SKOWHEGAN — Downtown Skowhegan has been haiku-bombed.

The traditional three-line, 17-syllable Japanese poems appear in store windows, in doorways, on lampposts, in businesses – even in a tavern restroom .

Like this one about Skowhegan, by Lilac, a sixth-grader at the middle school:

“A hidden flower

in the middle of the state

unknown to people”

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The windows of the former Holland’s Variety Drug on Water Street sprouted Lilac’s haiku and dozens of others as part of National Poetry Month, sponsored by the Wesserunsett Arts Council. The group is “planting seeds for fertile minds,” and many of the poems are by children, said Nina Pleasants, vice president of the arts council.

The haiku bombing began in early March, originally as a contest about what the Skowhegan community means to residents; but it soon spread with the help of arts council president Lolly Phoenix to libraries in Kingfield, Norridgewock, Solon and Skowhegan.

Matt L’Italien, of Somerset Public Health, was walking by earlier this week and was drawn to the large windows with the display of little poems.

“It’s interesting to see what kids want to say about their community and seeing them do it in a creative way,” L’Italien said from the Water Street sidewalk.

The poems were collected via email by the arts council in March and went on display in the window of the former drugstore April 1. Pleasants said store owner Kevin Holland, who moved the business into a new building last year near the Bernard Langlais Indian sculpture, will allow the council to use the windows until the building is rented or sold. The poems elsewhere in downtown Skowhegan were placed there by the business owners or with their permission.

The haiku will remain in the windows until the end of April, she said.

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This one comes from Solon resident Woody Woodson:

“Small store counter talk

‘snow, mild, cold, mud; it’s crazy’

Coffee brandy please”

“Haikus are just little magic seeds. They’re planting seeds in fertile minds,” Pleasants said. “You think it’s going to be easy because it’s a formula – 5-7-5 (syllables) – but when you start to do it, you get kind of challenged and then your mind starts thinking of other things that make you think of other things, and pretty soon you’ve written 15 of them.”

More than 100 haiku have been submitted by email and to the arts council Facebook page.

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The windows at the former Variety Drug also feature traditional Japanese paintings by council secretary Serena Sanborn – mountains and cherry blossoms.

“It’s an easy art form that everyone can try,” Sanborn said.

Pleasants said 30 haiku have been selected for display on the council’s Facebook page. Other selected poems will be read on WXNZ, the council’s low-power FM radio station, which operates at the Somerset Grist Mill in the former county jail in downtown Skowhegan.

Pleasants, Sanborn and Phoenix said the council has received haiku from all over Maine and from several states, and even one from Japan.

“We’ve had submissions from a 6-year-old to a 98-year-old,” Pleasants said.

Nona Young, 98, of New Portland, wrote:

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“Willows wake early

Cascading private sunshine

Neighboring oaks sleep”

And then there’s the one from Phoenix:

“Who started this craze

Wesserunsett Arts Council

Just a bit of fun”

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at

[email protected];


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