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2016 Haiku, Tanka, Senryu contest results (with Judges' comments)



HAIKU    (Judge: Lee Gurga)


First Place ($100)


mint condition

an autumn day

still in the wrapper


John Stevenson

Nassau, NY


The first line gives us a coin fresh from the mint, then the second arrests us with

somewhat of a puzzle: what could the connection be? The third clarifies the haiku like fine wine: the shiny coin from the mint has been alchemically transformed into a refreshing mint to nibble on and with it a delightful metaphor for an autumn day that invites us with a lightness of touch and a pun with a minty taste. Freshness of image!

Lightness of touch! The haiku way!


Second Place  ($50)


not a window

but a mirror

full cold moon


Neal Whitman

              Pacific Grove, CA




Third Place  ($25)


if swooshes were horses city bus


Scott Mason

Chappaqua, NY


Honorable Mentions (unranked):


each hour

its note

winter solitude


Sharon Pretti

San Francisco, CA


starry night—

after a while we stop

connecting the dots


Christopher Herold

Port Townsend, WA



a layer deeper


John Stevenson

Nassau, NY


TANKA   (Judge:  Marilyn Hazelton)


First Place ($100)  (tie)


my sister

in both my nieces

how the mountain breeze

now carries her across

an autumn field


Karina M Young

Salinas, CA


dried curls

of gray reindeer moss

crunch softly

underneath our boots . . .

no other sound, but breath


Debbie Strange

Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada

               In the tanka above, we join narrators and companions at locations of serious purpose and sere beauty. First, family members gather to remember and release a woman beloved as sister or mother. The woman’s daughters extend her presence. Readers join mourners as a “mountain breeze” lifts and carries a loved one’s ashes across an “autumn field.” The breath (“breeze”) of this world does not remove grief, but can gentle it. This field will rest in winter, grow green in spring, and continue to respond to the seasons. 

               Next, we stand at the delicate edge of winter where air is crisper, and “reindeer moss” whispers beneath our feet. The color of this tundra is muted. Perhaps the light is also. In response to small, mysterious sounds framed by quiet, the breaths of those within the poem startle and deepen. And we have an opportunity to appreciate what we usually take for granted. Both poems center on absence and presence within our lives, and remind us how breath companions and consoles us with its beauty.


Second Place

late sunset

by the ferris wheel

I twirl

the phantom ring

around my finger


Christina Sng



Third Place


out the door and off you go

a quick hug

before the slow embrace

of silence and the night


Lesley Anne Swanson

Coopersburg, PA


Honorable Mention


first day

after retirement

the brush

is dipped deeper

in Chinese ink


Chen-ou Liu

Ajax, Ontario, Canada


SENRYU   (Judge: Ferris Gilli)



First Place  ($100)

support group . . . 

the comfort of the chair

between us


Julie Warther

Dover, OH


This well-crafted senryu offers much to think about in only a few words.  Support groups help people deal with common concerns such as addiction, cancer, or the devastating loss of a loved one.  This group could be any one of many kinds.  The author may be new here and perhaps feeling nervous or self-conscious.  The last line surprises me and opens another door into the poet’s experience: sitting close to someone else, perhaps a specific member, may cause further discomfort.  As I interpret it, the poet is clearly relieved by the position of the chair.  The senryu acknowledges the writer’s private vulnerability, and is a reminder that vulnerabilities, often deeply personal, may be required revelations in a support group.  


Second Place 


the usual 

boy leaves girl story

assisted living


Anita Guenin

San Diego, CA


The key to this senryu’s success lies in how the author deftly misleads readers with the seeming flippancy of “the usual / boy leaves girl story,” but follows with the unexpected circumstances of the poem.  The revelation of “assisted living” carries a punch.  Is the poem about a widow who came to assisted living after her husband died?  Or did a man and woman become friends (or even closer) after meeting there, and at some point were separated?  Perhaps the words represent a man or woman exchanging life stories.  The poet could be a visitor to the place, summing up a resident’s situation.  The author leaves us with poignant possibilities, a senryu for readers to interpret as they will.



Third Place:


all lit up 

in the lamp shop window

dead moths


Christopher Herold

Port Townsend, WA



I am struck by the irony in this senryu.  We’ve seen dead moths countless times, deaths caused by human sources.  Diverted on its journey by a man-made light—flame or electric bulb, lantern or street lamp—a moth is doomed by its very instinct to navigate by natural light.  In its confusion, once captured by the porch light, it must continue to flutter there.  I imagine the brightness of the lamp shop window, and not just one but a number of lamps turned on to attract customers.  Then the third line, “dead moths.”  And I think with a sigh, of course, what else?  We humans do what we do, moths do what they must, and so it will always be.  This poem could be a metaphor for all the ways human activities interfere, often fatally, with the habits of nature’s creatures.



Honorable Mentions (unranked)



we reassure Mom 

it wasn’t her cooking


Christina Sng





moon lecture

he rotates a coffee cup 

around her head


Alison Woolpert

Santa Cruz, CA



blood drive

the hospital offers

valet parking 


Neal Whitman

              Pacific Grove, CA