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APSU Professor Taylor Emery’s tomato haikus earn two recognitions at Nashville’s Tomato Art Fest

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – The Tomato Art Fest that paints East Nashville red every August celebrates itself as “a uniter, not a divider – bringing together fruits and vegetables.”

A little deeper into the festival’s website, organizers describe the two-day event this way: “The essence of Tomato Art Fest can really be found in the array of wacky and hilarious contests and the Push, Pull & Wear Parade kicking off the tomato weekend.”

And it was in one of those wacky contests that an Austin Peay State University (APSU) English professor, Dr. Taylor Emery, made quite an impression. She won third place and an honorable mention in two of the festival’s tomato haiku contests.

“It’s really quite unbelievable because I’ve been a fan of the Tomato Arts Festival for a while,” said Emery, who is an assistant professor in the APSU Department of Languages and Literature. “This is really kind of neat. … And to get two was just absolutely wonderful.”
Emery learned about the recognitions in an email signed by “The Tomato Haiku Team,” who invited her to read the winning poems on the Main Stage of the festival on Saturday, August 13th.

Summer’s Harbinger

Emery won third place in the Oddities category – in which the poets could riff from the traditional haiku structure – for the following haiku:

Some think a peach blush,

Odor of suntan lotion

Signal summer’s here.

Others believe

Tomato red vibrancy

Summer harbinger.

“I like peaches, and I love going to the beach, and I kept thinking, ‘Oh, there’s all these different notions of what people think of when they think of summer,’” Emery said. “For some, it’s going to the beach or the pool. For others, it’s all about the tomato.

Summer’s Jewels

“You have cherry tomatoes that you just go out and pick and pop in your mouth,” she added. “Some people go to their garden with a salt shaker. Or they make a tomato sandwich. That’s what I kept thinking about summer.”

Emery also won an honorable mention in the Heirlooms category for the following traditional haiku:

Gardeners’ heirlooms—

Amethyst, rubies, emeralds,

Edible summer jewels

“I always grow cherry tomatoes, and this year I have different types of cherry tomatoes (with varying colors, purple, red, green and yellow),” she said. “When I was looking at those, and I thought, ‘They’re kind of like jewels in a box.’ … They’re the gardeners’ jewels.”

A Pandemic Release

Emery has been sending haikus to the Tomato Art Fest for years, but the poems took on added meaning during the pandemic.

“Writing haikus is kind of a release, and I was writing one a day for the entire year,” she said. “They’re so small, you can almost write them anywhere anytime and then go back and revise.”

She started writing them daily at the beginning of the pandemic.

“I just thought, ‘I can’t go anywhere, can’t see anybody,’ so I just explored ‘what is this feeling like?’” Emery said. “As opposed to writing long pieces, I wrote short pieces.”


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