UKIAH -- Drew Gravier, a freshman at Ukiah High School, stepped to the microphone, gently cleared her throat, and read her award-winning poem:

a town is a town.

a city is a city.

Ukiah is home.

Ukiah, it turns out, is also haiku spelled backwards. And on Sunday, nearly 200 people attended a celebration of the ancient Japanese poetry at the seventh annual UkiaHaiku Festival.

This year's event attracted nearly 1,600 haikus, submitted by people from all around the world. Dozens were selected to be honored in a range of categories.

Ellen Lawrence Skagerberg of Santa Rosa won an honorable mention in the most-competitive "adult contemporary" category. She read it aloud at the celebration:

two bicycles

"Daddy, can we stop

and pick a flower"

The crowd ohhed and ahhhed as Skagerberg and others read their poems at the Ukiah Chamber of Commerce, where the event was held.

"This year was my first time entering," said Skagerberg, who has worked at Copperfield's Books for 17 years. "It was such a thrill to get the hand-addressed award letter in the mail."

Gravier said it was a rush to be on stage, and she loved reading her poetry.

"I've been writing poetry since the fifth grade," she said. "I thought this was so great."

Competition was stiffer than ever this year, as organizers found their event has begun getting international attention from haiku junkies. Letters from all around the world arrived, bearing haikus of three lines of five syllables, seven syllables and finally five syllables.

The winner of the general adult category was Janak Sapkota of Kathmandu, Nepal.

a white pigeon

drops a feather in the yard

first winter snow

John Frary took second place in the category of haikus about Ukiah. He read it aloud Sunday:

after the street fair

only a wisp of strawdust

where the scarecrow stood

He received an extra bit of applause from the largely local crowd.

"I was a little nervous," Frary said.

Like others, Frary said he was attracted to writing haikus by the challenge of packing significance into so few syllables.

"It's challenging," he said. "You have to produce meaning with very few words."

You can reach Staff Writer Nathan Halverson at 521-5494 or Check out his blog at or on