also attended the Seabeck Haiku Getaway near Seattle, Washington. It gifted me an opportunity to not only finally meet some of my online poet friends and to create new friendships, but to immerse myself in fun and interactive workshops.

Please tell us more about yourself.

Migrating to the United States from the Philippines has given me the luxury to fully tap and nurture my creative side. Children’s story writing, poetry, photography, video-making, arts and crafts, and ukulele playing are my main interests. I have published eight children’s books and one poetry book. I’m also the founding editor of Frameless Sky, a video poetry journal that showcases poets, artists, and musicians in collaborative projects. I’ll be visiting the Philippines and traveling to South Korea next year. I’m hoping that revisiting old places and creating new travel adventures will fuel a wellspring of haiku and tanka inspirations.

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

I believe that having lived in two totally different places has made my life richer and has given me more experiences and inspirations to write haiku. In the Philippines, I grew up where there are only two seasons—the dry and wet seasons. In Sacramento, California, where I have lived more than fifteen years, there are four seasons that have given me a bigger view of the world around me. I love nature walks, seeing new places, taking pictures. Whether it’s just sniffing the scent of sampaguita (a sweet-smelling tropical flower) or hearing a typhoon lash with strong winds and heavy rains in the Philippines, dipping my toes along the shores of Waikiki, feeling the scorching heat in Sacramento, or tasting a snowflake at Lake Tahoe, there’s always a haiku waiting to be written.