Ingebretsen’s celebrated poetry month with a Scandinavian haiku contest—here are the winners!


When Ingebretsens’s Nordic Marketplace announced our Haikuff-da Contest to celebrate National Poetry Month, we hoped that at least a few entries would trickle in and that we’d have enough to cover all the slots for the awards. National Poetry Month doesn’t have quite the high profile of other themed weeks or months.

We should not have worried.

People immediately responded to a good pun and a sense of fun. We received close to 300 entries (food being the most popular category) and the quality of the poems was far beyond what we expected. While one staff person had the responsibility for acknowledging receipt of the entries and organizing them in folders for the judges, others at the store enjoyed checking the day’s email to simply enjoy the haikus within.

We appreciate The Norwegian American giving our winners a larger venue for their writing. More people should have the delight of reading these 17-syllable gems.

~ Carstens Smith, Ingebretsen’s Nordic Marketplace


Lutefisk Category

1st ~ Barbara J. Gilbertson,
Eagan, Minn.

How do I love thee?
Once past your lutefisk breath,
Pretty many ways.

2nd ~ Gary Gillund,
Saint Joseph, Minn.

Church basement dinners
of lutefisk and lefse
warm the winter night.

3rd ~ Paul Bernhardt,
Minneapolis, Minn.

crane stands on one leg
frogs jump out of the water
lutefisk fell in

Judge Chris Dorff may not be a Haiku expert but he knows a little something about lutefisk. He is the president of Olsen Fish Company and has been overseeing the lutefisk and herring business for nearly 23 years. He lives in Elk River, Minn., with three young adult daughters, none of whom will eat his lutefisk. Olsen takes pride in preserving the tradition of lutefisk and quality herring products and must be doing something right—the company that started in 1910 continues to grow.


Scandinavian Holidays Category

1st ~ Laurie Anderson,
Edina, Minn.

Tip toeing Tomten
Appear each Christmas Eve to
Forage for porridge

2nd ~ Ann Rorem Brown,
Portland, Ore.

Sing jeg er sa glad
And you will never be sad
Any time of year

3rd ~ Sara Watts,
Portland, Ore.

Christmas is here now
I think my hair is on fire
Lucia save me

Judge Dave Wood taught English at Augsburg College and other Midwestern universities for 30 years and has eaten lutefisk for most of his 80 years, much of it purchased at Ingebretsen’s. He has worked as a columnist for several magazines and as book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He holds a Ph.D. in literature from Bowling Green State University and has written several books about the Midwestern experience.


Scandinavian Foods Other than Lutefisk Category

1st ~ Lisa LaGoo
Salt crystals like frost
Marry with sweet liquorice.
She ate a whole bag.

I selected Lisa’s poem because it speaks to modern Nordic tastes and I love the clever ending (because it has happened to me!).

2nd ~ Sonny Warner,
Oceanside, Calif.

Blodpudding! Blodkorv!
Inside her Swedish kitchen
Gramma’s a vampire.

Sonny’s poem is witty but also a reminder of how in the past we did not waste any part of an animal or food in general. An important act of sustainability and respect of our resources.

3rd ~ Barbara J. Gilbertson,
Eagan, Minn.

Roundish, soft, wrinkled.
Remarkably comforting.
Mormor and lefse.

Barbara’s poem is pure beautiful tender nostalgia.

Honorable Mentions!
Den morgon gryning
my coffee runneth over
my Danish, soggy
~ Gene Olsen

Oh for cute you guys
Lime Jello with carrot bits
I hope I don’t choke
~ Elizabeth Kahrs

Dad Joke Award!
Tiny little fish
Little fork to eat it with
That’s a herring aid
~ Daniel Buhr

Nordic Food Geek and meatball historian Judge Patrice Johnson is the author of Jul: Swedish American Holiday Traditions. While haiku competitions are new to her, judging is not. Last month, she judged the 9th Annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition. Patrice’s next project is Meat Raffles and Butterheads: Food Rituals of the North (2020) which explores everything from hotdish culture and Jell-O salad to ice fishing and pizza farms.


Ole & Lena Category

Tank you for letting us judge dese hike-oos. Counting da silly-bells gave us some good practice vit counting to 5 and den to 7 and den to 5 again. (Vunce you get above 7, it can get compeecated) Here are our vinners and our reesons for dere vinning … Ole and Lena

1st ~ Robert Granvin,
Burnsville, Minn.

Ole loves Lena
He bought her a casserole
Now that’s a hot-dish

It vas clever, a play on vords, and Lena loved being called dat.

2nd ~ Rocco Bonello,
Minneapolis, Minn.

“Lena!” “Yes, Ole?”
“Can ya go to the paint store?
You could get thinner!”

Usually our yokes don’t transfer vell to poems. Dis did!

3rd (Turd Place — That’s “third,” Ole) ~ Paul Bernhardt, Minneapolis, Minn.
what kind of jokesters
can never quite get it right?
Ole and Lena

Vell, Paul, vee got it right dis time :o) Vell done!

haikuff-da judge
Judges Ann Berg and Bruce Danielson have “Ole and Lena’ed” for 30 years. Playing these characters has taken them to places like Minot, N.D., for Høstfest, where they appeared for two years. It also took them to Libby, Mont., where they were Grand Marshalls of the big Scandinavian festival there.

These characters have also given them the opportunity to publish three books and a CD. Ann and Bruce, both retired, were teachers in the Cambridge-Isanti schools. Ann taught science at the middle school and Bruce taught math and speech at the high school.

Ann and her husband, Larry, love to travel, spend time at their cabin in Wisconsin, and sail. Bruce and his wife, Judy, love to spend time with their dogs, Toby and Murphy, and Bruce enjoys making stained glass and playing guitar, which he took up at the age of 60. Both thoroughly enjoyed this Haiku project and were so excited to be invited to do this.


Nordic Angst Category

1st~ John Ofstehage,
Greenwood, Minn.

Bridge, red sky, face filled
with dread. All out of coffee.
All Stores closed. I scream!

He had the formidable courage to take on Norwegians’ most serious addiction—coffee.

2nd ~ Barbara J. Gilberson,
Eagan, Minn.

Christmas ritual.
Pretend it’s so good
or risk Lutefisk shaming.

Skillfully married Norway’s famous worst food with classic with generationally-honed passive aggressive tendencies.

3rd ~ Virginia Sattler-Reimer,
St. Paul, Minn.

Too many mittens
my existential crisis
knitting therapy

I witness this life-giving therapy daily at Norway House.

Judge Keith Bartz is the Director of Development at Norway House in Minneapolis, and was asked to judge this category because few things produce more anxiety than having to raise funds for a non-profit organization. A native of Minneapolis, Keith brings 25 years of fundraising experience and a love of dry humor to his position. Keith is part of the team raising money for Norway House’s Innovation and Culture Center, which will be connected to the current Quie Education Center. This $13 million campaign will create a new library for genealogy research and a conference and meeting space. Norway House will also create a Business Landing Spot, which assists Norwegian companies when they arrive in Minnesota to become part of the North American markets. Keith says, “We have raised $3 million of a $5 million match initiated by the State of Minnesota. Thereafter, we hope to raise an additional $3 million to $5 million to complete the project. Generous donations are welcome. ‘Operators are standing by.’”


Scandi-Miscellaneous Category

1st ~ Virginia Sattler-Reimer,
St. Paul, Minn.

There is a battle
between Kondo and Hygge
but cozy sparks joy.

Virginia Sattler-Reimer gets first place from me because of how it embodies friendly rivalries between cultures: borrowing, mixing, and ultimately sharing the same pursuit of happiness. I hope she uses her prize money to buy some hygge, the way our Scandinavian ancestors never intended.

2nd ~ Gene Olson,
St Paul, Minn.

Cabin in pine trees
The lake glimmers in starlight
Balm to heal your soul

Stugan i tallar
Sjön glimmar i stjärnljuset
Att läka din själ

Gene Olson gets huge bonus points for writing a haiku that works—and sounds beautiful—in both English and Swedish.

3rd ~ Rocco Bonello,
Minneapolis, Minn.

A Haiku dad joke
Why doesn’t Sven buy a boat?
He can’t af-fjord it.

Maybe this should have been in the Ole & Lena category, but I couldn’t resist such a terrible joke. Nice work, Rocco Bonello. You created a pun that made me groan/giggle, and if that isn’t what haikuffda is all about, then Ingebretsen’s picked the wrong judge for this category.

haikuffda judge Emily Skaftun
Judge Emily Skaftun, Norwegian-American writer-editor. Editor-in-chief of America’s only Norwegian paper. Writer of stories of monsters and space ships and occasional gnomes. Surely the highlight of her career thus far is judging this contest.

Visit Ingebretsen’s Nordic Marketplace website at www.ingebretsens.com.

This article originally appeared in the May 31, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.