2018
HAIKU (Judge: Lee Gurga)

First Place ($100)

such young men shooting stars

 

         Frank Hooven, Morrisville PA

 

Is the poet pointing to the ephemeral nature that young men and shooting stars share? Or perhaps that we are seeing actual young men shooting at the untouchable reminders of the vastness of the cosmos rather than at country stop signs with their .22 rifles? A young pilot in a night fighter watching tracers streak across the sky? It is our choice and our pleasure to contemplate these and other possibilities. Like many fine haiku, this ku hinges on a single word: such. How could it be that the key element of a “poem of nouns” could be an adjective? And yet, once again here, a single unobtrusive modifier significantly increases the depth of meaning and moves the poem from the realm of mundane observation to that of wisdom literature.

 

          Lee Gurga, judge

Second Place ($50)

 

 

first awake a lake of mist


          John Stevenson, Nassau NY

     

Third Place ($25)

whale spouts

this thin line of hope

migrating north

           Renée Owen, Sebastopol CA

Honorable Mentions

dusk
to darkness
meadow to woods


          John Stevenson, Nassau NY

fading light
ripples of a sail
become the sea

 

         Seren Fargo, Bellingham WA

 
terns 
chasing terns
the perpetual surf


         Brad Bennett, Arlington MA

 
White Christmas
   my shadow
      kind of blue


         Scott Mason, Chappaqua NY

 

cornbread
and a cup of cider
autumn equinox

 
          John Stevenson, Nassau NY

SENRYU (Judge: Christopher Herold)

First Place ($100)

 

my father and I

a puzzle we've done
before

 

          Peter Newton, Winchendon MA


Ah! Such implications. Each reading takes me deeper, all but one interpretation applying equally without negating the others. Most superficially, I see a partially assembled jigsaw puzzle on a table. But the final two words are what establish this poem’s intended relevance and poignance. Since the puzzle has been “done before,” I am led to a father who, in his dotage, is becoming senile. Perhaps he now resides at an assisted living facility. Piecing together a puzzle provides two benefits. On one hand, it offers stimulation that can help impede mental decline. On the other, it may serve as a focal point that deflects awkward breaks in a chat between a father and his son or daughter. Taken a step further, I see this as the puzzle of a lifetime—the continuous striving of a parent and his offspring to understand one another: how best to interact, to be supportive, to please. The poem is also suggestive of a more universal riddle—puzzling over generational differences at a social or cultural level. Or, if you really want to get out there, the poet is recalling a previous lifetime.

 

          Christopher Herold, judge

Second Place ($50)

old pond one splash after another

 

          John Stevenson, Nassau NY

Imagine that Basho never wrote about a frog and that old pond. Without such a celebrated poem to allude to, these six words would need to be submitted to a haiku contest. And how old is that pond? The Big Bang you say? Yes, and only the tiniest fraction of those frogs are poems. 

 

Third Place ($25)

labyrinth i walk into and out of myself


          Debbie Strange, Winnipeg Manitoba Canada

Yes!. Both! Love it.

Honorable Mentions

stayin’ alive
the groom’s parents revise
their disco moves

          Bruce Feingold, Berkeley CA

all the king’s horses accepting my new normal

          Julie Warther, Dover OH

new doctor
I evaluate his care
of waiting room plants

          Susan Antolin, Walnut Creek CA

TANKA (Judge: Kenneth Slaughter)

First Place ($100)

the wind strokes
willow’s messages across
the scum covered pond
...inscribed in shriveled skin
   all the times you touched me


         Linda Jeannette Ward, Coinjock NC


On a windy day, a willow appears to write messages on a pond. The pond is covered with scum, without which the messages could not be written. In line 1, the poet might have said “the wind writes”, but the word ‘strokes’ captures the movement of the wind and introduces the sense of touch, which we will find later in the poem.  

     Lines 4 and 5 are two of the most memorable lines of poetry I have ever read. Memories of being touched are written into the very skin of the aging narrator. The willow could symbolize grief, implying that the “you” in the poem might have passed away.  Are the willow’s messages being sent from beyond the grave?  So much to ponder in this wonderful tanka.   

 

          Kenneth Slaughter, judge

Second Place

 

a star tortoise
carries the universe
on its back...
are we slowly moving
away from each other


          Debbie Strange, Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada


Tortoises and turtles are survivors.  The star tortoise, however, is an endangered species. Because of its beautiful shell. Humans like to collect them. It’s an earthbound creature that carries the symbolic weight of the universe on its back. There are many ways to go in lines 4 and 5, and the ellipses give us a moment to ponder the possibilities.  

     Scientists know the universe is expanding, and everything is moving away from everything else. The poet reminds us of this and wonders if, on a human level, we are also drifting apart. The “we” could be a married couple.  Or it could be all of us, as we struggle with alienation, loneliness, and a growing distance from one another. This is a very topical poem, suggesting a whole lot in just five lines. 

Third Place

small embers
of rose hips in snow...
the look
in mother’s vacant eyes
so hard to define


          Debbie Strange, Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada

Rose hips provide some rare color in winter, which makes the snow appear even more beautiful. Comparing them to small embers suggests a fire that is slowly dying out. In these lines we feel a fireplace losing its warmth, and we see the red rose hips brightening the cold snow.

     A person near the end of life, with dementia, often has a peculiar vacant look in the eyes. We wonder what is going on inside.  Lines 1 - 3 show that the poet sees glimpses of the warmth and beauty this mother once had.  A sensitive poem with excellent visual imagery.   
 

Honorable Mentions

 

will I ever
belong...
the squirrel
at the birdfeeder
hungry too


          Susan Burch, Hagerstown MD


with light
from the near side of death
I reassemble
my Picasso pieces
to find who I really was


          Linda Jeannette Ward, Coinjock NC

RENGAY (Judge: Deborah P Kolodji) 

Note: the deadline for submitting to the Rengay portion of the contest is January 31, 2019

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