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Local Poet Wins Haiku Contest

January 15, 2012
By LINDA COMINS , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Poet and musician Earl Ray Keener of Bethany is starting off the new year on a happy note.

Keener has won first prize in the Ito En Tea Co.'s international haiku contest. He related that the prize was three cases of tea, international distribution of the haiku on tea bottles, and a Mont Blanc ballpoint pen, along with "bragging rights," as he quipped.

The Bethany poet explained that the contest was sponsored by the Ito En Tea Co. of New York. Ito En is Japan's largest distributor of bottled green tea.

The contest ran for six months and Keener was a finalist each month. A grand prize was awarded in the Japanese division as well another first prize. Keener received the first prize in the English division.

Keener submitted six haiku in the competition. His prize-winning entry was this one:

"a tattered rainbow

in the spider's web -

Indian summer"

The area poet also placed first in Haiku Canada (Betty Drevniok Award) for this selection:

"folding sheets -

the weight of a flag

still in my arms"

Regarding the honors, Keener commented, "I normally do not yawp at all as I find self-promotion unseemly ... Yet I want to wave my little battle flag as a guidon for the creative life. Language doesn't make all the difference in the world but it continues to make the difference in me," he remarked.

As noted in the Grapevine a couple of weeks ago, former Glen Dale resident Molly Hughes designed some of the sets for Steven Spielberg's hit new film, "War Horse." A Wheeling friend related that when she saw "War Horse" recently, the audience in the local movie theater applauded when Hughes' name appeared in the credits at the end of the film.

Speaking of applause, I applaud and say "bravo" to Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, who stopped the orchestra until the incessant ringing of a cell phone was silenced during a crucial moment in the final movement of Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony at a performance last week.

After an audience member finally turned off the phone, the musicians resumed playing and finished the piece.

Unfortunately, I think we all know how distracting and annoying it is when someone's cell phone rings during a concert, a play, a movie, a lecture or in church. A couple of months ago, I even heard one person's phone ringing on two occasions during a funeral.

The second time around, I figured it was the deceased woman "calling" her friend and telling her to knock it off!

In addition to being a display of rude behavior, the errant ringing can be costly, as it was in the case of the New York Philharmonic's concert. Reportedly, the orchestra had to give the musicians overtime pay because the concert ran over its scheduled time as a result of the delay.

Author C. Robert Barnett, who grew up in Newell, gave a lecture at the West Virginia Archives and History Library in Charleston earlier this month on the use of autobiography and memoir to illustrate social history.

The title of Barnett's presentation was "Memoirs as History: Small Town Life in West Virginia in the 1950s."

Barnett's most recent publication was a 2010 memoir, "Growing Up in the Last Small Town: A West Virginia Memoir," which chonricled life in Newell in the 1950s. His next book will concern the history of sports in West Virginia.

Barnett is a professor emeritus at Marshall University, where he taught sports history for 35 years. He has written numerous articles, reviews and academic papers.

Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at:

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