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Quarantine in Seventeen

April 22, 2020 English

Sketch of person reading a haiku

Haiku contest looks for quick—but poetic—insights on life at home.

By Sala Levin '10 | Maryland Today 

In 17 syllables, capture something essential about the experience of life under stay-at-home orders, whether it’s your dog’s apparent boredom, the spring scenery outside your window or the cycle of muting and unmuting yourself on endless Zoom meetings.

That’s the task set forth by the UMD Department of English and University Libraries with #HaikuFromHomeUMD, a contest celebrating National Poetry Month that asks participants to condense their time staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic into the traditional three-line poem. Three winners will receive Vigilante coffee and treats from Chesapeake Chocolates to perk up and sweeten their quarantine.

“We wanted to create a creative outlet and invite the community to have a moment to just sit and contemplate what is happening right now and write a haiku to kind of process everything,” said Aaron Ginoza, social media coordinator in University Libraries.

The short and sweet haiku offered the perfect medium, with a simple format and brevity that makes it hyper-tweetable—plus a twist on the everyday that matches both the monotony and the surreal quality of life during a pandemic. “In a lot of ways, there’s kind of a mundane side to haikus, but … it’s kind of about having an elevated new perspective on something very mundane,” said Ginoza. 

Some entries focus on the new reality of virtual meetings and working remotely. “I’m always Zooming / And yet I’m never moving / COVID paradox,” reads a submission from Marilee Lindemann, associate professor of English. “Two profs in one house / Me downstairs and him upstairs / Will bandwidth allow?” asks Carly S. Woods, assistant professor of communication.

Read more in Maryland Today.