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Hiway Haiku returns

Islanders Kaj Wyn Berry and Hita von Mende are celebrating the return of Hiway Haiku poems to the roadside leading to the north end ferry terminal.

They are also celebrating the response from Islanders who contributed money to bring back the public art that’s been so popular people want to take it.

“I choose to believe that they were just passionate poetry lovers,” said Berry.

Three times in the past eight months, on July 4 weekend last year, in January and on the recent Valentine’s Day, someone has removed the four Burma Shave-like signs and, twice, their supports.

The signs have graced the Vashon Highway for about two-and-a-half years with their poetry, one line of three on each of three signs followed by the Hiway Haiku logo on the fourth.

Berry said that she called Jim Didrickson of the Island branch of King County roads division, who suggested to her that the thieves likely were the same people who routinely knock down stop signs on the Island.

Berry said on Monday that a volunteer funding effort started up by Island poet Ann Spiers brought not just money — more than $600 — but also what Berry called an outpouring of support, encouragement and sadness.

“The irony of these mean-spirited tricks has the opposite result of what they expected,” said Berry.

“It is both humbling and profoundly sweet for me, hearing from so many people who have sent from $5 to $100, with little notes of good cheer, so that our no-agenda, light-hearted poetry signs may continue to stand,” she added in an e-mail. “Evidently the community considers them theirs. I have even heard from Seattle residents. These last few weeks have touched my heart.”

Berry reported that the amount of money collected will make it possible for her and von Mende to keep paying for the materials. And on top of that, the new supports are twice as sturdy as the old and go in the ground deeper, she said.

“This should take care of a couple more replacements in case the scalawags continue their nonsense,” she added.

“It’s our gift to the community,” said Berry. “We spend time picking out the poems. Not every one is right for a roadside sign. And then I do the calligraphy, and we replace the signs each month with a new poem. We do it with joy.”

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