2020
 
HAIKU (Judge: Crystal Simone Smith)

 

First Place

 

shrouded in fog

the day awaits

its own arrival

 

     Helen Ogden

     Pacific Grove, CA

 

Of the many poems I read, this haiku’s stunning image settled in me, leaving a most discernible impression. Yet, there are two images here, the one the viewer sees and the one awaited. The new day is here but not distinguishable, and initially, this awareness is suggestive of a melancholic tone. However, the predictability of the day rising out of its fog also offers the reader possibility. I’m reminded of the philosophical theory of “unperceived existence” and its fallen forest tree riddle. If day breaks but cannot be seen, is it really here? Of course, this haiku also offers us a precise summation of this pandemic year, a perpetual fog that we all face daily. In the same spirit of Nick Virgilio’s celebrated haiku “lily / out of the water / out of itself” there is a purity in the essence of this image.

 

Second Place

 

final respects

a dozen high heels

aerate the earth

 

     Scott Mason

     Chappaqua, NY

 

I was immediately drawn to this splendid image of women stepping delicately  in the soft sinking soil of a graveyard. It’s one notable aspect of this haiku; fresh, original imagery juxtaposed with a death ceremony event. Also present, the exquisite lyricism created by the words respect, aerate, and earth. It is difficult to read a poem as merely a poem in a pandemic, a time of so many deaths. This haiku transports us back to days when we attended burials in person, intensely aware of being above ground as opposed to underneath it.

 

Third Place

so faintly

through wildfire smoke

the ice cream jingle

     Bob Redmond

     Burien, WA

 

This poem is a definitive illustration of what the haiku practice does best. It distills a moment occurring in the natural world drawing our awareness to its splendor, or here, the misfortune of disaster. There’s a quiet in this haiku that permeates the senses, the sound of a truck traveling through smoke coming to rescue us with some joy, the relief of ice amid the heat of wildfires. The reader hears what cannot be seen and settles in the knowledge the world is still turning, and though nature has isolated us, we are still reachable.

 

Honorable Mentions

winter wind

drifting snow

buries a skeleton

     Jay Friedenberg

     New York, NY

split pomegranate

we revise

our wills

     Carolyn Hall

     Santa Rosa, CA

above the cliff

my shadow

over the edge

 

     David Watts

     Mill Valley, CA

 

Judge’s Biography:

 

Crystal Simone Smith is an award-winning poet. She founded and serves as the managing editor of Backbone Press. Her haiku has appeared in Frogpond, Modern Haiku, The Heron’s Nest, and elsewhere. She is the author of Wild Flowers: A Collection of Haiku, Senryu, and Haiga and co-author of One Window’s Light (Unicorn Press). She is currently a Humanities Unbounded Fellow at Duke University.

 

 

SENRYU (Judge: Shloka Shankar)

 

First Place

 

old bus ticket

I never learned

how the story ended

 

     David Grayson

     Alameda, CA

 

The moment I read this senryu, I knew it would be one that I would keep coming back to. And, sure enough, I did! I chose it as the winning poem because it spoke to me on a personal level. We all have bits and bobs lying around the house that spring to life when we set about cleaning out old drawers, closets, or even worn-out wallets. Oddly, I can even smell the slightly musty bus ticket. Where was the poet travelling to? Who was their co-passenger? What stories did they share? Were they cut short because one of their destinations arrived before they could finish the story? Or did they make a promise to keep in touch and lost contact soon after? The possibilities are numerous and the open-endedness of this “story” keeps the reader guessing. It is also a testimony to the many lives we fleetingly meet, some who make a difference more than others.

 

Second Place

 

internalizing your name calling quick dry cement

 

     Susan Burch

     Hagerstown, MD

 

I found this entry to be hard-hitting, and one that made me cringe. We have all been at the receiving end of being called harsh names at one point or another. How many words have we internalized that were hurled at us by others? Conversely, we have thoughtlessly and rashly spoken out of turn, too. Have we stopped to consider what detrimental impact it had on that person’s psyche? The juxtaposition in this senryu is extremely effective and immediate, jolting us into introspection. It is said that time heals all wounds, but what if unalterable damage has already been done?

 

Third Place

 

switching off the news—

I rise from the couch

to less than my full height

 

     Susan Antolin

     Walnut Creek, CA

 

If there ever was a senryu that summed up the current world we’re living in, this has to be it. Day in and day out we consume the news and everything that is fed to us by the exploitative media in the name of “news.” So much so that we are oppressed by the weight of it all, fumbling under the yoke of violence, politics, the pandemic, natural disasters…is there a respite if one simply turns off the news? The third line of this poem deftly captures the profound and worrying reality of a thwarted and stunted persona, struggling to regain their rightful place in the world.

 

Honorable Mentions

 

beach at dawn

how lives might change

without names

 

     Bill Cooper

     Naples, FL

death as wide as long

 

     John Stevenson

     Nassau, NY

Judge’s Biography:

 

Shloka Shankar is a writer, editor, publisher, and visual artist from Bangalore, India. She enjoys experimenting with Japanese short-forms and myriad found poetry techniques. A Best of the Net nominee and award-winning haiku poet, her poems and artwork have appeared in more than 200 online and print venues of repute. When she isn't poring over manuscripts, she can be found making digital abstracts and collages. Shloka is the Founding Editor of the literary & arts journal Sonic Boom and its imprint Yavanika Press.

 

 

TANKA (Judge: Christine Villa)

 

First Place

 

archaeological dig––

since your death,

unearthing

what’s left of me

brush by tiny brush

     Susan Burch

     Hagerstown, MD

 

Whenever someone dear to us dies, our world screeches to a halt and turns bleak. In this tanka, death is faced with hope, a resiliency to rise above adversity. The first line starts with an “archeological dig.” It seems like a long stretch of history, but the poet is brave enough to “unearth what’s left” of himself. Who was he before they met, before he took care of the loved one, or before his life was saddled with pain and grief? What is left of him after that? What is left behind? The last line, “brush by tiny brush,” reveals that he picks up the pieces just like an archeologist uses a tiny brush to dust off loose dirt from artifacts. It serves as a metaphor for his careful and purposeful act of recollecting memories of the deceased loved one, of rediscovering himself, or of coloring his life anew. Or perhaps, through creative art such as painting, he finds his new self. Because this tanka has a lot of dreaming room and utilizes fresh metaphors, it stands out above the rest.

 

SecondPlace

 

moving Mother

into assisted living—

from her stovetop

the shrill whistle

of a new kettle                                                 

 

     Margaret Chula

     Portland, OR

 

Aging is one of the inevitable changes in our life that is difficult and painful to accept. In this tanka, this truth is delicately tackled by showing, not telling. The first two lines are followed by a concrete image with just the necessary adjectives needed. The “shrill” whistle implies the warnings or signs when we need to make the decision to keep our parents in a safer living condition. The “new” kettle conveys that the kettle was replaced because it had been left on the stovetop longer than it should. With no extra words, I feel the pain of the aging mother and the caring offspring. Replacing the kettle also may mean the resistance or unwillingness of the mother to accept the need to move into assisted living. We can conjure up all possibilities from this carefully crafted tanka.

 

Third Place

 

a raven

believed it could fly

through me

unaware that I am glass,

pretending to be sky

 

     Debbie Strange

     Winnipeg, Canada

 

This one-breath tanka is not only whimsical, but astonishing. The first three lines reveal a raven with magical traits—one who believed it could fly through a person. The tone of the tanka sounds fanciful until it pivots on the fourth line with the word “unaware.” Eventually, I hear “glass” shattering into pieces and I feel a sudden twinge of pain as I read the revelation of the last line—“pretending to be sky.” Sometimes, I, too, like to pretend that I am carefree and invincible like the sky because it feels good. I even manage to convince others that I am such until I get hurt and I’m reminded that I’m actually fragile, vulnerable, and destructible. It’s a sad truth, and the poet has effectively conveyed this message in five lines.

 

Honorable Mentions

 

table talk

spills into politics––

I seize the nutcracker

from my sister

and squeeze

 

     Anne Curran

     Hamilton, New Zealand

that barn

has been leaning

all our lives––

is it you?

no, it's probably me

     James Chessing

     San Ramon, CA

Judge’s Biography:

 

Christine L. Villa is an award-winning tanka and haiku poet published in numerous respected online and print journals. Her collection of Japanese short-form poetry is entitled The Bluebird’s Cry. She is the founding editor of Frameless Sky and its imprint Velvet Dusk Publishing. She is also the current editor of Ribbons, the official publication of Tanka Society of America. Website: www.christinevilla.com

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