Category Archives: Competitions

Call for Entries BHS Awards 2016


Comprising two categories: Haiku and Tanka

The Competition is OPEN to both members and non-members of the society from all over the world. Rules of the BHS Haiku and Tanka Awards:

1. Submissions must be in English, unpublished and not concurrently entered for any other competition, and remain unpublished until the results are declared. There is no limit on the number of submissions per competitor.

2. Deadline: in the administrator’s e-mail by 31 January, 2017.

3.Entry procedures:
Please note that all UK and non UK entries should be sent by e-mail to:bhsawardsadmin (a) fastmail . co . uk If you don’t have an e-mail, please contact the BHS Administrator Iliyana Stoyanova by post for more details. Her contact details are to be found in the membership list.

For both haiku and tanka – send your entry in the body of the e-mail, no attachments. Remember to include your name, address and phone number. All appropriate fees to be paid via PayPal (through the BHS website). Please include the PayPal payment Ref. No. with your submission. Non UK entries only – please note that the PayPal payment should be made in £ sterling and you should include an extra 10% to cover the PayPal transfer fee.

4. Fees: The entry fee for up to 3 haiku is £5 and £1 per haiku thereafter. The fee for tanka works the same as for haiku, but haiku and tanka are separate categories (i.e. no mixing for one fee). Payments by PayPal (see above).

Please choose from the first tab ‘Payment for‘ how many haiku you wish to submit. Then choose the correct amount from the second tab ‘Amount‘ and click ‘Make payment‘.

If you wish to submit tanka, please use the same form below.

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5. No current trustee of the British Haiku Society is eligible to enter.

6. Adjudication process:
BHS will appoint two judges for haiku and two for tanka. Each judge sees all entries submitted in the category assigned to him/her, and without consulting, makes his/her independent choice of best haiku or tanka – and chooses one runner-up also. Their choices will be final and no correspondence can be entered into about the results. It is possible for an entrant to win more than one prize.

The Judges for the 2016 British Haiku Awards are:
Haiku – Andrew Shimield and David Jacobs
Tanka – David Terelinck and Paul Smith

7. Prizes:
For haiku, prizes of £125 will be awarded to each of the two best and £50 to each of two runners-up.
For tanka, prizes of £125 will be awarded to each of the two best and £50 to each of two runners-up.

8. Publication of results: As soon as results are known and the winners are notified, the results will be published on the BHS website at All haiku and tanka selected for awards, along with the judges’ reports, will be published in the May 2017 issue of the BHS journal, Blithe Spirit.

9. For early notification of results, please provide a valid e-mail.

10. Copyright reverts to authors after publication in the BHS journal, Blithe Spirit, but entry for any category signifies agreement to your work being published digitally by the BHS or copied for archival purposes (for example, by the British Library or the Poetry Library, London).

Iliyana Stoyanova
BHS Awards Administrator

Results of the British Haiku Awards 2011 (Haiku Section)

The adjudicators were Clare McCotter and Dee Evetts.
The winners each receive £125. The runners-up each receive £50.

The winners are David Jacobs and Graham Duff
The runners-up are Doreen King and Earl R. Keener

Clare McCotter writes:

The best place to begin when discussing a haiku competition is with the poems themselves. My initial short list of forty was reached after reading all 528 entries twice. This was then whittled down to eleven which I think incorporate a reasonably wide range of preoccupations, moods and emotions, at times in a single piece: ‘beach of stones — / my autistic son / can fill the ocean’; Richard Tindall, UK. The spatial dimensions of the beach are reflected in the breadth of this haiku which negates a single simplistic reading. The child appears to be throwing stone after stone, an infinity of stones, into the ocean. This could suggest the stricture of repetitive behaviour, behaviour not infrequently associated with children on the autistic spectrum. However, the ‘beach of stones’, as opposed to a stony beach, and the large emphatic concluding line can also be interpreted as a joyfully boundless moving beyond parameters, beyond definitions and lines of demarcation, ultimately an insouciant moving beyond narrow medical soubriquets to a world of unfenced potential.

It is a wide world, similar to that depicted in the beautifully nostalgic and celebratory: ‘sixteen today / all the shades of verbena / in her hands’; Doreen King, UK. This perfect haiku is an orchestra of colour: white, reds, purples and an ocean of blues erupting in the eye, and in the flesh for present also is the peculiar texture of the verbena’s leaf, stem and petal. There is a thread of longing and regret in this piece. The brilliant blossoming belongs to the girl; the future is ‘in her hands’. Remaining with flowers, another short-listed haiku which deserves mention is ‘caressing her/ in my work clothes / first crocus’; Ernest J Berry, NZ. ‘Work clothes’ provide a sharp contrast with the papery fragility of the crocus; and not just any crocus rather the first one — singular and alone. The ambiguity of this haiku compels. Awkwardness and clumsiness fuse with enchantment. But is the poet caressing a lover likened to a crocus or is he caressing the flower itself?

After much deliberation the following haiku was awarded second place:

shattered stars
in a small icy pond
the bitterest night’

Doreen King, UK

In this miniature drama the stars are not simply broken, they are ‘shattered’, suggesting that force has been applied to the ice. It would not have melted in a night described as ‘the bitterest’, a word that could refer to temperature or hostility and antagonism. The very stuff of small ponds.

The winning haiku requires little comment. It is a powerful and searing image. While this poem lends itself to various readings, I feel that the word ‘camps’ renders only one truly convincing: body as shelter, an emaciated embracing body as tent. Taut skin and bones have become canvas and poles in an attempt to shield a starving child from an unblinking indifferent sun.

Somalia famine
a child camps
inside its father

David Jacobs, UK

Dee Evetts writes:

Sifting through this year’s entries in the BHS haiku contest, I was on the lookout for poems that could snag my attention, and then hold it. The majority of entries eliminated themselves for a variety of reasons. An excess of sentiment (“cute rots the soul” observed Andy Warhol) or of moralizing; wordplay without some larger resonance; a laboured correctness of syllable-count––these were the most common pitfalls. I was left with some 50 poems that merited closer consideration. In reducing this number to ten, I found myself setting aside the many examples of what may be called “felicitous pictures”. By this I mean depictions of the natural world that, while well crafted and pleasing enough, fall short of truly engaging either my emotions or my intellect. During the last stage — choosing the two finalists — I found myself asking: which poems would I most enjoy writing about? It occurred to me that these would inevitably be also the strongest and most interesting — the most deserving of first and second place in my estimation. And here they are, below, in that order.

winter garden
he describes
a parabola in space

Graham Duff, UK

This poem impressed me immediately by its juxtaposition of the local and (literally) universal, in a shift from the shut-down environment of a winter garden to the widest canvas possible. We can if we wish imagine the scene as taking place at night, under a brilliantly starry sky, though this is not essential. It may be that someone is explaining — with an extravagant gesture — the different types of astronomical orbit, and perhaps even how the tilt of our own planet creates the seasons. The use of the word “describe” is an inspiration, since it can be taken in its usual verbal sense and equally well as a geometric term. And the final word “space” can also be read with alternative meanings. These ambivalences yoke the two worlds of the poem in a way that is thoroughly satisfying.

a murmur
in the weathervane —

Earl R. Keener, USA

Here too there is a uniting of disparate things, though in this case over a smaller distance. I had to go to the dictionary for the meaning of cotyledon, which turns out to be what is otherwise known as a “seed leaf” — the embryonic first leaves (usually a pair) of an emerging seedling. Thus we are placed in early spring. The young plants are being closely examined, when from above comes a small sound from the weathervane as it turns. A shift in the wind can mean a change in the weather, and our perspective enlarges accordingly. In this context “murmur” is just the right word, with its hint of rumours and contingencies. At the same time, I find that the moment of attentiveness evoked here is entirely sufficient.

Administrator’s Note:

There were 528 entries from 113 poets. The 12 countries of origin were in the following proportions: England 58%, USA 11%, then Scotland 8%, Ireland 7% and Wales 5%. Australia and New Zealand made 3% each, Japan and Germany made 2% each, and Canada, Finland and the Netherlands made 1% each (all to the nearest whole %). Our thanks go to all competitors for taking part.

Many thanks are due to Dee Evetts and Clare McCotter for the time and careful consideration they have put into the task of selecting the winning poems and providing their thoughtful reports. They have been ‘on duty’ for both the 2010 and 2011 British Haiku Awards and have earned some time off! The judges for the 2012 British Haiku Awards will be identified in the 2012 rules for entry.

David Steele

The British Haiku Awards 2010 (Haibun Section)

The adjudicators were Lynne Rees and Jeffrey Woodward.
The winners each receive £125.

The winners:

  • Old Rocker by Mary Hind (Australia)
  • Making It to Twenty-ten by Ken Jones (Wales)


Old Rocker

up again in the night, its not only you men. stagger to the bathroom, knees & other joints welded refusing to straighten, must look like a stick insect, did i seriously write a humorous poem once about the signs of ageing? nothing remotely risible about this body, one minute youre rocking & rolling till all hours, next youre nothing more than a remnant of pink fabric thats lost its stretch, a deflated balloon, a dried up old leaf…

new moon—
the way you used to
cup my breast


feet shuffle me back to bed. that you love? he mutters between snores, no. marilyn monroe i reply, one of our many mantras, every couple has them, at least the memorys still working, something to smile about after all.

against the wind the
slow beat of a
crow’s wing


Mary Hind


Lynne Rees writes:

Old Rocker is an exquisitely crafted haibun: the prose, the haiku and the title all resonate with each other to create something more than their individual parts. Remove one of those elements and the haibun’s overall effect is diminished.

The fragmented syntax of the prose effectively mirrors thought process while the lyricism of the haiku contrasts the prose syntactically and complements it linguistically. The haiku link and shift beautifully to and from the prose and the overall theme of ageing is reinforced by both haiku, explicitly in the first and implicitly in the second, without repetition. The title plays with the reader on a number of levels: it highlights the theme of ageing, references a phrase in the prose (rocking & rolling) to further knit those two elements together, and also suggests the image of an old rocking chair, a symbol of both old age and comfort.

And I am comforted by this haibun, both as writer and reader.

I admire the precise concrete imagery that is emotionally convincing and the reciprocation of form and content evident in the choice of syntax. I also admire the construction: the haiku feel consciously placed and contribute to the overall dramatic development. The reader shifts between stream of consciousness and more focused reflection as the narrator shifts between movement and stasis, from walking to the bathroom for the necessary pause, then back to bed and a second moment of reflection in the closing haiku. It would not be an exaggeration to say I am in awe of the final haiku. These 10 ordinary words encapsulate the haibun’s theme and extend it too, but also, for me, invoke Basho’s crow, although here the settling is replaced with an element of resistance. In that one word beat, we can read struggle, measuring time, and perhaps even winning some ground.

I read the haibun again, and again. I find myself ‘rocked’ by the rhythms and language, its pathos and bathos; its insights that expose and embrace truth.

Making it to Twenty-ten

A weary man
lost in thought
an aged butterfly
between his thighs

Nagata Koi


“A pagan Christian”, she confesses. Chunky Celtic jewellery. Ear rings that dingle-dangle. A long purple skirt and a brightly coloured top. What estate agents call “a well presented property”. Limited liability retail flirts — she and I.

The room warms up
a winter butterfly
all a-flutter


So, the four of us have actually made it to the here and now. Miscellaneous surgical scars; repair jobs here and there; irreplaceable parts wearing out; one sort of pain or another. The 1930s not quite lost in history. But of course, no one here feels old.

Two couples
each of the four
their own uneasy chair


Tossing her well-coiffed black hair, she fronts an animated discussion to do with Mary Magdalene. We each have our own agenda — well known to the other three after all those years. I chuck another log into the stove

“Whore or virgin ?”
on the stem of her glass
her fingers play


My wife disagrees. Enjoying himself, her husband waves one foot in the air and sucks on his empty pipe. Stirring the pot I play the innocent.

To mellow the mood we break open the Leffe Abbey Belgian beer. “Roasted barley malt gives the beer its deep brown colour and fantastic combination of sweet caramel yet bitter taste.” A Georges Brassens disk “La Chasse aux Papillon” (“The Butterfly Hunt”), and everyone begins to luxuriate.

Swilling the remains of our beer in the bottom of the glass, we round off the evening with a sing-song. Mai Pope’s Swansea syncopation of “Bread of Heaven”. “Guide me O thou great Jehovah pilgrim through this barren land…”

In the porch light, her husband’s silver quiff. And his firm handshake.

Her good night hug
no longer
no closer
than it needs to be


Ken Jones

Nagata Koi (1900-1997): outstanding Zen haiku poet of old age.
Translation by Margaret Mitsutani and Naruto Nona.


Jeffrey Woodward writes on Making it to Twenty-ten:

Two elderly couples of long acquaintance are reunited. It is unclear if they meet frequently or if this evening marks some special occasion, perhaps a celebration of the circumstance signalled by the title, of the “four of us” having “made it to the here and now” of another decade with the “1930s not quite lost in history.”

While the general scene is one of a convivial gathering of dear friends, a palpable tension underlies each gesture and remark. What at first seems casual is revealed as calculated. The polished conversation of the couples is transparent and no disguise for the rivalry that has long animated their friendship. This contest revolves about the male narrator and the other man’s wife, about their “limited liability” flirtation that is tacitly acknowledged by all parties. Is it significant that this other woman describes herself as a “pagan Christian” and later introduces the topic of Mary Magdalene — not with any abiding devotional interest, it would seem, but simply for the slight provocation of her question, “Whore or virgin?”

The erotic undercurrent of this haibun is largely cerebral. The reader may readily surmise as much from the epigraph, a haiku by Nagata Koi, whose “aged butterfly” hints at the diminished powers — sexual and otherwise — of the narrator and his companions. Full confirmation of this is offered at the haibun’s conclusion; the lively party of four have together reached the “bottom of the glass” of their Leffe Abbey ale, the playful French recording of Georges Brassens has concluded, and their collective energy has shifted to singing along with a Maldwyn Pope rendition of the hymn “Bread of Heaven”:

Guide me, O thou Great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land . . .


What a sober turn of events! But their short reunion, too, has come to an end and the bleak night beckons where our aging narrator, by porch light, receives

Her good night hug
no longer
no closer
than it needs to be


Administrator’s Note:

There were 54 entries from five countries. Thanks to all who took part and many thanks to Lynne Rees and Jeffrey Woodward for the time and careful consideration they have put into the task of reading and selecting the winning haibun, and writing their reports.

David Steele

Results of the British Haiku Awards 2010 (Haiku Section)

The adjudicators were Dee Evetts and Clare McCotter.
The two winners each receive £125. The runners-up each receive £50.

The winners are Scott Mason and Doreen King
The runners-up are Ernest J Berry and John Barlow

Dee Evetts writes:

It is widely recognized that two or more judges of a contest will rarely pick the same poem(s) as being the best. The most obvious reason for this is our divergence in experience and taste. To lay some of my own cards on the table: I lean away from pictures of nature, however felicitous these may be—and especially those involving such stock-in-trade features as blossoms, snowflakes, dragonflies, cicadas, reflections, shadows, and the moon. Meanwhile I tend to admire haiku that can best be described as sinewy. If that sounds too anatomical or too abstract, I can put it differently. When encountering a poem I want to be woken up, alerted, tugged at—in some way that I will never quite forget, and that becomes vicariously a piece of my own experience. I hasten to add that the two modes indicated above are not mutually exclusive. Of the poems that I have chosen this year, one involves snow and the other the moon. It is not a checklist that we have in hand—or in mind—but something more in the gut.

I am known in my household for declining to watch any film that features exploding cars. (Fortunately the trailers for such movies give me graphic and ample warning.) However, had I been too rigid in my prejudice then I might have missed the excellent “Michael Clayton” starring George Clooney, in which an exploding car is central to the story. And this is the point of my anecdote: it was central, not gratuitous.

the kaleidoscope

Scott Mason (USA)

This earned undisputed first place for me notably because of the way language is consummately matched to the subject. It is that rarity, a large poem achieved with a handful of words. We shift from a vista to an object to a state of mind implied. The second line, with its multi-syllabled “kaleidoscope” raising our expectations, seems to offer escape (or at least distraction) from the predicament presented in the first—and then after all not. With just one more word it ends, perfectly, right there. But paradoxically we are not yet done. For this third line takes us back to the first with an effective and satisfying circularity. It is this evoking of a closed universe that gives the poem its singular scope and resonance.

clouded moon
the sound of her slip
hitting the floor

Ernest J Berry (NZ)

From a strong final group of four I was compelled to choose the above as the runner-up. There are so few truly erotic haiku, and this is one. How do you convey nakedness, anticipation, desire, without using any of those overworked words? Like this. Make it specific, and you make it real. Of course, good choices are still required: a fresh way of expressing faint moonlight, the focus on sound, and an unexpected verb. That “hitting” shocks the ear, and expresses impact in more than one sense, not least the visceral.

Clare McCotter writes:

A friend recently asked me what I looked for in a haiku. My reply — I’ve no idea — was deemed a less than satisfactory response. Nevertheless, that vague amorphous space of no idea seems a good starting point when judging a writing competition, especially one concerned with a form that has at times been beleaguered by a merciless prescriptivism. That said, the 493 entries in the British Haiku Awards 2010 encompassed a heartening variety of voices and styles. Thank you and well done to everyone who entered the contest. Many of the haiku were exquisite, many compelling, and many of publishable standard. There were also haiku that I felt would be rejected by editors. In this group there were numerous pieces that contained the germ of an excellent poem. Hopefully they will be reworked into something that will find its way into print, something a little leaner, a little more lurcher, a little less labrador.

After an initial reading of all the entries I had a provisional shortlist of 44. A second reading whittled this down to 33; a third expanded it to 46, and so it went! Despite the difficulty and undoubted arbitrariness of selection there were, however, haiku that snared the eye and the ear on first encounter. One such piece was:

pink river
a heron pulls away
to the stars

John Barlow (England)

This structurally perfect haiku could easily have been a winner rather than runner-up. It is flawless, beautiful and conventional, but it also incorporates room for speculation. The opening line is subtly ambiguous. The pink sunset river is at once a gorgeous image and something that could be interpreted as sweet and sugary, a cloying, syrupy, sticky space from which the heron must ‘pull away’. Demonstrating the visual acuity of the poet, the second line is an excellent description of movement. Herons do indeed ‘pull away’ when leaving water. And this heron is pulling away from a rose coloured fluidity that suggests warmth and familiarity in order to fly to the cold glittering edge of everything.

The haiku just discussed has been described as flawless. I do not know if the same can be said of the following. Yet, it is the winner:

lovers tiff …
the moon hauled from the well
yet still it returns

Doreen King (England)

This haiku has depth. At its centre is the concrete, highly symbolic and erotically charged image of the well. And it is not just any well, rather one from which the moon has been hauled. This is a remarkably compelling image. It flexes the brain and, as one hauls that bucket of moonwater up out of the earth, the biceps. The poem is revenant. It has returned to me numerous times during the past week. Like the circle of gold in the well it will continue to return.

Administrator’s Note:

The almost 500 entries came from the usual wide spread of countries of origin, in the following proportions: England 61%, USA 11%, then Wales, Scotland and Ireland at 5%. Australia made 3%, followed by New Zealand, Japan, Romania and the Netherlands with 2%. Finally we had Canada, Germany, Malta and Spain at 1%. (to the nearest whole %). Thank you all for taking part.

Many thanks are due to Dee Evetts and Clare McCotter for the time and careful consideration they have put into the task of selecting the winning poems and providing their reports.

David Steele

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