1. Environment

Oh, Florida: Celebrating Florida poets with a little haiku action

JIM DAMASKE   |   Times 2018 As sunrise lights up the sky over Tampa Bay beyond the mouth of Allens Creek in Clearwater, we wax poetic about Florida.
JIM DAMASKE | Times 2018 As sunrise lights up the sky over Tampa Bay beyond the mouth of Allens Creek in Clearwater, we wax poetic about Florida.
Published Apr. 26, 2019

April is National Poetry Month, which is pretty meaningful for Florida. We've had quite a few Rhymin' Simons use Florida as either a muse or a haven or both.

The visiting poets included Sidney Lanier, who in 1875 wrote a tourism-promoting guidebook to the state while on the payroll of the state's major railroad; Robert Frost, who named his winter home here "Pencil Pines" and wrote a poem by that name; and Wallace Stevens, who loved Key West even after Ernest Hemingway cleaned his clock in a fight. (I am partial to Stevens because one of his poems is titled O Florida, Venereal Soil.)

Florida has a gracious plenty of poets living and working here now, including Campbell McGrath, who won a MacArthur "genius grant" for his work; Yolanda Franklin, whose book Blood Vinyls includes an imagined dialogue with Zora Neale Hurston; and Richard Blanco, who not only read one of his poems at President Obama's inaugural but is also a licensed civil engineer. I guess constructing a stanza is not unlike constructing a bridge.

I can see why Florida produces so much poetry. I often turn to poetry when trying to express my feelings toward my native state — and, in particular, the form known as "haiku." For instance:

Sunrise: humid, hot

Road rage incident gone wrong

Ran over myself

Getting stuck in a snarl of cars and trucks gives me plenty of time to compose a Florida poem, as well as a good subject:

Traffic on I-4

Backed up like a bad toilet

Where's Disney's FastPass?

The latest legal maneuvers from the case involving the owner of the New England Patriots and efforts to suppress the video of his visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa inspired this one:

Some Kraft-y lawyers

Cry foul over Sunshine Law

Exposing dark deeds

I encourage everyone in Florida to give poetry a whirl. Read the news out of Tallahassee about how lawmakers want to change the rules to make it harder to get a citizen petition on the ballot and see how inspiring it can be:

Here in Florida

Legislators squeal in fright

When voters take charge

Or you can just give vent to the range of feelings that Florida gives us on a regular basis:

Glorious sunset

Roseate spoonbill soars high

Need my machete

Why haiku, you ask? Hey, have you ever tried to find a rhyme for "Sopchoppy"?


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  2. The candidates running for Clearwater City Council Seat 1/mayor are (left to right): Elizabeth "Sea Turtle" Drayer, Frank Hibbard, Bill Jonson and Morton Myers. [TARA MCCARTY  |  Times]
  3. The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute purchased 775 acres in central Pasco County for a planned expansion. TIMES [VYCELLIX, A SWEDISH CANCER THERAPY RESEARCH COMPANY, IS SETTING UP ITS U.S. HEADQUARTERS NEAR THE H. LEE MOFFITT CANCER CENTER & RESEARCH INSTITUTE IN TAMPA. (TIMES FILES]
  4. Debbie and her husband Michael, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, fish from the Dunedin Causeway Thursday. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission extended the period of catch and release for several species of fish along the west coast of Florida. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  5. A slurry of dead fish, the result of Red Tide, moved out of Clearwater Harbor on the north side of Sand Key Park during a 16-month-long algae bloom. So many fish were killed that the state is limiting anglers to catch-and-release when it comes to snook, redfish and sea trout.  [Times photo (2018) by Douglas R. Clifford]
  6. A pair of wood storks, left, and a large group of white ibis rest and feed in a wetland area off Loop Road in the Big Cypress National Preserve. Florida is home to more wetlands than any other state except Alaska. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2008)]
  7. Pasco County commissioners introduced an ordinance Tuesday governing upkeep of empty property after residents complained about the condition of the Links Golf Club in Hudson, which closed in June 2019. [MICHELE MILLER  |  Times]
  8. Rep. Blaise Ingoglia on the floor of the Florida House in 2017. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
  9. In this radar image from the National Weather Service's Key West facility, a massive flock of migratory birds is seen moving north early Monday. The green/yellow objects are biological objects flying north over the Keys. The darker blue objects indicate rain. [National Weather Service]
  10. These marine mammals were named "right whales" because they were considered by whalers to be "the right ones to hunt." [NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION]
  11. Island Estates, a neighborhood in Clearwater Bay. There are three City Council races on this year's ballot as the city prepares for the realities of climate change. [LUIS SANTANA   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  12. Florida Department of Environmental Protection staff conduct regular seagrass monitoring to assess the health and diversity of seagrass meadows within the St. Martins Marsh and Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserves north of Tampa Bay. A state legislator wants to extend the aquatic preserve to all of Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties.

Charlie Shoemaker for The Pew Charitable Trusts [Charlie Shoemaker for The Pew Charitable Trusts]