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HAIKU  (Judge: Michele Root-Bernstein)


Judging the 2014 haiku contest for HPNC has been a great privilege. I have tried to listen to each and every poem with attention, curiosity, and empathy. In addition to deft control of haiku elements and techniques, I have favored in my final selections those poems that also surprised me, whether in freshness of image, “lucky” language, unexpected emotional response, or transformative insight into phenomena. The six poems selected here, and many more unsung, lodged themselves within my heart and mind.


First Place ($100)


cherries in bloom…

the delicate application

of makeup to bruise

     Scott Mason

What draws me to this haiku is the unusual pairing of images. Commonly evoked and emotionally powerful cherry blossoms are juxtaposed to the very human effort to conceal and aestheticize a disfiguring injury of the flesh. A woman, perhaps, stands before a mirror, lightly dabbing foundation to her face. Has she got a black eye? How did it happen? The ku creates a space in which narrative possibilities abound, as do interpretations of the act. Rather than a sense of despair or defeat, we may intuit a certain confidence in renewal because her fingers, like cherry blossoms, work delicately. In good haiku the fragment informs the phrase; in the best, the phrase also informs the fragment. Here the “application of makeup to bruise” says something new about winter, spring, and the blossoming of trees—something, I believe, about the willingness to forgive and forget.

Second Place ($50)



folding lilac scent

into his burial flag

     Cezar Ciobîcă

This haiku thrives on the sensuousness of its imagery as well as the lightness with which it handles one of the saddest moments of our lives. Even as line 1 prepares us for mourning, line 2 introduces the vigorous scent of early spring blossoms—a seasonal contradiction, it would seem, to our emotional condition. Line 3 ups the ante, informing us that we bury a soldier, honored for military service. The short-lived blooms of the lilac bush suggest, too, that we bury someone killed in action, in the prime of life. All this we intuit or infer. The ku itself focuses our attention on smell and its strong link to memory. The sweetness in this death is that this soldier will not be forgotten.


Third Place ($25)


shifting expectations dandelion fluff

     Carolyn Hall


This spare juxtaposition of natural and cognitive phenomena shifts in emphasis as we consider the moment. On a literal level, we are watching the dandelion fluff float here, there, up and down in the breeze, not sure where it will land, where it will seed. Figuratively, the path we take through life may seem to mirror that haphazard journey. Alternate meanings of the word “fluff”—a bungling or misplay, or something essentially trivial—expand these ruminations.

Honorable Mentions   (not ranked)

dusk on the mountaintop as if I had wings 

     Renee Owen


This haiku makes effective use of the conditional “as if” to create a dual reality. From a distance, dusk rises up the slopes of the mountain and the poem’s persona wings with it. Yet at the summit, dusk finally and irrevocably falls, as does the illusion of flight. Like a Gestalt image, the haiku moment contains both potentials.


forgotten garden 

a fig tree enters

the fog

     Ernest Berry


In this haiku, redolent with physical and spiritual loneliness, the object (as Barthes would have it) becomes an event. The fig tree acts, rather than the fog, and opens us up to the possibility that we are the agents of our aloneness. The sound values in this ku also work to enhance the soft effacements of solitude.  


solar eclipse 

your halo

slips a little

     Tracy Davidson


With just the right touch of humor, this haiku lets us know that point of view is all in relationships. Even the sun’s primacy may be called into question; the passage of moons and moods affects our fundamental feelings, if only temporarily. The repetition of short i’s lends just the right vocalization, too, to the gentle scold.



TANKA    (Judge: Michael McClintock)


First Place ($100)



joys of a tropic childhood

she startles him

by taking off her clothes

to dance naked in the rain

      Kirsty Karkow

Second Place


to use a walker

or cane

she leans on me

for the first time in her life

      Janet Lynn Davis

Third Place

each day

a little more is learned --

the names

of various beasts

and why the milk maid cries

      Kirsty Karkow


Honorable Mentions (not ranked)

a new day  

shall we grab it


and throw fresh popcorn

to the grubbling ducks?


      Kirsty Karkow


would literature 

have suffered greatly?

picture Juliet

leaning from the balcony

to shout go away


      Kirsty Karkow

SENRYU    (Judge  Jim Kacian)


As usual, choosing among the many good poems offered was a great challenge. My first couple readings trimmed the bulk of submissions to my top 30, which I further reduced to 13 after a week’s gestation and a couple subsequent readings. After another few days of allowing these poems to resonate with me, I have arrived at my 6 favorites, plus a “bonus” pick.


First Place ($100)

my fence

and my neighbor’s

don’t quite meet

      Brad Bennett

If good fences make good neighbors, as Frost would have it, what do irregular fences make? What should that little indeterminate zone tell us? How did it come to be that a gap was left? Was it done by the current owners or by their predecessors? Do the neighbor’s dogs or the burgeoning deer use it as a throughway into our yard or garden? Who mows there? Is there room enough in the gap for a political sign? If so, what sign? All the interesting activities of humans take place in the interstices, and this small gem recognizes this fact in very economical terms.


Second Place

fan dance

her every

hair in place

      John Stevenson

The dance of allurement, seemingly so wild and spontaneous, is in fact highly choreographed and precisely plotted. We must remove ourselves from our involvement in the moment to notice this calculation. And the perfect emblem for this realization is the dancer’s physical presentation itself: not a hair out of place. I appreciate the line breaks here—“her every” indeed . . .

Third Place



a fork in the road . . .

she opens the map

while I read GPS



The fork, we are led to believe, is not solely in the road. This is the sort of experience that reveals character, as both of these actors already know.

Honorable Mentions (not ranked)


My three Honorable Mentions all possess the archness of worldly wise minds. They all recognize a reality fraught with danger, and the likely inability that humans will manage to cope with it in anything approaching best form. The homeliest of these


A crow

among the seagulls

tourist season

      Garry Gay

recognizes that there are always two kinds of birds, and we know what kind we are. Do I also detect a whiff of George Zimmerman in this? The most cynical of these


air horn—

a warning for someone

much farther away

      John Stevenson

finds humor in the knowing that such a resource will never serve his own purposes. And the one most likely to be experienced by us all


three days

to stabilize

his health insurance

      John Stevenson

is simply grim in the face of our social contract. I would have scored this a bit higher had its line breaks served its humor a bit better. And I would be remiss if I did not recognize this truly horrific groaner


Guernseys turn

into the wind

dairy air

      Lesley Anne Swanson

The less said about this, the better.



RENGAY  (Judges:  Beverley George and Ron C Moss)



The judging of this rengay was a great pleasure to participate in with Beverley. It was a very positive experience that brought many rewards. Right from the beginning we were in agreement with what makes a prize winning rengay. I would like to thank the organisers for the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful competition. (rm)

bg. Imaginative linking and shifting; careful word choices; and harmonious collaborative writing in which no one voice dominates, are the hallmarks of the winning and highly commended rengay in this competition. In fairness to all contestants, Ron and I began our judging process by individually placing a comment by every entry and were delighted by how readily our shortlists merged into one. (bg)


First Place

Letter from Home


Susan Antolin, Walnut Creek, CA

Michael Sheffield, Kenwood, CA

Lois Scott, San Francisco, CA


the sound of the TV

bleeds into the kitchen clatter

summer dusk                            Susan


     among the crickets’ chirp

     cheek against soft earth      Michael


raccoons splashing

in the evening garden

star jasmine                              Lois


     after midnight

     a fumbling of keys by the front door




silent passage past my window

the moonlit ship                        Michael


     first light through trees

     footsteps in the hall             Lois



This rengay overlays elements of everyday domestic circumstance with a dream-like quality. The three voices blend seamlessly as the images link and progress, resulting in a poem of substance that seems longer than its structure dictates. (bg)


From the very first readings, this rengay appealed to me very much. A strong central theme flowed steadily, with many sub themes and strong images. The shifts and links were clever and captured the reader through the progression of evening to early morning. (rm)


Second Place


A Spill of Moonlight


Carol Judkins, Carlsbad, CA

David Terelinck, Pyrmont, NSW,  Australia


ocean fog

my dreams alive

in seaglass                                           Carol


     the maelstrom

     of Turner’s dark oils                      David


red sky—

drinking songs drift

from a tethered boat                            Carol


     second watch

     the deckhand baptized

     by a spill of moonlight                   David


the sound no sound

of buoy bells                                       Carol


     he calls my name—


     into the wind..                                David



The opening two verses set the scene for an amazing journey. I was carried along on a sea of colour, passion and power. The strong images were seamlessly joined in a vision of the sea that J. M. W. Turner would have applauded. (rm)


An economy of carefully selected words that engage the senses and enrich the reading experience, and an open-ended closing link, earned this rengay its place. (bg)


Third Place




Julie Warther, Dover, OH

Angela Terry, Lake Forest Park, WA


pumpkin spiced latte—

clouds swirl

a paper moon                                   Julie


origami passenger pigeons

just to remind us                              Angela


penciling in

the breath marks

Amazing Grace                                Julie


hand made books

trimmed with orange and brown

autumn rain                                      Angela


the wax seal on the envelope

unbroken                                           Julie


a house of cards

with tissue thin walls

other peoples’ lives                           Angela



With fresh and shifting images. this rengay generates warmth and a sense of enduring values,  as well as sensitivity to transience. (bg)


As finely crafted as handmade paper this rengay has many folds to explore and the end result was very satisfying with a strong closing verse. The feel of handmade books and paper is a satisfying one for me. Bookbinding informed my early years and this theme evoked many memories of those times with a sense of touch and smell. (rm)


Honorable Mention  (not ranked)


A Winter’s Tale


Michael Dylan Welch, Sammamish, WA

Sarah Welch, Sammamish, WA


morning light—

a trace of snow

on the neighbour’s crèche            Michael


     granddad steals a gumdrop

     from the gingerbread house    Sarah


crowded mall—

the eyes of carolers

all aglow                                       Michael


mistletoe hung

above the mantle—

empty stocking                             Sarah


     sale flags fluttering

     in the tree lot                           Michael


bronze sunset…

the first Christmas lights

turn on                                         Sarah


With lively imagery and pace, this rengay captures the warmth of Christmas, tempered by realism as in ‘sale flags’. (bg)

I felt all aglow after reading this fine Christmas rengay. I enjoyed the progression between granddad stealing a gumdrop to the final verse which links sunset with Christmas lights. (rm)


Visiting Hours


John Thompson, Santa Rosa, CA

Renée Owen, Sebastopol, CA


hospital silence

I linger to share

the moonrise                            John


       this sliver of hope

       things will be different     Renée       


talk of cancer

rippling in the carp pond

a broken moon                         John


       your ghost…

       or a motionless heron

       fishing in the gloom         Renée   


on a stone bench

stillness & shadow                  John



       waiting for you


       on the opposite shore       Renée    


A powerful theme that is handled with sensitivity, an acknowledgement of life and death, along with the flow of seasons and natural elements. (rm)

This is a love poem without once using the word; a journey through the twilight of terminal illness. The link between carp and heron creates tension and foreboding. (bg)



The Joy of Rain


Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy, India

Sahana Shrikaanth, India


autumn shower—

a grandma twirls

her umbrella                                            Shrikaanth


each drop on the leaf

reflects a rainbow                                   Sahana


monsoon camp…

slum kids painting in

shades of gray                                        Shrikaanth


splashing puddles

on the way from school

buffaloes                                                Sahana


drops plop plop plopping

on upturned milk pails                          Shrikaanth



crackling in the pan—

thunderbolts                                          Sahana



Refreshing as a shower of rain, with unexpected images and word choices. An attention to sound. (bg)

A splish-splash of words and imagery fills the senses with this one, all in the safety of grandma’s twirling umbrella. The nurturing food brings it to a satisfying completion. (rm)

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