The Independent

While in the station, don’t refrain from alliteration

By Paul Bignell, The Independent

Yoko Ono is to judge the world’s first interactive poetry competition, which starts in London tomorrow. Commuters arriving at the capital’s King’s Cross station will be invited to submit haiku-style poems on the subject of the British summer from their mobile phones, using Twitter, the free social blogging site.

The best contributions will be moderated and appear within minutes on the largest digital display board at King’s Cross. Submissions will be judged by Yoko Ono and leading Scottish poet, Jackie Kay. As well as being displayed at the station, the poems will also be presented at King’s Place, the arts centre next to the station.

Haikus are a form of Japanese poetry that is believed to be one of the oldest continually-used poetical forms in the world. Haikus in English usually appear in three lines, to parallel the three metrical phrases of Japanese haiku.

“I liked the idea of doing something that combined an old form with a very new form,” said Jackie Kay. “People could do a haiku on the way to work and it’s a good way to exercise the brain. It’s like the sudoku,” she added.

Commuters have to “Tweet” from their mobile phones using their existing Twitter accounts, placing the prefix @kingsplace before their poem.

About Haiku

Haiku is an unrhymed Japanese poem recording the essence of a moment keenly perceived, in which nature is linked to human nature.

Haiku combines form, content, and language in a meaningful, yet compact form.

The most common form for Haiku is three short lines.
The first line usually contains five (5) syllables, the second line seven (7) syllables, and the third line contains five (5) syllables.
Haiku doesn’t rhyme.

Haiku poets write about everyday things.
Many themes include nature, feelings, or experiences.
Usually they use simple words and grammar.
A Haiku must “paint” a mental image in the reader’s mind.
This is the challenge of Haiku – to put the poem’s meaning and imagery in the reader’s mind in ONLY 17 syllables over just three (3) lines of poetry!


Kings Cross Station welcomes the Great British Summer

with first real-time Twitter Haiku competition.

Judged by Yoko Ono and Jackie Kay

London Arts Venue Kings Place and Network Rail have teamed up to celebrate the advent of the Great British Summer with the world’s first mobile social-media poetry competition – inviting London commuters to submit Haiku-style poems on the subject of the British Summer from their mobile phones using Twitter and then to see their work displayed on the largest digital advertising board at Kings Cross. It is the first time that mobile media has been used to create an interactive arts project tailored around the daily routine of London’s workforce, providing individuals with the satisfaction of seeing their creative efforts placed on display in a public forum in real-time. As well as appearing on the main digital screen at Kings Cross, submitted Haikus will be displayed at Kings Place and on the Kings Place website. The competition will be judged by Yoko Ono and leading UK poet Jackie Kay MBE, with the best haiku poet awarded free entrance for themselves and a friend to the Words on Monday events at Kings Place throughout 2009.

In line with the traditional seasonal elements of the Haiku form, the Great British Summer Haiku competition will encourage commuters to reflect on the coming of Summer and what it means to them. The competition will be live on weekdays between Monday 18th May and Friday 22nd May, with a selection of each day’s Haikus being displayed on the Titan Outdoor screen at Kings Cross over the course of the day – including the Twitter details of the writer.

Around 110,000 people pass through King’s Cross each day, making it one of the capital’s busiest transport hubs. When it opened in 1852, it was said that the station roof – the largest roof in London – was modelled on the Tsar’s riding school in Moscow, and that Queen Boudicca was buried beneath where Platform 8 now stands.


How the Great British Summer Haiku competition will work

Commuters simply have to “Tweet” from their mobile phones using their existing Twitter accounts, placing the prefix @kingsplace before their poem in order that it will be picked up by the Kings Place Twitter account. Incoming Haikus will be moderated and fed through to the live screen at Kings Cross. At the close of the competition, three winners will be chosen from a judging panel including Yoko Ono and Jackie Kay MBE. Submissions are encouraged to reflect the traditional form and content of a Haiku as closely as possible, including by making reference to the changing season, and will be judged on this basis.

For example, Tweeting:
@kingsplace the clouds sing softly /of divisions and limits / I do not listen

Will be shown as:

How to write a Haiku

Haikus traditionally link the mood of a particular season – evoked by a ‘kigo’, or seasonal word – to an epiphany in the reader, brought about by a ‘cutting’ phrase known as a ‘kireji’, which serves to provide the Haiku with a sudden change of direction. The three lines of a Haiku traditionally consist of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, then 5 Syllables – making a total of 17. But it has also been argued that ‘syllables’ in Japanese cannot adequately be represented in English, meaning the 17-sylable rule need not be observed in English Haiku. The Summer Haiku competition will therefore not disqualify entries that employ a different number of syllables, providing that a sense of Summertime is present – with an allowable degree of irony related to the British weather – along with a “cutting” sense of change or revelation. Summer themes, meanwhile, include vibrancy, love, romance and temptation…



Peter Millican, head of Kings Place, says:
“Kings Place has been here for 6 months whereas Kings Cross has been here for over 150 years, providing the area with its main focus point and its colourful character. From The Ladykillers to Harry Potter, the station has been recorded in film and literature but the thousands of people who it brings into London each day are rarely acknowledged. We hope the Summer Haiku competition will provide a welcome space for reflection and creativity as the summer blooms around us.”

Mark Shaoul, head of marketing for Network Rail, says:
“We are delighted to play host to this new wave of social communication in our station. It is a new and fun way for the public to share their views and communicate whilst on the move via their mobile phone which is something we are really excited about. We are looking forward to viewing the results.”

Jackie Kay, Poet, says:
“I’m intrigued by Twitter; it’s a whole new form of communication. I’ve always been fascinated by the mystery and brevity of haikus, how people can say simple things, profoundly. I’m looking forward to see how these two forms will collide and communicate with one another. Twitter is easy to do; people can do it on their way to work. I’m very interested to see what people submit.”


About Haiku

Haikus are a form of Japanese poetry that is believed to be one of the oldest continually-used poetical forms in the world. During the Fifteenth century, it was preceded by an earlier form called Renga. A Renga would begin with a short poem called a Hokku, measuring 17 syllables and containing a seasonal word, onto which subsequent poets would add their own verses until the total poem numbered up to 100 verses. Renga was succeeded in the Sixteenth Century by a more humorous version of the same known as Haikai, which also used a Hokku as a root. When the creation of these Hokkus became a discipline in its own right, under the auspices of the new Haikai style, it was named Haiku.

The first and still greatest exponent of this new Haiku style was Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), who first came to prominence in the 1600s. Basho was the son of a samurai warrior destined for a career in the military, though he spent his early life as a servant. When his master died in 1666, he departed from his home and future as a samurai to dedicate his life to poetry, publishing his first complication on 1672. Today Basho is revered as a saint of poetry and his life’s work is displayed on public monuments and sites around Japan. In following centuries first Yosa Buson (1716 – 1784) and then Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) became known as the greatest Haiku masters of their generations.

Haikus gained increasing attention from the English-speaking world during the course of the Twentieth Century as successive writers from 1920s Modernists such as James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence and Ezra Pound to 1950s Beat Poets such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Indeed, it was Kerouac who argued that “a ‘Western Haiku’ need not concern itself with seventeen syllables since Western Languages cannot adapt themselves to the fluid syllabic Japanese. I propose that the ‘Western Haiku’ simply say a lot in three short lines.”


Some examples of Classical Japanese Haiku

Spring departs.
Birds cry
Fishes’ eyes are filled with tears
Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694)

A bat flits
In moonlight
Above the plum blossoms.
Yosa Buson (1716 – 1784)

Lying down
With a visiting butterfly…
Outer hot spring
Kobayashi Issa (1763 – 1828)
Some Examples of English or ‘free form’ Haiku

The petals fall in the fountain,
The orange-colored rose leaves,
Their ochre clings to the stone.
Ezra Pound (1885-1972)

I didn’t know the names
Of the flowers – now
My garden is gone.
Allen Ginsburg (1926-1997)

The bottoms of my shoes
Are clean
From walking in the rain.
Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)



About Yoko Ono

YOKO ONO is a multi-media artist who constantly challenges the traditional boundaries of sculpture, painting, theatre and music. Her groundbreaking conceptual and performance pieces in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, experimental films, solo music, and music done in association with John Cage and Ornette Coleman, among others, and then a remarkable collaboration with John Lennon from the time they met until his death, and international one-woman shows and retrospectives during the 1980’s and 1990’s illustrate her varied career. Into the new millennium, Yoko’s creative influence and prolific artistic output continues to inspire new generations.

Since 2000, she has continued full force with her award winning one-woman exhibition “YES YOKO ONO” which toured the USA, Canada and Asia until 2004. In 2001, she began installing IMAGINE PEACE billboard works in New York, and they have since been shown around the world. She again performed “Cut Piece” in Paris in 2003, her participatory work ONOCHORD had its world debut at the 2004 biannual Venice Open sculpture exhibition, and she had a major performance at Theatre Chatelet in Paris in 2006. In 2007, Yoko exhibited “Odyssey of a Cockroach” at the Moscow Biennale, and organized the highly anticipated unveiling of her IMAGINE PEACE TOWER in Reykjavik Iceland. “Fenster für Deutschland” a one-woman show at the Kunsthalle Bremen in 2007, was recognized by the 2008 College Art Association with an award for Distinguished Body of Work.

In 2008 Yoko Ono had major exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld and The Baltic Arts Centre, an exhibition and performance at the Bluecoat Art Centre in Liverpool (41 years after her debut there in 1967), and a permanent installation and exhibition at the new art center in Towada City, Japan. She was also represented in the Liverpool Biennale, the Sydney Biennale, the Yokohama Triennale and the Bucharest Biennale. In addition, she had a one-woman exhibition at Galerie Lelong in New York City, the Gakashuin Women’s College, Tokyo and the Hikawa Shrine, Tokyo.

This year, 2009, Yoko Ono will be mounting a major exhibition “ANTON’S MEMORY” at the Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation in Venice, Italy, during the Venice Biennale, which is also honoring her with the prestigious Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Reflecting on her reputation for being outrageous, Yoko smiles and says, “I do have to rely on my own judgement, although to some people my judgement seems a little out of sync. I have my own rhythm and my own timing, and that’s simply how it is.”



About Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay was born 1961, in Edinburgh, Scotland. She is a poet, playwright, and novelist. Her first novel, Trumpet, published in 1998, was awarded the Guardian Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In 2006, she was awarded an MBE for services to literature. Her collection of poetry for children, Red, Cherry Red (2007) won the 2008 CLPE Poetry Award. Jackie Kay lives in Manchester and is a Professor of Creative Writing at the School of English Literature, Language, and Linguistics.

About Words on Monday at Kings Place

Words on Monday is a weekly series of events at Kings Place providing the opportunity to listen to – and join in debate with – leading minds in the spheres for arts, culture and the sciences.

About Kings Place

The Kings Place development at King’s Cross is a new architectural landmark offering an exciting mix of new facilities. It is partly a public and cultural building and partly an office building. It consists of a public ground-floor area on the
waterfront, two lower levels devoted to the arts, and seven floors of offices above. This rich combination works in many different ways for London arts audiences, the local community and office workers. It is an outstanding music and visual arts venue, with a range of imaginative and beautifully designed facilities that will be ideal for performance, exhibition and education. The music, arts and restaurant areas are arranged around generous public spaces which form a central hub to the building. Everyone is able to come into the building and enjoy it. The arts facilities will include free access to a range of art galleries and unusually affordable tickets to concerts and other events.

To submit a haiku, Twitter @kingsplace

For further information about the Kings Place Spring Haiku Competition
Please contact Benjamin Webb / Toby Guise / Lauren Darnell at Deliberate PR
[email protected] / [email protected] / [email protected]
Phone – 00 44 20 8732 8867 / 00 44 20 8732 8861 / 00 44 20 8732 8876
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