Q&A: Donna Doyle, second-place winner in the Metro Pulse YUMMM! haiku contest

Donna Doyle penned the haiku "Calhoun's on the River": fried green tomatoes/each summer with my mother/homegrown like our love. Her entry won second place and a $25 Copper Cellar Restaurants gift certificate in the first Metro Pulse YUMMM! restaurant guide haiku contest. First place winner Kevin Hosey (politely) declined to be interviewed.

How long did it take you to write the prize winner?

Oh gosh, I'd be surprised if it was any more than five minutes. I actually just went with the first three local eateries that came to mind—jumped out—Calhoun's was one, Pizza Palace was another, and Chocogasm [about a Magpies cupcake] just had to be in there. I pulled out a KUB envelope and that's what's wonderful abut haiku, it can fit on an envelope. I did some revising, and it's hard to estimate how long that took—it can take longer than the writing.

Are you a writer ordinarily?

Yes. I consider myself primarily a poet. I've won the Knoxville Writers Guild's Libba Moore Gray poetry award and I have a chap book, published in 2008 by Finishing Line press, and the title of that is Heading Home.

Is any of it haiku?

No, I guess this is my first published haiku. I've recently had some poems published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which most people in the biz refer to as JAMA.


Yes. JAMA is one of the very, very few medical journals that incorporates art and literature in with all the clinical research, so that's an area I'm interested in. I think I mentioned that I'm a librarian at Preston Medical Library at UT Hospital. Also, I write primarily out of my life experience and a couple of years ago my husband had emergency open heart and a stroke, and a lot of my writing in the past couple of years, since then, has been centered around that experience.

Are the poems about you as a caregiver?

Yeah, and in general his experience with that sudden change in abilities.

What are their names?

Wait, it should jump right out... One was called The Kiss, one Intensive Care, the other Storm Damage.

When did you become a poet?

I would say very seriously and intently around 1990.

What changed for you then?

I took a class at UT with Marilyn Kallet. I was an English major and it came time to declare the concentration. I couldn't imagine writing fiction, and it doesn't make a lot of sense, but I was scared of and intimidated by poetry, and that's why I chose to take the class. I wrote a poem for that class, and it was the first time ever in my life I've had that intense feeling of, ‘This is exactly what I want to do.'" And yeah, I did have a moment of, "Wait a minute, why this? Why not law, why not business, do I want to be a volunteer worker for the rest of my life?" You know, the Metro Pulse haiku contest pays more than most literary journals.

Have you won any similar contests?

In the late '90s, Walmart, they had an Ol' Roy photography and essay contest I won. My photo of my dog and my essay were on display at the Chapman Highway Walmart and the phone hasn't stopped ringing since.

Do you ever just start spouting thoughts in haiku format?

I do sometimes find myself stopping and counting syllables and somebody once told me that when I talk about love, I speak in iambic pentameter—just, wow.