WSU students sweep KU Japanese poetry contest



Russell Greenall-Sharp bows and accepts his medal for first place in the tanka poem contest. Participant submitted poems in two divisions: English and Japanese. Greenall-Sharp’s tanka was written entirely in Japanese.

Three Wichita State students snagged top awards at the University of Kansas’ annual Asian Language contest Saturday.

Three students from WSU Japanese professor Yumi Foster’s Japanese class placed first, second, and third in the mail-in tanka poem division. Tanka poems, like their Haiku counterparts are concise and packed with emotional content.

The contest takes place each spring at KU’s student union hosts­­ a variety of Japanese related competitions and seminars. Among panels on Kanji writing and calligraphy, students in attendance participate in a Japanese Kanji Card game called karuta and conversation sessions with native speakers.

Senior psychology and philosophy major Russell Greenall-Sharp took home first place. Greenall-Sharp, of Leeds, West-Yorkshire, England, said he was happy to have been selected as the top submission in the tanka division.

“I was glad they liked it,” Greenall-Sharp said. “I enjoy writing these and it’s nice people enjoyed reading it.”

Greenall-Sharp went on to talk of his penchant for both tanka and haiku as forms of poetry which he said are both economical and poignant literary forms.

“They’re very evocative and succinct,” he said. “They do a very good job of capturing an image. It’s like constructing a puzzle that grabs that.”

Senior computer science major Tyler Miller placed second in the tanka division. Miller placed third in the Asian language contest’s karuta division.

“My initial reaction was undoubtedly surprise,” Miller said. “I really didn’t expect to be awarded.”

Miller said he sees creative writing as an effective medium for learning a foreign language.

“I think that any kind of writing in a language is an effective way of learning it,” he said. “The more you expose yourself to a language and allow yourself to use it increases your comprehension and flexibility with it.”

Sophomore Kaeley Hansen placed third in the tanka competition with her poem entitled “Kagayakitai”. Hansen’s title is a Japanese phrase which translates to “I want to shine.”

“It meant so much that my writing was impactful,” Hansen said.

Next fall semester, Hansen is set to study abroad as a junior at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Japan. While overseas, Hansen will plans to take part in Gilman and Freeman Asia scholarship projects as a part of her studies.

“More than anything else I’m proud of myself for coming so far,” she said. “Even if it was difficult, it was gratifying to be able to write a poem in Japanese and have it be impactful.”