James Hackett writes:
The Winning Haiku:
before the dreaming
the warmth of a paw on my hand
It is difficult to imagine a haiku more highly commended: more simple, intuitively direct, and imbued with the spirit of Zen. From the first line, the consciousness is upon the immediacy of the here and now, seen in the keen perception of an ambient silence. The second line, “before the dreaming,” suggests what may be an aversion to falling asleep, possibly suggesting a troubled mind that might be anticipating a sleep of nightmares. With the sudden touch of a warm paw from what might be that of a beloved pet that may have been lost, instantly the lone, somber mood changes into a thankful joy. Whatever the case, it is left to our imagination. The genre of haiku welcomes a reader’s suggestive participation.
A close second:
in the old dog’s eyes
I was very impressed with the poignancy of this haiku. The ephemeral nature of life, as reflected in the old dog’s eyes, is moving. The eyes are where life collects: age, intelligence, the amount of suffering, or lack thereof. Visually, the final line conjures snow or even barren trees. Whatever “deep winter” may mean to the reader, it is symbolic of death. Death, like deep winter, seals the last line tightly into the first two and we understand.
The following three haiku are highly commended (in no particular order):
crossing the pause
in the shouting
the cat takes my side
her book closed,
she listens —
the geese are returning
writing their passion
on the stream
I commend the immediacy, and the here-and-now concentration. Each reflects the poet’s own immersion within the Eternal Now – the province of both haiku and Zen.
Dee Evetts writes:
In adjudicating this contest for the first time, I have derived much pleasure from identifying and then thinking about the half dozen poems from which I made my final selection. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the British Haiku Society in this capacity. It is worth noting how unusual this contest is, in having two independent adjudicators and thus two overall winners and sets of runners-up. In my opinion this more accurately reflects the reality of how widely (and variously) excellence in haiku may be perceived, thus providing a refreshing breadth in the combined results.
The Winning Haiku:
I halt the metronome
Economy in writing is not merely a matter of brevity, but just as much a question of aptness. In this poem the first line evokes a scene and an occasion as luminous as any personal memory of our own. A piano stands in a room near an open window, with a spring or summer garden beyond, from which a bee has strayed. Then in the second line the stopping of the metronome says everything needed, without belabouring things. It brings to mind Raymond Roseliep’s sublime he removes his glove/to point out/Orion. As with his poem, here also a simple action conveys so much. What exactly that is, we might debate endlessly; in my view it most of all concerns regard. Neither the bee, nor the music – not the piano itself – is to be treated casually. Each will receive singleness of attention, while through this even-handedness they become connected, and achieve unity.
Highly Commended Haiku (in no particular order):
of the allnight
attending to the taste
of peppermint tea
she says something
I don’t catch
my wife down there
lost in lotuses
neon buzz: One could read this either as depicting a deserted crossroads, or as the location for a café or bar – and be entirely satisfied with both interpretations, as well as their differing moods.
leaf storm: The poet neatly captures one of those small yet potentially critical dilemmas that arise between people: in this case whether to let it go, or ask her to repeat what she said.
cemetery kiosk…: “Attending” is the pivotal word here, suggesting that the place and the occasion have sharpened the poet’s perceptions.
the heat…: There is a wonderfully indolent and almost bawdy quality to this poem, combining as it does the sultriness of the weather with conjugal affection.
Administrator’s Note (for 2009 results):
After the record number of entries last year, this year has seen rather fewer entries than usual. There seem to be no obvious reasons for the fluctuation.
There was the usual wide spread of countries of origin, in the following proportions: England 46%, USA 17%, Scotland 8%, Croatia 6%. Then came Ireland and Australia at 5% followed by Canada, New Zealand and Japan at 3%. Finally we had Wales, Sweden, Serbia and Romania at 1%.
Many thanks to James Hackett and Dee Evetts for the time and careful consideration they have put into the task of selecting the winning poems. Thanks are also due to Diana Webb and Phillip Murrell for their work in selecting the 50 poems for the initial short list.