2019

 

HAIKU (Judge: Scott Mason)

 

 

First Place

 

lingering

in the tide pool

a child’s gaze

 

Gregory Longenecker

Pasadena CA

 

Quiet meditation with an element of surprise, this haiku poignantly weds the observed to the observer—and, in the process, ephemeral nature to enduring wonder.

 

 

Second Place

 

autumn wind all the colors of the freight train

 

Frank Hooven 

Morrisville PA

 

Not a train of thought but sensation, this one-liner delightfully conflates two worlds which in truth are one.

 

 

Third Place

 

owls call in the winter darkness around us

 

Joseph Robello

Novato CA

 

 

Through masterly staging and sound play, this monoku becomes a mystic band (or Möbius strip) of cause and effect.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

 

morning apologies…

frost lingers

on the shaded grass

 

Frank Hooven 

Morrisville PA

 

into the recycling origami cranes

 

Carolyn Hall 

San Francsico CA

 

summer moon

  a white lie

  with wings

 

Lee Gurga

White Heath IL

 

 

SENRYU (Judge: Michael Ketchek)

 

 

First Place

 

 

used bookstore

memoir bleeds

into mystery

Peter Newton

Winchendon MA

 

 

This senryu embodies what Blyth says a senryu should do. Senryu according to Blyth, “is an understanding of all things by laughing or smiling at them.” He goes on to say, “and this means forgiving all things, ourselves and God included.” This senryu certainly gave me a smile when I read it and each time I reread it. It reveals how faulty memory is and how this is relevant to the great mystery of human life and human history. For memoir is history. Placing this sentiment on the shelves of a used bookstore gives it just the right humorous touch that allows us to forgive our own faulty memory and forgive God for not making us more perfect.

 

 

Second Place

 

nine eleven

we all know someone

who knew someone

 

Alan Bridges

Littleton MA

 

 

This senryu shows the interconnectedness of everyone in the whole world. How everyone is touched by the tragedy of nine eleven or any other tragedy for that matter. The phrase “we all know someone who knew someone” adds a subtle twist because usually when someone knows someone it is brought up in a boastful not tragic sense. Such as when at a party someone tells you something like, “My uncle once shared a taxi with Ringo Starr.” This is a powerful poem, but it is not overstated which makes it so effective.

 

 

Third Place

 

lucky day

a penny on the floor

by the urinal

Frank Hooven

Morrisville PA

 

What is luck? Finding a penny is usually considered lucky, but in this case no one is going to pick up a penny from the urine stained floor by the urinal. So, luck is turned upside down and this lets one reflect on the shifting notion of luck itself.

 

  

Honorable mention

 

all-day hike

he asks me to explain

Brexit

 

J. Zimmerman

Santa Cruz CA

 

 

 

nothing lasts dear her clear plastic cup

Scott Mason

Chappaqua NY

 

 

Father’s Day —

I call

my sons

 

Lee Gurga, White Heath IL

 

 

 

TANKA (Judge: Michael Dylan Welch)

 

 

First Place

 

our long conversation

about divorcing

we part company

soundlessly

in falling snow

Pamela Babusci

Rochester NY

 

This conversation in falling snow provides a sense of acceptance, despite the cold—a coldness that seems figurative as well as literal. The word “soundlessly” makes this poem click into place, connecting the nature of the relationship with the natural elements. What is possibly beautiful in nature is perhaps not so beautiful in the relationship. More importantly, we can see that the relationship has gone cold, and we get the feeling that this parting of company is not just at that moment but permanently. The poem offers a bittersweet sadness with the fitting image of falling snow. The soundlessness cements that acceptance, too, which provides a hint of positiveness.

 

 

Second Place

 

in my dream

Mother is still alive—

I fall back to sleep

to finish our stroll

in the summer garden

Margaret Chula

Portland OR

 

An unspoken grief and a feeling of loss serves as an undercurrent to this buoyant poem. The poet is remembering Mother in happier times, and the dream enables the poet to linger with those memories. I find it fitting, too, that this is a summer garden, when nature is at its prime, and the dream is surely of a time when the mother was in her prime as well, perhaps also being a gardener herself. The poem’s conversation and companionship, and ultimately the love that binds these two people together, makes this an inviting poem, but not without a mix of sadder feelings also.

 

 

Third Place

 

some scars lie deeper

than can ever be seen . . .

the other mourners

mistake my tears for grief

instead of joy

Tracy Davidson

Warwickshire UK

 

Tanka tends to be more overtly introspective than haiku, and we see an honest introspection here. We can readily agree that some scars, especially emotional scars, lie deep. And at this memorial, the poet’s tears are not as simple as they may seem to others. It is difficult to think of a “mourner” being joyful at someone’s passing, except perhaps guardedly when death ends prolonged suffering. But here there’s a sort of relief to the joy admitted to in this poem, stemming from some prior incident, or many incidents, of betrayal, abuse, or other wrongdoing. These scars are barely hinted at, and although they are obviously very deep, still the poet attends this memorial service, maybe out of obligation but at least with a small feeling of victory.

 

 

Honorable Mentions (ranked)

 

a cumulus cloud

dissipating . . .

would anyone

notice

if I disappeared

 

Susan Burch

Hagerstown MD

A minimalist introspection that ties the fading of a cloud to the fading of one’s self. Doubt is on candid display here. Yes, is the unspoken answer. Yes, other people would notice that cloud, especially when it’s a possibly stormy cumulus cloud—possibly stormy. And yes, others would notice the poet’s disappearance just as much as the poet noticed that cloud’s dissipation.

 

 

the coiled tips

of fiddlehead ferns

remind me

that every forest knows

how to make music

 

Debbie Strange

Winnipeg Manitoba

These coiled fern tips remind me of what’s called the “scroll” at the top end of a violin, which is surely why these ferns are named for fiddles. These tips will uncoil, as if to release their music. All aspects of the forest—the high canopies of swaying trees, the forest duff below, and everything in between—all contribute to the music of the forest. The poet notices and is filled with appreciation for the harmony of nature.

 

 

sewing a button

onto his shirt—

at least this

I know how

to fix

Susan Burch

Hagerstown MD

 

A minimalist yet weighty presentation. Here a feeling is tied to a practical and everyday task. The middle line suggests that while the shirt can be fixed, other things can’t, or at least that the poet doesn’t know how, or at least not yet. And so the poet does what can be done, with the hope that more complicated issues might be fixed in due course.

 

I am grateful for the opportunity to select these poems, chosen from 77 tanka entries. This contest struck me as having a much higher percentage of strong poems compared with other contests I’ve judged, which demonstrates how devoted to tanka most of the people who entered must be. My first pass through all the poems made me think that I had too many good poems to choose from, which was a refreshing pleasure, but of course not an easy challenge. I had many close selections that could easily have been among the top selections. My congratulations to the winners and to everyone who entered for continuing to explore the nuances of tanka poetry.

 

Michael Dylan Welch

RENGAY (Judge: Seren Fargo)

First Place

Moonflowers

 

Dan Schwerin, Greendale, WI

Julie Warther, Dover, OH

 

first light

the morning glory and trellis

find each other                                   Dan

 

noon, and still

the moon lingers                               Julie   

 

their shadows touch . . .

a beetle’s knowledge

of the milkweed                                Dan

 

sinking sun

legs heavy with pollen for

his queen                                           Julie

 

the sting of having

one last night                                    Dan

 

moonflowers

catching the Perseids

at their peak                                     Julie

 

 

Despite being a little less technically dead-on as a few of the other top picks, this rengay stood out to me throughout my readings; always in the top spot. It is uniquely worded and has a poetic flow that was a pleasure to read each and every time. There's a romantic quality to this rengay that made it stand apart from all the others, such as in "a beetle's knowledge of the milkweed" and "legs heavy with pollen for his queen". These phrases ride that line between objective and subjective quite expertly. A gorgeous rengay indeed.

 

 

Second Place

Rubbing Rock

 

Bryan Rickert, Bellville, IL

Terri L. French, Sioux City, SD

 

languid heat

all the crawdads

in one puddle                                 Bryan

 

tadpole bellies

rubbing rock                                   Terri

 

empty rain gauge

catfish searching

for a deep end                                Bryan

 

iced tea   glass

a honey bee

sipping sweat                                  Terri

 

dried 'coon tracks

circle the old pond                          Bryan

 

darkening clouds

robins waiting

for that first worm                          Terri

 

 

This rengay also stayed at the top of my list throughout. Not only a technically well-crafted rengay, but an effective one as well. With my first reading (and each one thereafter), I was there, experiencing that dry spell; I could feel the heat, the thirst, the sun baking down. Each verse describes so well the desperation for moisture. I especially thought this was apparent in the two-line verse, "tadpole bellies rubbing rock", which was also wisely used for the title. And then, nicely, in the last verse, a ray of hope.

 

Third Place (Tied)

 

In the Key of Grey

 

Debbie Strange, Winnipeg, Canada

Jennifer Hambrick, Worthington, OH

hydro lines

the sixteenth notes

of grackles                                         Debbie

 

          morning

          in the key of grey                    Jennifer

 

the lullaby

of wind through grain

empty silo                                          Debbie

 

          high lonesome

          a crush of midnight

          shadows                                   Jennifer

 

barbed wire

the descant of coyotes                       Debbie

 

          curving

          into the distance

          a train’s lament                        Jennifer

                

Unlike 1st and 2nd place, this rengay was not immediately at the top of my list. The music theme did not initially catch my attention. And the rengay was submitted in handwritten form, perfectly within the guidelines, but which did not read for me as smoothly as if it were typed. Had I not decided to re-type and print out this poem, and re-educate myself on a couple music terms, it may not have made it to my shortlist. But once it did, it soon moved up in the pile. It was one of very few rengay with a double theme. And the music references are skillfully incorporated into each verse, all of which relate very nicely to one another. I found this rengay to be very aesthetically pleasing.

 

 

Third Place (Tied)

 

Cleared by the Flood

 

Lorraine Haig, Richmond, Tasmania, Australia

Kristen Lang, Sheffield, Tasmania, Australia

 

seagrass bed

from the turtle's nose

a black straw                                    Lorraine

 

in the weather – plastic

rubbed down into raindrops         Kristen

 

full of something –

a dark garbage bag

washes to shore                              Lorraine

 

clean slate

the road gutter stripped

by the flood                                      Kristen

 

a barnacle-crusted shoe

among the seaweed                       Lorraine

 

doll's arm

the chick's

open mouth                                     Kristen

 

I debated on this one for a while. A couple lines gave me pause, but I really liked this rengay, and it remained in my shortlist throughout. Since the subject matter is important to me as an ex-wildlife biologist, I wanted to make sure I wasn't biased in favor of it solely on that criterion. So I read this one many times. I eventually realized that the subject matter is exactly what makes it so powerful, no matter what your background. We are all earthlings facing the same dilemma on this planet. The last verse really sums it up:

 

doll's arm

the chick's

open mouth

 

 

Honorable Mentions (not ranked)

 

The Waiting

Alan S. Bridges, Littleton, MA

Jacquie Pearce, Burnaby, BC, Canada

 

buried deep

a cache of arrowheads

in a dream                                                Alan

 

behind the wall

a nest of mice                                           Jacquie

 

transfer station

rifling through

the take it or leave it                                Alan

 

end of summer

placing her favourite doll

in the time capsule                                   Jacquie

 

metal-detecting in a park

the shine of a 1904 quarter                     Alan

 

under snow

the waiting

crocus bulb                                               Jacquie

 

Miles and Miles and…

Lew Watts, Chicago, IL

Tanya McDonald, Woodinville, WA

 

braided stream

she lets me touch

her varicose veins                                        Lew

 

     sharing a granola bar

     and a salt-tinged kiss                              Tanya

 

packs back on,

with a flick of a tail

no chipmunk                                                 Lew                         

 

a birdcall

we don't recognize­

forgotten hiking poles                                  Tanya

 

     switchbacks . . .

     waiting for each other                              Lew

 

krumholtz pine

his vocation stubble

against my cupped palm                              Tanya

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