For National Grammar Day, winning poetry with some mystery (solved)

March 4, 2017 By ACES Staff Contests and Awards

The winner of the National Grammar Day Tweeted Haiku Contest was briefly presumed to be Sophia Loren, based on her Twitter profile photo.

But the @LillaryBlinton Twitter account was set up just so Colleen Sharkey could submit a single haiku, one that judges deemed best among hundreds of entries in the annual contest.

Sharkey, international media relations manager for Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, tweeted an entry that uses grammar terms in a humorous senryu, a poetry form closely related to haiku.

Our winning poem:

Fill 7

With a pregnant pause
I calculate periods
Here come contractions

Fill 7

Senryu follows the haiku form of three lines and 17 onji, usually simplified as syllables. Unlike traditional haiku, a senryu doesn’t necessarily make a statement about nature.

Sharkey spent seven years as a science writer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was public information officer for the Hubble Space Telescope at the European Space Agency/European Southern Observatory in Munich. She started out in Ohio, where she earned an English degree from the University of Cincinnati.

The judges didn’t initially know the true identity of the winner, but the anonymity of the poet didn’t bother the judges, who chose the tweet above hundreds of other entries.

For her winning haiku, Sharkey earns these prizes:

The expert panel of grammar haiku judges chose four more haiku as worthy of special note. Second-place went to Holly Jones (@TheHollyJones), who describes herself on Twitter as a “wife, mom of 3, author, former musician, active card-carrying nerd and Muppet enthusiast.” Her entry:

A semicolon
separates us; but still I
feel subordinate

The third-place winner was by Zelc (@Zczartist) of Chicago:

Hyphens have no sound.
Mouthfuls of modifiers
get stacked silently.

Fourth-place was by Nathan Pettengill (@commaspice), a Kansas-based magazine editor:

 A modifier.
Seeks squinting relationship.
Ambiguous terms. 

Rounding out the top five was Andy Hollandbeck (@4ndyman), managing editor and copy editor for the Saturday Evening Post:

To fight legalese
Is recommended

Five more haiku received honorable mentions, including one more from Hollandbeck:

There is no doubt that
if I were the subjunctive
you would not exist.
Between you and I,
I could care fewer about
Why do the’se writer’s
in’si’st on apo’strophe’s
when an “s” come’s up?
counting syllables
is no way to make sense of
grammar and usage. 
When recalling the
dead, all pronouns should have clear

You can review all the entries by scrolling back through the hashtag #GrammarDay on Twitter or at the Storify

A huge thanks to our expert panel of haiku judges:

Emily Brewster (@eabrewster)  is an associate editor and lexicographer at Merriam-Webster, Inc. As a general definer, she’s covered all kinds of vocabulary, from grammar to finance to slang. Her videos for Merriam-Webster’s website tackle such vexing issues as lie vs. lay and its vs. it’s. She’s also worked as a poetry editor.

Laura M. Browning (@ellembee) is co-editor-in-chief of The A.V. Club and a board member of the American Copy Editors Society. She once won a poetry award in high school.

Amorak Huey (@amorak), a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in poetry, is author of the poetry collection Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress, 2015) and the chapbooks The Insomniac Circus (Hyacinth Girl, 2014) and A Map of the Farm Three Miles from the End of Happy Hollow Road (Porkbelly, 2016). He teaches writing at Grand Valley State University, before which he spent 14 years as a reporter and editor at newspapers in Florida, Kentucky, and Michigan.

Tom Freeman (@SnoozeInBrief) is an editor at the Wellcome Trust, a foundation that supports health-related research and publishes longform science stories at He is the winner of the 2016 ACES National Grammar Day Tweeted Haiku Contest.

Paula Froke (@PaulaFroke) is the AP’s special liaison editor with MSN/Microsoft and lead editor of the AP Stylebook. Her 30-plus years with the AP has included jobs as news editor in Minnesota and Michigan, deputy national editor at headquarters and assistant managing editor/nights on the AP Nerve Center in New York.  She worked on the editing desk at four Olympics.

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