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Judge: Kala Ramesh (Pune/Chennai, India)

General Remarks

I received a whopping 378 poems from nine countries for this contest!


Congratulations to all the winners and honorable mentions. The selected poems reveal a moment of truth – fuga no makoto – poetic sincerity and honesty. My admiration for writing such heart-stopping, fine haiku.


After multiple readings, I took a 10-day break and revisited them with a fresh perspective. Each poem was given the time and space it demanded. Many haiku began to have dialogues with me—I always encourage that. As my list of possibilities dwindled from 25 to 14 poems, I knew I had left many fine haiku behind. That's the saddest part of being a judge.


I'd like to share one thought: How can anyone say one poem is better than another? It's too arbitrary and highly subjective; my choice today might not be the same next year, or even next month. When I participate in contests and press ‘send,’ it's more for the fun and excitement of writing my best poem! The effort deserves applause. To quote Alfie Kohn, “Let’s not confuse excellence with winning, as if the only way to do something well is to outdo others.”


Thanks to all participants for your lovely poems. I enjoyed reading them and am greatly indebted to the Haiku Poets of Northern California for entrusting me with this huge responsibility.


First Place

in what’s left of the fig what remains of the wasp


Helen Ogden

Pacific Grove, CA

I appreciate this monoku. Each time I read it, I'm intrigued by the use of 'in' at the start—it gives a boost to the image and propels the thought forward with momentum. I believe it refers to a dead wasp stuck in a decaying fig fruit. The language usage is impressive. The sounds of 'w' and 's', coupled with the repetition of the word 'what', create an internal rhythm and impart a softness to the poem.


Congratulations to the poet for writing such an impactful concrete poem with a strong emphasis on mono no aware–the pathos of things–drawn from their transience. This aesthetic nuance is beautifully draped in fuga no makoto, signifying truth, sincerity, and honesty, qualities a haiku poet must strive for when composing poems.

Second Place

first light

a tai chi master pushes

and pulls the breeze


Chen-ou Liu

Ajax, Ontario, Canada


I've always been fascinated by the concept of 'first light,' and here, it illuminates the tai chi master and his movements. Isn't that the impression tai chi gives to observers? It seems as if its practitioners and students are pushing and pulling the breeze.


Tai chi, a deeply meditative exercise, unfolds slowly and mindfully. Some liken it to mindfulness on wheels or meditation in motion.


The prevailing aesthetic nuance here is toriawase. Often misinterpreted as juxtaposition, Susumu Takiguchi suggests that “Combination would have been a better English word to choose, as toriawase means mixing or joining two or more things together to form a single whole.”


Consider two storytelling techniques employed by filmmakers: Mise-en-scène, meaning "to put into scene" or "staging an action," and Montage, the art of selecting, editing, and piecing together film sections to create a cohesive whole. The poet has expertly applied these techniques here, and I believe further interpretation is unnecessary. The mastery lies in the seamless execution of these elements.

Third Place

waving goodbye

the train carries                        

landscapes between us


Stefanie Bucifal

Konstanz, Germany


This poem took me to Shiki’s classic:


me leaving

you staying

two autumns


This translation is from If Someone Asks . . . Masaoka Shiki’s Life and Haiku.


It's only when we witness others losing their cognition and memory, as in Alzheimer's disease, that we truly realize the significance of the past to a healthy mind. The heart of the poem lies in L3. The use of language is excellent, expressing in just eight words the profound meaning of years lived together for these two individuals, especially for the poet.


Honorable Mentions


shucking oysters

the tug of the tide

in every one


Helen Ogden

Pacific Grove, CA



we promise to visit her ashes disperse


Scott Mason

Somers, NY



water-logged street

the memory map

of potholes


Ravi Kiran

Hyderabad, India



campfire sparks

the forest fills with stories

spoken by hands


Chen-ou Liu

Ajax, Ontario, Canada


Judge: Tanya McDonald (Happy Valley, OR, United States)


First Place


reading a travel book

while traveling

far-off clouds


Jay Friedenberg

Sleepy Hollow, NY


Some poems announce themselves with strong images and fanfare, and other poems capture the reader’s attention with their subtlety and layers. This senryu is one of the latter. To me, it illustrates a common characteristic of human nature: to not be satisfied with what we have, to want more. In this case, instead of enjoying their current travels, someone is immersed in a travel book, perhaps already planning their next adventure. The third line, “far-off clouds,” adds a dreamy, wistful element. Although there’s no punctuation or indentation in this senryu, there’s a natural pause at the end of the second line. But that lack of punctuation allows for possibly reading the second and third lines together: “while traveling far-off clouds,” which is fantastical and elevates the senryu from a simple observation about a human foible to something full of wonder.



Second Place

my death poem

archived in the cloud—

power failure


Ron C. Moss

Leslie Vale, Tasmania, Australia


This senryu starts on a serious note. Perhaps the narrator is near death, or perhaps they’ve written a death poem in acknowledgment of their own eventual mortality. And, like any sensible poet with a bit of tech savvy, they’ve stored it somewhere safe: the cloud. There, it will be secure from fire or flood, from being thrown out or misplaced, or any number of other physical losses. What could go wrong? The answer is in the third line: “power failure.” Without electrical power, the poem cannot be accessed in the cloud. The poet is powerless to retrieve it. And perhaps it speaks to the “power failure” we will all inevitably face when we reach the end of our lives. In any case, the wry humor of best intentions gone awry made me smile.



Third Place


sustainability lecture

borrowing from my 401(k)

to pay my student loan


Joshua St. Claire

New Freedom, PA


The idea of sustainability is cleverly juxtaposed with a very real example of how it’s not working for the narrator. By taking from their 401(k), they are borrowing from their future to pay for their present. But it’s not just the narrator who is doing this. Humans, particularly those of us in consumer-driven societies, have been using up resources at an unsustainable rate and at a great cost. By using a specific example of one person’s experience, this senryu expands to act as a potential statement on the current state of the world without being preachy.


Honorable Mentions


crowded diner

no room

on the fly strips


Frank Hooven

Morrisville, PA



icing on the cake

with its hint of bitter almonds

second wedding


Marietta McGregor

Stirling, ACT, Australia


Judge: Alan Peat (Biddulph, Staffordshire, United Kingdom)

General Remarks


The 2023 HPNC International Tanka contest closed with a total of 102 entries. From these I have selected first, second, and third place poems, and three honorable mentions. There were many engaging tanka, but the clear winners stood out from the crowd. All of the winning poems leave wide open space for the reader to inhabit. They also avoid the pitfalls of blunt didacticism and/or mawkishness.


First Place


there was

so much I wanted

to teach you…

a blue jay’s feathers

are not really blue


Debbie Strange

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


For me, this was the clear winner. The tanka is deliberately concise and open-ended. This brevity lends weight to every word. A sense of loss and longing permeate the poem, giving it great emotional depth. There is enough ‘space’ to allow for reflection - it’s a poem that the reader can truly inhabit. It also prompts us to look closely, to observe the details. The combination of all these elements made this tanka leap from the page. A deserving winner.


Second Place


as if

for this purpose


the fallen rocks adjusting

the creek’s path


Jim Chessing

San Ramon, CA


At the heart of this apparently simple tanka there is a striking metaphor for resilience. There is also a sense of continuation in the face of obstacles. The line breaks also work beautifully - I admire the fact that this poet isn’t afraid to let “alone” stand by itself on the page. The natural imagery is effective and the poem punches well above its weight, with room for reflection and layered interpretations.


Third Place


dawn alpenglow

jiggles in a tidepool

for a moment

a great blue heron

gulps the sky


Richard L. Matta

San Diego, CA


Although it is understated, there is a masterful use of language at play in this tanka. There is a rhythmic feel and the subtle alliteration contributes to this. The vivid imagery drew me in. The poet deftly draws a scene I can see clearly in my mind’s eye. What really impressed me was the internal contrast between the fleeting alpenglow and the solid presence of the heron. “Jiggles” was also such an apt (and unexpected) word choice.


Honorable Mentions


let’s drive

down this prairie road,

singing until

we collide head-on

with the Milky Way


Debbie Strange

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


Although our ultimate fate is unavoidable, there is such a sense of untrammeled joy in this tanka. And what a final image!



from the lookout

the world dissolves

across the inlet

one high peak

adrift in sea fog


Julie Constable

Corner Inlet, Victoria, Australia


I admire the way the poet evokes loneliness through natural imagery. The opening line sets the tone well and the imagery is vivid.




in my backyard

I leap

across the moon

into another world


Lesley Anne Swanson

Coopersburg, PA



Stephen Henry Gill (Japan/United Kingdom) 

Shalini Pattabiraman (United Kingdom/India)

General Remarks


If haiku is the art of hinting at and not fully describing something of significance, which readers can then make their own, haibun could be thought of as the art of conjuring up some sort of story rather than of telling it. There are so many ways of doing this, and we were grateful to be invited to read through and savour the 96 entries to this contest. We also both greatly enjoyed the discussion phase with our fellow judge. 


Overall, the standard was good. There was a rich diversity of themes and a distinctive use of voice to be enjoyed among the best of the works. We judged them all blind. Only when we had decided our final list of awarded pieces, did the coordinator send us names and countries of residence for the awardees, so that this information could be added to our comments and in some cases inform our perceptions. The judges then divided up the list and wrote about every other piece. We would like to send our congratulations and appreciation to all awarded writers. (SHG & SP)


Rattlesnake Canyon

by Billie Dee


That summer my first blood arrived

while I was camped in the woods

of Montana.


   rainbow weather— 

    turning wet stones

    for trout bait


I knew what it was, but still wondered

what sin against Nature had earned me

this curse. . .



    in the rush of snowmelt

    empty creel


. . .like the little Kumari Devi,

expelled from her Nepalese palace

when she proved herself mortal.


    this deep lull

    of afternoon creek song

    letting the hellgrammites go




Seldom does one encounter a piece of writing in which man and nature are so completely at one. “Rattlesnake Canyon” transports us back not only to adolescence, but to primitive times, when man lived in communion with nature and not apart from it. Following on from the ancient Daoist philosophers of China, Basho referred to this holistic paradigm as ‘jinen’ and he believed in it. Dee has interwoven a personal narrative of discovery and doubt (in the past tense) with three excellent haiku (in the present), all of which could stand on their own. The prose is lineated as if it were a poem, partly perhaps to avoid the ungainly layout that would have resulted if each short paragraph had been spread out wide, shallow and too regularly between the haiku. Lineation here helps construct an appearance of asymmetry, as well as slowing down the delivery of the narrative, thus more effectively separating the poems. I enjoyed the allusion to the Newari goddess incarnate, Kumari, of whom I once, when in Kathmandu, did catch a precious glimpse! At the very end, in letting go of the hellgrammites (mayfly/dobsonfly larvae used as fish bait), the reader also feels somehow launched with them … surrendering to the current as it winds away into another story in some reach of clean water further downstream.  (SHG)


Second Place


Sage Monkeys

by Dru Philippou


They live on the mesa without running water or electricity, huddled in hovels assembled from building scraps and used tires. They live where the wind howls like coyotes and dust devils spiral into ink-black clouds. They live in a sea of sagebrush and go by the name Sage Monkeys. They are the loners, drifters, freaks, scooping out visions at the edge of thunderstorms and rainbows. If you hope to find a mystic amongst them to reveal the meaning of life, be prepared for the endless scorn: pillock, lickspittle, milksop. If you bring them beer, one of them might invite you into his ramshackle cabin, cluttered with elk skulls and antlers, sacks of pinto beans and rice, tubs of ground coffee, and rows of drooping American flags stuck in Coca-Cola bottles. If you wait a while longer, he might describe the desert silence—a silence so deep that small sounds can seem deafening—a lizard’s chirp, a startled jackrabbit zigzagging through the underbrush, or a rattlesnake slithering from the wood pile. He might even describe the soul-stirring beauty of sunrises and sunsets as he stares at the vast, empty sky, not quite sure he’s arrived.



the barbed spines

of a star




An arresting subject that delves into an idea from a unique perspective, “Sage Monkeys” is bound to catch everyone's attention. It offers an interesting opening into the haibun through the use of anaphora. Even in the first reading of the haibun, I knew I would come back to this and read it again and again. “Sage Monkeys” embeds lyricism in its description of both landscape and people. These vignettes present the ordinary in an extraordinary way, for example, the image of drooping American flags in Coca-Cola bottles among sacks of pinto beans and rice. It is this kind of juxtaposition of images that made this haibun a winner in my mind. Additionally, the use of lists and of sound devices (alliteration, consonance, and assonance) created a euphony of sounds in the prose that ends in a poignant and stunning haiku. A deeply moving haibun that shows and never tells, it uses a third person narrative effectively. It made me think about people waiting endlessly to cross a border into a land that promises hope. In a world where many countries are currently closing their borders to those seeking refuge or asylum, this haibun is timely and all the more powerful for its ability to cut into the emotion and rhetoric on the subject of migration. (SP)


Third Place


Aroma Therapy

by Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff


Astronomers report that based on the galaxy’s chemical makeup, it has what we humans would consider a taste and smell. Their research concludes that the flavor of the galaxy is closest to that of fresh raspberries, and that its scent is like liquor distilled from sugar – or as it’s commonly known, rum. Sidling up to an outdoor bar on an unseasonably warm autumn evening, I order a frozen raspberry rum daiquiri in a tall glass, complete with a straw the color of the sky. Savoring long, slow sips that taste like solar systems, my eyes search overhead and breathe deep the aroma of 200 billion distant suns.


new moon

the semaphore

of stars




“Aroma Therapy” is two words, not one, thus differentiating it from the massage therapy so popular today. This ‘therapy’ is another thing altogether: a reverie, albeit based on scientific data, a whimsical speculation, while having a drink on a warm autumn evening (nice seasonality), that our own galaxy, though named for its spectacle ‘The Milky Way’, may be closer in flavour at least to a ‘Raspberry Way’. I remember well the many tongue-in-cheek, overtly humorous and generally entertaining haibun I had to read a few years ago when helping to judge a Japanese haibun contest for the large haiku group, Sendan. This is exactly the sort of thing currently favoured in Japan by those trying to revive the genre in the land of its birth. Reading Woerdehoff’s piece aloud makes it even better, and although there may be a good whack of hyperbole and mixed metaphor in the final sentence, the sparsity and aptness of the final haiku image left a fine taste in my mouth. Yes, perhaps even of raspberry! Haikai no bunsho (playful prose), indeed. (SHG)


Honorable Mention



by Farah Ali


The photographs, freed from the confines of a shoebox, are strewn around my legs. Ghost faces, frozen in time and unused to the light, wait expectantly. After some sifting I find who I am looking for: a toddler with rosebud lips, hair black with dark brown tints emerging in sunlight. Round eyes, alien orbs in a tiny face, but she will grow into them. She looks lost, but that is probably projection on the part of the observer. When she is an adult she will have only vague memories of the furniture and carpet in this photograph because she will be brought up in another house. The houses and their contents will change, but the misery will not. I trace the child’s outline, sending comfort from the whorls of my fingertips into the past. Oblivious to the ache in my throat, the life growing within me rolls and kicks, demanding lemonade. Heaving upright, I tidy and head downstairs, placating my hard mound of belly with a lullaby. Perhaps one day I will show the little girl in the photograph to her.


one step forward

a rope bridge sways 

in the wind




In “Liminality”, Ali uses the title to speak of thresholds and the experiences of a person caught at a juncture that is dark and lonely, where 'Ghost faces, frozen in time and unused to the light, wait expectantly'. The only thing that detracted from the haibun that moved with such seamless grace between times past, present, and future was the inclusion of the phrase 'demanding lemonade,' which broke the emotion with a lightness that wasn't needed at that point, I felt. The haiku, although strong and effective, lost some of its power because that distraction had broken the very momentum that had been building nicely to that point. (SP)


Honorable Mention


Blakiston's Fish Owl

by Marcyn Del Clements

Hokkaido, Japan

(for Frances)


Most of the birders stay up until 10 pm for the owls to appear in the flood-lit stream. But me and my roomie, we’re down by 8:30. The owl finally comes in at 2:45 in the morning. Phil had gotten up to pee and heard them calling—knocks on all our doors. We stagger up off our futons, in bare feet, focusing through our stream-side window.  There is one!—he’s by the pool, facing us—now there are two!  She is on this side, back to us. He jumps into the pool, grabs a fish in his talons, flips it out in the snow. She doesn’t move. He hops to her side, picks up the fish and passes it to her in his beak. She slurps it down and flies up canyon. He fishes for another and scarfs it down. And then, he too is gone.


Venus slips low

winter cold

seeps through our floor boards




This piece was a ‘hit’ with both judges after the first reading for it is vivid, authentic, lightly humorous, and direct. Very conversational in style, it’s also a story of value as something not commonly experienced - a skillful portrait of a fortunate sighting of a pair of rare owls that catch fish. I often find myself disliking haibun that use only short sentences, but here Clements has mixed into them a few longer ones: just enough to save the piece from stylistic mediocrity. While the terminal haiku consists of two short sentences juxtaposed, it does work, I think, as it takes us a distance away from the magic of the experience just told, rather like a party that is now well-and-truly over. It is very haiku-style to allow the reader to savour the pathos of the return to normality after a wonderful experience. (SHG)


Honorable Mention


The Gift

by Dru Philippou

When my baby sister comes home from the hospital, my handmade mobile of the solar system already hangs above her slatted crib. Planets, moons, and stars of felted wool and a large pompom sun all dangle in bright colours from an embroidery hoop. To capture her attention, I blow on the sun’s silk strands and the orbs begin to spin.  


I lean into the crib and feel the warmth of her breath against my cheek. She grabs my hair and watches it gather and fall from her pudgy fist. Kicking off the blanket, she reveals her pink onesie. I lift this playmate in my arms and carefully clip a red rosette in the spiral whorls of her downy crown.


Milky Way

a bit of heaven

in my dreams




A moving haibun, “The Gift” caught my attention for its simplicity. Shared from the perspective of an elder sibling, it is an exchange of love offered in the childlike construction of a handmade solar system mobile hanging over the crib, whose ‘...large pompom sun all dangle in bright colours from an embroidery hoop.’ It immediately reminded me of holding my baby sister for the very first time; how as an elder sibling the fragility of this tiny bundle in my arms filled me with immense wonder. The haiku equates this with the experience of being in heaven, bringing the cosmic and real together. “The Gift” as title becomes an apt gift for all of us—a gift of love shared joyfully. (SP)


Honorable Mention


New Apartment

by Kristen Lindquist


A sound repeats outside like the squeaking of a single swing, a child alone on a playground. And the train whistle in the distance, a daily reminder that this town is connected to others, that people arrive and depart. Movie marquee, empty storefronts, long shadows over flat roofs. Cars below pulse with bass at the red light. Each window offers something new: sun’s slant through arched windows framed with granite; constant swirl of pigeons; a cafe right across the street that everyone tells me has great coffee.


wolf whistles

starlings build a nest

in an old brick facade




This is a low-key piece with an unassuming title, and it only gets us so far into the subtle psychology of moving into a new town or neighbourhood, but I give it full marks for restraint and ‘slenderness’ (hosomi in Japanese), both qualities characteristic of good haibun. “New Apartment” does require a certain sort of reader, though—one who is ready to read situational emotion into all the hints Lindquist gives us as she paints her portrait of coming to terms with an uprooting, and the delicate transition period full of fears and hopes. Wolf whistles are most probably directed at her, so the initial alienation is strongly felt. The prose is somewhat flat, especially perhaps the final clause (‘a cafe…’), but the contrast with the stark feeling latent in the haiku works well. (SHG)


Honorable Mention



by Billie Dee

      —somewhere near Weatherford, Texas–1951


    dry lightning

    my arm hairs

    stand on end


Rows of folding chairs are lined up in the sawdust as we enter the dimly lit tent. Someone has parked a battered pump organ to the right of the microphone stand.


I notice all the lean men in western boots, clutching Stetsons in one hand, tattered hymnals in the other. Their women wear flour-sack ginghams with a crescent of damp under each arm.


Now, the leather-faced preacher strides in and loosens his bolo tie. He raises his arms with a shrill HOWehLOOya—then, with a flourish, opens his Bible and gets right down to business.


A frizz-headed woman moans amen. My father slowly shakes his head, clasps my shoulder with his soft Lutheran hand and gives me a little squeeze. The organ kicks in.


Local folks sway with the music. An older guy waves his blue bandana and babbles some kind of gibberish. The wife beside him passes out. Tears of fear roll down my cheeks.


Quietly, Daddy picks me up and walks us out into the steamy twilight. The air behind us throbs with hymn as we make a beeline for our car parked in a pasture thick with cow pies.


I recall how tenderly he spreads his handkerchief over the hot passenger seat; how he cranks the ignition, slams the Studebaker into reverse, raising a dusty rooster tail as we light out for the horizon.


    between drizzle

    and downpour—roof gutters

    speaking in tongues




Reading something good is like taking your mind to the gym; it forces you to work, take notice, solve puzzles, shift between moods, resolve problems. “Ozone” achieves that effectively from the very beginning with a title that is intriguing while the opening haiku immediately establishes an urgency and tension that the prose then builds to a climax. The tone and mood largely describe a religious ritual of some kind, where a child, seeking refuge with her father during a storm, is filled with fear at the strangeness of this experience. The mood then effectively shifts into tenderness of emotion when 'he spreads his handkerchief over the hot passenger seat' as the duo then escape into a 'cricket-thick horizon'. I loved the intricate worldbuilding. Dee puts the reader into the tent, where alongside the child we too take notice of 'women' who 'wear flour-sack ginghams with a crescent of damp under each arm'. Imagery in the haibun is stunning. The prose continues the religious intensity and strangeness of the experience into the haiku, creating something cinematic. (SP)


Honorable Mention


Coffin Ship

by Billie Dee


    ground mist

    the clicking knees of sheep

    punctuate an afternoon


In the drizzly back-country of County Cork, I follow a tattered map drawn by my great-great grandfather. From the parked rental car I take my bearings.


As a lad of twelve, he sails from the port of Waterford in 1849. His sister and mother die in the cargo hold, are buried at sea. Eager and thin, he arrives in New York and serves two years of his indentured contract, then runs away to the gold mines of Montana.


    naked berm

    a pair of ravens peck

    something shiny


I drive past lines of drying peat, stacked like tilted dominoes. Filling my lungs with the heady scent of petrichor, I check his map again.


    at a dead end

    headstones too mossy to read

    famine road




“Coffin Ship” is very filmic: the present-moment haiku pictures are dovetailed into the past-tense narrative video, which even holds within it a flash-black montage of the great-great grandfather’s early life. We don’t get very far with the family story, but far enough to feel the pathos deeply— pathos derived from the tragedy of the Irish Potato Famine in the mid-Nineteenth Century and concomitant exodus, as well as from the telling images from the author’s own pilgrimage to try to find the family roots. It is an unremitting, dark world. Sheep knees click; ravens eat part of some dead creature; gravestones cannot be read for the moss that now grows on them. The haibun finishes with a dead end on Dee’s mission and with the emphatic but possibly too shut-ended and conclusive ‘famine road’. There was some talk of having met an earlier form of this work on an internet writers’ forum, but, after due research, we concluded that we would be able to honour this masterly piece with an award. (SHG)

RENGAY (Judges: Jennifer Burd and Laszlo Slomovits)



First Place


A Bushel and a Peck 

Angela Terry, Sequim, WA

Julie Schwerin, Sun Prairie, WI


sun-ripened peaches

the heat in the kitchen

on canning day                                                Angie 


a blue Fiesta bowl

full of pits                                                          Julie 


sterilized jars –

her best calligraphy

on the labels                                                    Angie 


lined up on the counter…

ants find

the one sticky spot                                          Julie 


she wets a dishrag

with vinegar                                                     Angie 


late summer sunset

taking its place

in the pantry                                                    Julie 




Right from the start, the title of this rengay warmly welcomes us into its world of a seamlessly coherent theme, well-made links, and vivid imagery. And that warmth is maintained throughout, with each image adding to the sweetness (pun intended) of the day. We start with the warm colors of the peaches juxtaposed with the warmth in the kitchen, then move to the contrasting but equally bright color of the Fiesta bowl full of peach pits. As we continue through the canning process, we see the care which is taken — calligraphy on the labels.  In verse 4, the rengay shifts, introducing the “fly in the ointment” — ants, in this case.  As we proceed, the “she” of the poem wipes the counter with vinegar (perhaps after removing the ants, also with care, with cup and paper?) to avoid inviting more ants in. Finally, we are skillfully linked back to verse 1, with the radiant, colorful, unified image of the sunset and the peaches, now stored for the next season. Lovely! 


Second Place


Scarlet Street

Carol Judkins, Carlsbad, CA                                     

Lorraine A Padden, San Diego, CA


midnight                                                          Carol 

neon signs

pattern the alley


flies go silent                                                   Lorraine 

over the splatter


witching hour                                                  Carol

a shadow morphs

on wet asphalt


locked dumpster                                             Lorraine

the reconnaissance of rats

and hinges


out the back door                                            Carol

with a bag of jewels


red dawn                                                           Lorraine

an echo of scattered




A 1945 film noir gives this rengay its title, as well as the dark tone skillfully maintained throughout. This piece drew us in with evocative details, each one conveying more than the literal meaning of the words on the page. We’re treated to one striking, cinematic image after another, progressing from midnight through dawn.  We start with the lurid, atmospheric title, “Scarlet Street,” moving on to “neon signs” and then through what could be grainy, black and white images, perhaps from a back alley in a frightening part of town where thieves, rats, and shadows are in their element. At the end, we circle back with “red dawn” and “sirens,” which wrap up the sinister mood. Without any narrative give-away, we are left with a foreboding hint of a plot, with plenty left to the imagination. Lots of echoing off-rhymes — “pattern,” “splatter,” “morphs,” “asphalt,” “dumpster,” “scattered” — add to the cohesion of the piece. A creative piece of work that made us want to see the movie!


Third Place



Simon Hanson, Tasmania, Australia
Ron C. Moss, Tasmania, Australia


on a dark sea                                    

summer moon                                                             Simon


a light house beacon

sweeps a meteor shower                                            Ron 


crossing a sandbar 

gliding through the bay 

luminous squid                                                             Simon


sparks of silver 

a school of whiting 

skims the swell                                                              Ron


swirling in our wake 

blue phosphorescence                                                 Simon


golden horizon  

the shimmering wingspan 

of an albatross                                                               Ron                                                                            





This rengay offers a fresh look at different light effects in a marine setting.  We found wonder in each verse, created by images beautifully presented. From the first word of the first haiku, we find ourselves in a boat out on the sea — both we and the moon drifting in calm waters. Light and night images interweave harmoniously throughout until we’re brought to a golden sunrise shining on the wings of a mostly white bird — echoing the moon in the opener. A serene, lulling mood is maintained throughout, and the sense of being on water through the night, in the company of sea creatures, is supported by a multitude of “s” sounds in every verse. Each stanza also contains details that relate to movement, as we go from the sight of a “becalmed” moon to things that sweep, glide, skim, swirl, and shimmer – so movement can also be considered a sub-theme, or simply part of the “shimmering.” Well done!

Honorable Mention


Wax On

John Thompson, Sonoma, CA

Jackie Maugh Robinson, Las Vegas, NV


winter loneliness
Bojangles soft shoes                           
around his cell                                                John

  Free Bird flies                              
  for kinder climes                                           Jackie 

parrothead christmas
crooning “He Went to Paris”              
salt and lime                                                    John

  Dylan rode in
  on the brightest comet—                    
  Not Dark Yet                                                  Jackie

worn out needle                                  
lost in Blue                                                       John


  which dance

  will be the Last Dance?                                 Jackie

  deep grooves


Honorable Mention



Eavonka Ettinger, Long Beach, CA

Sarah Paris, Santa Rosa, CA


rocking chair

on the front porch

shelled peas                                         Eavonka


spinning tales

under the mulberry tree                     Sarah 


picnic basket

in the clover field

a search for luck                                  Eavonka


sky gazing

the slash of a contrail                        

fades to ellipses                                   Sarah


skipping stones

on a shoreline walk                             Eavonka


sunlight flashing

from bush to bush

little brown birds                                  Sarah

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