TVLSE, Okla. – Haikus are simple, they tell a vivid story in just a few sounds. For those who are fans of the short poetry format, they may have noticed that the preceding sentence is a haiku itself. Originating from Japan, traditional haikus adhere to a three-line, five-seven-five syllable format. They are unique because they are descriptive poems that colorfully illustrate nature.
It also happens to be the favorite poetry format of Mvskoke poet, Shonday Randall. She has been telling stories through the format for as long as she can remember. Her heritage as a Mvskoke citizen living on the Mvskoke reservation played a pivotal role in one of her most recent poems.
On March 23 Randall was recognized for her poem, “Tvlse” at the Woody Guthrie Center during their Curbside Haiku Poetry Night. The event was hosted in conjunction with the City of Tulsa, the Woody Guthrie Center, and Magic City Books. Randall was one of ten selected poets to have their poems displayed on boards around the downtown area.
“As a Mvskoke citizen and with the reservation being intact, my mind always goes to our ancestors and how we came to be in Tulsa.” Randall said. “I always like to share that part of history with family/friends. I thought this would be a good opportunity to write about something, but I wanted it to be motivational. I was just thinking ‘we’re still here, here we are’.”
Her haiku goes, “The end of the trail is only the beginning, we are Mvskoke”. The first line alludes to the forced removal of the Mvskoke people from their homelands to the present day reservation. The poem ends with a note of hope, and a strong statement of cultural identity.
According to Randall, she took inspiration from her ancestors, some who were Trail of Tears and Indian boarding school survivors. Growing up Randall’s family valued education. They made sure she knew how to actively read, write and create. Poetry provided her with the perfect outlet.
“It was always just for fun, it’s relaxing.” Randall said.
Randall also shared that when she travels, instead of purchasing trinkets to serve as memories she enjoys writing haikus. She said it allows her to keep inspiring herself.
As for her award-winning poem, “Tvlse” she was humbled that she was able to share her talent and her heritage with fellow Tulsans.
“I think it’s important that we remind the residents of the City of Tulsa that they are on the reservation. I think it’s important that we make our presence known as much as possible.” Randall said.
The story of Tulsa’s origins as the endpoint of the Trail of Tears for the Mvskoke people may not be well known amongst Tulsans today. However, Randall’s poem about the city serves as a humble reminder that Tulsa would not be Tulsa without the Mvskoke people.
The full list of the ten haikus selected for the Curbside Haiku Poetry Night can be viewed on Tulsa’s downtown website: www.downtowntulsa.com.