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At Pittsburgh's G-20 Summit, a Haiku contest

Suppose amid the number crunching of a global financial summit a poetry festival broke out.
 
That's not exactly what's on the agenda as the world's finance ministers and central bankers gather today and tomorrow in Pittsburgh to assess the devastation their policies have wrought on what used to be America's industrial heartland at the G-20 financial summit, but it's a beautiful idea nonetheless.
 
As organized anti-globalization protesters prepared more confrontational tactics on the streets of Pittsburgh, members of Pittsburgh's own arts and activist communities have turned to expressions of creative non-violence to make their own statement to the world leaders descending on their Rust Belt city. 
 
The Pittsburgh Filmmakers--one of the largest and oldest independent media arts centers in the country and a sister organization of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts--sponsored a Haiku writing contest.  True to the spirit of the competition and the general withering of financial support for the arts during the current recession, there were no cash prizes, but the winning entry was to be displayed prominently on the marquee of the organization's Harris Theater located on Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, just three blocks away from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which will be the hub of the summit.
 
Nearly all the participants in the contest adhered to the 17 syllable, 3 line format, with its traditional 5 syllable--7 syllable--5 syllable pattern.  There is no indication whether entries which deviated significantly from that pattern were disqualified, as the contest rules are no longer posted.
 
A quick look through the submissions indicates there's nothing quite up to the standards of the Japanese masters Basho or Issa, or for that matter even contemporary American interpreters of the form such as Gary Snyder or Robert Hass.  The traditional haiku can hardly be thought of as a "political" form, but still there are more than a few clever and incisive poems in the lot: 
 
Known for friendliness,
we won't be greeting you,
thanks to congestion
Mary M. Shirey
 
The poorest countries
Don't meet, it would be declared
An act of warfare
– Andrew Blight
 
yo what up World Banks --
shout out to the crust punks yo --
you'll all be in jail
– alicia ledden
 
I'm a grain of sand
On the beach of the future.
The tide is coming.
– Bill Volbrecht
 
your secret meetings
have public consequences.
let all of us in.
Renée Alberts
 
The streets are empty
The merchant sings the blues
Show me the money
– Keith J. McWilliams
 
No movies tonight
The drama is in the streets
See yinz on Monday

– Manny Theiner
 
Dear G20 Friends
Please stop drilling whales for oil
Thanks so much, Pittsburgh
– Janet Gunter
 
I can't feel my face
I thought it's been a whole day
Still the awful stench
– Justin Lemley
 
Our city has had
enough tragedy this year
Please leave us in peace
– Andrea Dodasovich 
 
Here's the winning entry, by Angele Ellis, a writer and Pittsburgh community activist who is the author of Arab on Radar (Six Gallery Press, 2007) a book of poems exploring issues of her Arab-American identity. 
 
we harvest leaflets
blown like autumn leaves: our hopes
speak truth to power
 
The Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio have reported on the contest, but you can check out all 151 entries in the competition in the order that they were received for yourself at Pittsburgh Filmmakers : The Haiku Contest . 
 
--R.D. Pohl
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