2019 bloodroot haiku winner

Crystal Simone Smith won first place in 2019’s Bloodroot Haiku Award. She is the author of Wildflowers: Haiku, Senryu, and Haibun (2016). Her work has appeared in numerous journals including: Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Haibun Today, and Wishbone Moon Anthology. Her co-authored book, One Window’s Light: A Collection of Haiku with Lenard D. Moore, Teresa Church, Gideon Young, and Sheila Smith McKoy, was the winner of the 2018 Haiku Society of America’s Merit Book Award for best haiku anthology.

She opted to answer all my inquiries.

What do you remember about the first poem that you fell in love with?

In college, many moons ago, I attended a program in which a professor recited the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. I hadn’t read it so it was the joy of experiencing it that I loved. In fact, I hadn’t read very much poetry at all but, when I began writing poetry I wrote lyrically. I’m all but certain I can attribute the gift of lyric to that moment.

Describe your ideal writing day.

I love fall or spring when the weather is pleasant. If I can dedicate a day to writing, I prefer to do it away from the chores of home. Saxapahaw is a quaint little town with a river literally running through it. I like to escape there and write on the patio overlooking the river run when possible.

Which of your achievements has been the most fulfilling?

By far it was my first acceptance into a recognized journal (African American Review). It was the first time I considered being a writer. Without it, I may have never made the leap from poetry as a hobby to poetry author.

Who is your favorite poet, and why?

Lucille Clifton was a tremendous poet. Her writing was accessible, yet powerful. She wrote of life’s horrors and triumphs in a most unique way. I was immediately drawn to her as a young poet because of her style but more importantly, her consistent theme of survival celebrated.

How do you refill the well of your creativity when it seems to have run dry?

I seek inspiration anywhere I can and as a haiku poet I am very present in my surroundings. I try to stay aware so I don’t miss small, yet significant moments. Inspiration is omnipresent if we pay attention. Yesterday a kind couple let me stare at their newborn for ten whole seconds and I was so appreciative. (lol)!

She shares the following poem, which is forthcoming in “Down to Earth” by Jacar Press, 2020.


You know the clear-water creek is secreted
and runs through the pines behind
the Penns’ condemned red house.
It is evening and morning chores
of the unspoiled who fill jugs to ferry back.
You’re a summer chum and make added hands.
The Penns are landowners on welfare
with a no plumbing and no well—
neighbors your saved grandparents loathe
for all they lack. You adore the summon to help
fetch the water we siphon and secure in jugs
then wade in the ripples of our silhouettes.
One brags she prays away the contaminants.
You know nothing of deficiency or privilege,
who God loves least, or what winter means.

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