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Results of the BHS/James W Hackett Annual International Award for Haiku 2009

James Hackett writes:

The Winning Haiku:

in the silence
before the dreaming
the warmth of a paw on my hand

Claire Knight, UK


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:

no sign of puppy
in the old dog’s eyes
deep winter

Kathy Lippard Cobb, USA


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

Richard Tindall, UK


her book closed,
she listens —
the geese are returning

Graham Duff, UK



mayflies —
writing their passion
on the stream

Keith Heiberg, USA


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:

bee on a black key —
I halt the metronome

Malcolm Williams, UK


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):


neon buzz
of the allnight

Roland Packer, Canada


cemetery kiosk…
attending to the taste
of peppermint tea

John Bird, Australia


leaf storm
she says something
I don’t catch

paul m., USA


the heat…
my wife down there
lost in lotuses

Michael Fessler, Japan



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.

David Steele

BHS London Regional Group – Summer Solstice Event, Leatherhead, 20-21 June 2009

We gathered at one o’clock at Park House in Leatherhead for this ‘expedition for beginners’, organised by Diana Webb. There were fifteen BHS members, one ex-BHS member and sixteen other interested people, in groups designed to have an equal mix. Diana provided a very useful set of notes for everyone. This included quotations helpful in encouraging an openness to and awareness of special ‘moments’. There were also 24 haiku as examples for beginners and some extra notes on generally accepted features of what haiku should be.

Park House, before the walk
Park House, before the walk

Having read these with a bit of discussion we were ably guided by Tony Marcoff on a walk beside the mill pond and around marshy meadows. Tony, like Diana, is a resident of Leatherhead and was able to supply interesting information on the walk and the town. The pace was perfect for walking, talking, jotting and identifying the flora. Then back to Park House for rest, refreshment and further jotting.

The second walk headed over the bridge and along the river Mole. On this stretch there were small weirs and wooded islands reminding me how very green Surrey is. Remarkably, all this is very close to the centre of Leatherhead – a wonderful resource for the inhabitants … and us. Crossing the river we headed back along a road for a short way and then through a magical sloping garden with lavender lanes running down to the river again. One particular spot gave the best view ever along the river with a weeping willow in the distance.

Sign of 'a Wild Walk on the River Mole'
Sign of \’a Wild Walk on the River Mole\’
Bridge and swan
Bridge and swan

In the evening about forty people gathered in the Green Room of Leatherhead Theatre. Firstly eight of us read our own mid summer haiku in turn, interspersed with the sounds of the flute (Steve Mason) and various other musical and percussive instruments. This was followed by a programme of readings from fifteen BHS members including haiku, haibun, renku and tanka.

The evening ended with expressions of pleasure from the audience and some addresses were exchanged. Diana’s organisation and Tony’s sensitive guidance made the afternoon and evening a very pleasurable experience and a great success.

On Sunday seven of us walked to Bockett’s Farm, a place where the public can see the working of a farm more closely and meet the animals. We passed fields of cultivated elder bushes and had good views over the valley. We walked back a different way and after a pleasant time in a pub garden we parted company, well pleased with the weekend.

More participants on the walk
More participants on the walk

Diana informs me that of the 32 people on the afternoon walks, 26 have so far sent her haiku written on, or from the experience of that day. She hopes to put together a small booklet to catch the sense of that particular afternoon on the footpaths around Leatherhead. This would include one haiku per person from everyone who has sent some in.

Report by David Steel, photos by Andrew Shimield

Earth – the 2009 BHS Members’ Anthology theme

Calling all BHS members! That is, fully paid-up members only. It is time for you to submit your entries for this year’s Members’ Anthology. The theme this year is ‘earth’, but the word earth is not to be included in the haiku. The Deadline for receipt is 1st August 2009. Send up to 4 unplublished haiku, marked Members’ Anthology on the envelope, to Ian Turner, 14 Bushell Place, Avenham, Preston PR1 3TQ, UK. Or email: ianturner50 (a) btinternet . com. If you want a reply to snail-mail submissions, you must include an SAE (in UK) or two IRCs (rest of the world).

Previous Events

This page is effectively an archive of reports and any accompanying illustrations which originally appeared on our main Events page and which are transferred here when they can no longer be considered current or even recent. We regret that this page was not created earlier in the life of the BHS website, as all the reports which appeared prior to mid-2008 have long been deleted, although some of the photographs are still held and these may appear here in coming months.

Newcastle/Gateshead Regional Group inaugural meeting – 15 March 2009

Group organiser Chris Phillips reports on the first meeting: “Our first Morden Tower workshop went well, thanks to the generosity of Connie Pickard in agreeing to let us use the Tower, and the hard work of Fred Schofield and Martin Lucas who travelled up from Leeds and Preston, respectively, to lead it.

“The day was split into two parts, both generating lots of discussion about how a haiku can be defined. We began by looking at favourite haiku brought along by members, paused for tea and cake, and then moved on to two activities provided by Fred:the first, a collaborative exercise, involved piecing together existing haiku which had been cut up; it was interesting that several new and plausible haiku could be generated. In the second activity, we were each given a list of single lines and asked to form a haiku around any of them. The spontaneity of the poems produced delighted us, with no-one failing to ‘score a hit’ with at least one of their efforts.

“(Re the second activity: there was concern, initially, that writing in response to a given image, instead of a haiku moment of your own, would not be as successful, in the sense that you have to use your imagination or summon up an event from your past, thereby losing any sense of the ‘immediacy’ of that moment. However, the effect of the poems on the listeners was, as Martin pointed out, often an immediate and empathetic one. Furthermore, it’s not always possible or practical to scribble down your response to an experience immediately, and most haiku therefore rely on a recalled experience.)

“It was lovely to meet new people and share poems and views. Connie has kindly offered Morden Tower as a venue for future haiku workshops, so watch this space: the next one will be in May.” If you wish to attend the next meeting, see below for Chris’s contact details.

BHS AGM and Winter Gathering, London, 22 November 2008

British Haiku Society members from all over England attended the AGM and Winter Gathering on 22 November at Conway Hall in London.

Susan Lee Kerr chaired the AGM and Special Meeting which followed. They produced some interesting discussions.

L-R: Susan Lee Kerr, Annie Bachini (background), Steve Mason and Doreen King (background)
L-R: Susan Lee Kerr, Annie Bachini (background), Steve Mason and Doreen King (background)

The events part of the day then followed, and in the company of quotes from such notables as Proust, Einstein, Blake and more, Diana Webb encouraged us to brave the cold and to notice the world around us in Red Lion Square.

Diana Webb in an autumnal Red Lion Square
Diana Webb in an autumnal Red Lion Square
L-R: Andrew Shimmield, Brian and Sheila Wells in Red Lion Square
L-R: Andrew Shimmield, Brian and Sheila Wells in Red Lion Square
L-R: Alan Summers, Tony Marcoff, Katherine Gallagher in conversation outdoors
L-R: Alan Summers, Tony Marcoff, Katherine Gallagher in conversation outdoors









Once back in the warm, members offered haiku from their observations.

Then we got down to some hard graft in a workshop run by David Cobb where we explored the concept of disjunction. Working in groups we focused on individual haiku to assess whether they were disjointed and how that influenced their effect on us.

David Cobb hosting his 'disjunction' workshop
David Cobb hosting his \’disjunction\’ workshop

Our thanks to Frank Williams for providing all these AGM photographs.

Paul Matthews, a poetry teacher at Emerson College, took the floor next. After outlining how he came to haiku, his talk put particular emphasis on haiku as a point where the external and internal meet. And we all enjoyed the short writing workshop where we wrote diamond shaped poems.

Although Dick Pettit was unable to be with us in person, his contribution on ‘renga linking from Basho’s Nagoya Group’ was presented by Diana Webb. The readings of the two renga examples were performed by Frank Williams, Andrew Shimield and Anthony A Marcoff.

This was followed by a tribute to William J Higginson led by Annie Bachini. Members spent some time reflecting on Bill’s contribution to haiku and their personal memories of him.


as the light fades
the silhouette of a heron
in canal reeds


Annie Bachini


And last, but definitely not least, Alan Summers talked about, and demonstrated, alternatives to haiku being on a page. He started with photos of the Haiku Pathway in New Zealand, where haiku are carved on stone, and continued with various examples that his project ‘with words’ has been involved with, in this country and abroad.

Overall, we were treated to a varied and stimulating day.

Hard Rain and Haiku – Southampton, 6 September 2008

This event came about through Mauri G Askell’s response to a questionnaire sent to all members by Annie Bachini last year. Mauri led the way.

The venue, Southampton Common, is flanked on one side by the Avenue, described in J.B. Priestly’s English Journey of 1933 thus, “This fine approach very gradual and artful in its progression from country to town”. On the other side is Southampton Old Cemetery, laid out in 1845-1863 and now designated a site of ‘special scientific interest’. It contains three chapels.

The Common itself consists of 376 acres and has several water features, the Cowherds Inn, and the Urban Wildlife Centre – our meeting point.

A bright early morning soon deteriorated into rain which became heavier from the moment we (13 in all – Mauri G Askell, Annie Bachini, Timothy Collinson, Pearl Dell, Jane Dudley, Robin Furth, Martin Lucas, Anthony A Marcoff, Mark Rutter, Alan Summers, Diana Webb and Alison Williams) commenced our ginko. It was suggested that this took place in silence to allow a greater focus on note-taking, although this was not strictly adhered to.

After two hours in heavy rain, covering grassland, scrub, skirting lakes and a meander through the Victorian cemetery, we returned to the Wildlife Centre and took a break for lunch.

Some of the 'weatherproofed' attenders at the pond
Some of the \’weatherproofed\’ attenders at the pond
Another picture of Southampton attenders, this time in the cemetery
Another picture of Southampton attenders, this time in the cemetery

Martin Lucas led the afternoon session, which began with contributions from all, in the form of notes and haiku from the ginko – surprisingly, notebooks had survived the rain! Martin then introduced a session based on around three different translations/interpretations of well known classical haiku, which proved insightful.

In the warm and dry at Southampton - L-R: Mark Rutter, Robin Furth, Martin Lucas, Mauri Askell
In the warm and dry at Southampton – L-R: Mark Rutter, Robin Furth, Martin Lucas, Mauri Askell

A short stroll and a relaxing half-hour followed in the Cowherds Inn.

Mauri felt that those attending “found the day worthwhile, brought something to the day and hopefully left one step further on”.

Haiku from the ginko

through the heavy rain
z    g   z       n
i       a     i     g
only one white butterfly

small journey
quietly undertaken
a jag of colour intrudes

mauri g askell

faint rain
the paddling pool flag

after the rain
everyone happier
except the gargoyle

Martin Lucas

ducklings cheep enquiringly
at the haiku poets —
get nothing

cross leaning out
of autumn nettles
‘thy will be done’

Mark Rutter

persistent rain-
on one fallen leaf
the wine colour deepens

on a Mount Fuji haiku-
a squirrel whisks by

Diana Webb

BHS Day in Broadstairs, 21 June 2008

summer solstice—
awaking to the muffle
of drizzle

Jon Baldwin

In hazy midsummer sun, and a room overlooking Viking Bay, Felicity Brookesmith opened the BHS day in Broadstairs to 13 keen participants.

The event had received publicity in the Isle of Thanet Gazette of 13th June, which included a photograph of Felicity holding a copy of Blithe Spirit. However, many of the attendees heard about the day through Felicity’s network of writing groups.

In his talk, as well as charting the evolution of haiku from other Japanese writing forms, Martin Lucas detailed how English syllables differ from how sounds are counted in the Japanese language and, thereby, explaining why most writers of haiku in English do not write in 5-7-5.

Annie Bachini then ran a workshop that introduced the role of kireji in haiku and also the concepts of sabi, karumi and yugen.

After lunch, all participants were busy writing, sharing and discussing their work. Selected haiku were then put on the board for further comments.

Felicity read some of her haiku that drew their inspiration from the local environment, and Martin followed this by talking about setting up a local group in Kent. He illustrated the various possibilities from his experience in the Yorks/Lancs group and Annie chipped in with information on how they do things in London.

As well as Jon Baldwin, other BHS members there were Phillip Murrell and Mark Ritchie.

the longest day—
sun the cooler for mist
pearling the sea

Felicity Brookesmith

At the time of writing, Felicity is busy looking for a venue for the first meeting of the Kent group.

From left: Martin Lucas, Annie Bachini, Felicity Brookesmith
From left: Martin Lucas, Annie Bachini, Felicity Brookesmith
(photos courtesy and copyright of Isle of Thanet Gazette)
Martin Lucas holds a copy of his recent book, Stepping Stones
Martin Lucas holds a copy of his recent book, Stepping Stones.
(photos courtesy and copyright of Isle of Thanet Gazette)