Locally-grown poetry at Delta County Libraries

By Leah Morris


Starting around mid-July, Delta County Libraries staff members begin to regularly update each other on the size of their tomato plants and where their tomatoes fall on a scale of green to red. Tomatoes fill staff lunches, conversations and late-summer programming ideas. Thus, it is no great stretch to imagine these same librarians enjoying the submissions that come in during their annual tomato haiku contest.

Hotchkiss Library seed librarian Sarah Pope says, "We love how the tomato haiku contest has evolved over the past few years. What a wonderful way to promote our local community, celebrate the harvest, and encourage literacy."

The contest, now in its third year, appeals to community members young and old to contribute haiku poems about tomatoes. The accepted format for these poems is three lines, with a 5/7/5 syllable count. These locally-grown poems vary from reflections of tomatoes in family history to horror tales of tomato worms, pulp and rotten fruit. Many are laugh-out-loud funny, while others capture powerful emotions and imagery in just a few words.

Rita Clagett, a local writer who contributes her expertise as one of the contest judges every year, appreciates the effort people put into their entries. "I've been delighted to be a judge in the tomato haiku contest for the past few years. I look for classic haiku elements including poetic impact, as well as originality, surprise, emotion or insight, and some essence of tomato. It's great to see so many entries each year, and participate in the big red fun around tomato season in our spectacular valley."

The contest will run through the month of August. Entries should be original, and patrons are limited to three poems per person. There will be categories based on age, humor and more, with a special challenge this year for writers to try to incorporate a tomato recipe into a haiku. Entries should be submitted through Delta County Libraries' website at http://www.deltalibraries.org/haiku-contest/. Winners will be selected by local judges, including Clagett, in early September, with the final announcement taking place at this year's Hotchkiss Tomato Fest on Sept. 16.

Pope explains, "It works well to have the haiku contest lead into our annual September Tomato Fest. Tomato Fest is a fun event for locals to highlight their tomato harvest and celebrate all things tomato, including poetry."

Whether you love them or hate them, grow them or throw them, bake them or forsake them, tomatoes play an undeniable role in Delta County's fall harvest. Help celebrate the tomato by entering the contest!