With carefully counted syllables and plenty of colorful imagery, poems have been flowing into the Delta County Libraries three lines at a time. Patrons are responding with delightful creativity to a haiku poetry contest planned to coordinate with Delta County Libraries' upcoming Tomato Fest events in Delta and Hotchkiss. Some of the poems describe beauty and flavor, others complain about pulp and seeds, but every poem does share one commonality: the tomato.

The roots of haiku poetry date back hundreds of years to ancient Japan. The accepted format for the poems is three lines, with a 5/7/5 syllable count, although English versions of older Japanese poems no longer reflect the syllable count due to the challenges of translation. Historic haiku poems cover many subjects, from fleas to moon watching, but writing haiku about tomatoes is likely a more recent turn of events. Because tomatoes are native to the Americas, it is hard to imagine ancient Japanese poets would have had much contact with them until trade routes were established later on.

Fortunately, tomatoes and haiku are coming together in Delta County, and the results dice up nicely. Haiku entries will be accepted online at http://www.deltalibraries.

org/tomato-fest/, by email, and at all Delta County Libraries through Tuesday, Sept. 1. Patrons may turn in up to three original entries, with a separate category for young poets under 16. Entries will be judged by local wordsmiths around the county, and winning entries will be read at Tomato Fest events in September.

The Tomato Fest sprouted in Hotchkiss in September 2014, with local gardeners and farmers bringing large, small, tasty, ugly, and well-dressed tomatoes to an event at the Saturday farmers' market at the Creamery Arts Center. The event was so well-received that Delta County Libraries has decided to make it an annual event with opportunities to participate in both Delta and Hotchkiss this year. The Delta event will take place on Thursday, Sept. 10, at the evening DeltaFest street fair, which starts at 5:30 p.m. The Hotchkiss event will once again coincide with the Saturday farmers' market at the Creamery on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 1-4 p.m. Events will also include seed saving demonstrations, tomato games and other fun activities.

As tomatoes quiver on their stems in anticipation of upcoming contests, and locally grown poems continue to roll in, locals should think about how they'd like to participate. The poetry contest is open to all, tomato tasting is free, and the public is invited to be part of either Tomato Fest event by entering homegrown tomatoes in any of the contest categories.


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