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We asked you to submit verses channeling the Cornell experience—and you delivered, in elegant and evocative fashion

By Joe Wilensky

In honor of National Poetry Month in April, we asked Cornellians to submit original haikus that celebrate the University. And we received dozens of entries—recalling cherished memories, capturing the beauty of campus, and much more.

Across generations, Big Red creativity, humor, and precise wordsmithing were on full display.

Mitch Weisberg ’71, for example, recalled a once-popular (though, it's our duty to note, now prohibited) seasonal pastime:

I hiked up Libe Slope

For the joy of tray sliding

Sat on my tray, WHOOSH!

And Katrina Schreiber Firlik ’91 evoked a small, poignant slice of life:

I eat my bagel

In the gorge, water rushing

Then off to bio

As a reminder: the standard form of a haiku—a type of poetry that dates back to 17th-century Japan—consists of three lines. The first and last line each contain five syllables, while the middle has seven (no rhyming required).

For some expert observations on the form, we consulted Tom Clausen ’73, who worked at Mann Library for nearly four decades and still curates its Daily Haiku webpage.

The project dates (in paper form) to the late 1980s, when Clausen began posting a new poem each day in the library’s elevator, partly to discourage less “safe for work” graffiti.

The Japanese Garden outside the Johnson Museum of Art.
The ideal spot for reciting Cornell-themed haikus? The Johnson Museum's Japanese garden. (Cornell University)

“The important ingredients in a haiku,” he says, “are simple language, concrete imagery, inner resonance, and insight to natural relationships and experiences so that the reader can arrive at their own haiku ‘moment of awareness.’”

While there are several styles (with only the traditional requiring the 5-7-5 form), he notes, all haikus should share certain attributes: they’re minimalist, practicing an economy of words; they celebrate simple yet profound relationships, especially involving the natural world; and they create opportunities for new insights.

Says Clausen: “With the best haikus, there is room for the reader to have an ‘a-ha!’ revelation.”

With the best haikus, there is room for the reader to have an ‘a-ha!’ revelation.

Tom Clausen ’73

Indeed, several entries we received vividly captured the Cornellian experience in ways that will resonate with fellow alums. From Melinda Dower ’78:

Snow so cold it creaked

crunch crunch crunch rattled my brain

Onward to Lynah

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From Karen Zelkind Buglass ’77:

Stress from prelims fades

gazing at fall colors that

hug Lake Cayuga

From Suzanne Bors Andrews ’88:

Kiss on bridge tonight

Suspense in mind and body

Rockledge pledge and I

And some—like this one from Mark Roaquin ’06—were both achingly relatable and quietly hilarious:

Walking up the hill

Just in time for a meeting

I forgot my phone

Pete Saunders ’71, ME ’72, sent in several haikus he’d whipped up via ChatGPT—but threw in his own poem by way of explanation. (“So, not a product / Of my own creation, but / Nonetheless Haiku.”)

(The AI-generated verse actually wasn’t bad. One example: “Ivy veils embrace, / Knowledge whispers through the halls, / Cornell’s legacy.”)

Read on for a hefty sampling of the many Big Red haikus we received—there are several dozen in the following gallery, for your scrolling / swiping pleasure—and add your own in the comments!

(Editor's note: While Cornellians generally copyedits contributions to adhere to a consistent style, in the spirit of poetry we have preserved punctuation and capitalization as submitted by the authors.)

Top: Cherry blossoms frame McGraw Tower (Jason Koski / Cornell University).

Published April 5, 2024

Are you inspired, but missed our deadline? Add your own haiku!


  1. Douglas B. Crites-Moore

    Eight oars at sunset
    Powered Cayuga’s gold glow
    Shining from the Hill

  2. Marilyn du Vigneaud Brown, Class of 1957

    Lovely Haikus

  3. Allan Griff, Class of 1954

    More than memory
    Something connects me to you
    My home for five years

  4. Allan Griff, Class of 1954

    I am moderate
    see all sides and often why,
    Learned at Cornell. Rare.

  5. Bruce Rich, Class of 1965

    The eating of a greasy hamburger and french fries emerging from a splash of ketchup at the barf bar u halls 6

  6. Dana Cooperson, Class of 1981

    Impressed at age eight
    Followed my bro when eighteen
    Summers were the best

  7. Mario Villanueva, Class of 1998

    Playing Streetfighter
    Ivy Room late lunch is next
    Willard Straight Hall day!

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