Category Archives: Competitions

Results of the BHS Awards 2012






The adjudicators were Allison Williams and Michael Dylan Welch

The winners each receive £125. The runners-up each receive £50.


The winners are Roland Packer and Hamish Ironside

The runners-up are paul m. and Roland Packer


Alison Williams writes:

The quality of a haiku is not something that can be measured according to entirely objective standards. There are writing skills that can be learned but the most important thing is how well it communicates and communication takes two. The success of a haiku depends on the reader’s receptiveness as well as the writer’s ability. I hope I have done justice as a reader to the haiku submitted to this competition.

As I first read through the entries some disqualified themselves immediately. They met the dictionary definition of haiku but in more important respects missed the mark.

The next, much harder, job was to let go of those that had potential but were let down in someway, for example, by a didactic conclusion or an awkward phrasing. Those, that is, where the author’s hand weighed too heavily.

In many years of reading haiku I have found that my favourites did not always make an immediate impact, some took time to fully appreciate. I didn’t want to rush to shortlist. I read the remaining haiku over and over and eventually there were five that I found myself coming back to. As I read and re-read these I found more in them than first met the eye. A common factor with all of the final five was the writer’s ability to use precisely the right word in the right place to allow the meaning to expand beyond the literal.

The winner is:


a commuter train

without a soul

— Rowland Packer (Canada)

I love the light touch and simplicity of this and, at the same time, the depth there is to find beyond the obvious surface meaning. It’s night time and the train, so packed with humanity during the rush hour, is now deserted. Not a soul is on board. The moonlight shows us the emptiness and enhances the melancholy mood. The soullessness of mass transport and commuter life is implied but not directly stated. The absent commuter is dignified, but also made ghostly, by being referred to as a ‘soul.’ I see in the three lines a movement first from the heavenly to the mundane and then an elevation of the mundane.

And the runner-up:

December dusk

my fingerprints

on everything

— paul m. (USA)

A strange and intriguing observation. I wonder if the fading light prompted a lamp to be lit, showing up these traces? Or perhaps the day has involved a great deal of activity, maybe Christmas preparations, after which the many things that have been touched and handled become apparent. Fingerprints can, of course, be used in evidence, to convict. The exaggeration of the prints being on ‘everything’ suggests an emotional response – possibly guilty feelings or some level of OCD. Whatever the cause, this haiku, without stating anything about the events that led up to the moment, gives me a glimpse into someone else’s unease.

Michael Dylan Welch writes:

The novelist Katherine Paterson once wrote about a key motivation for her work: “I am called,” she said, “to listen to the sound of my own heart—to write the story within myself that demands to be told at that particular point in my life. And if I do this faithfully, clothing that idea in the flesh of human experience and setting it in a true place, the sound from my heart will resound in the reader’s heart.” This, to me, is the essence of Japanese poetry forms, especially haiku—to set one’s personal experience in a true place so that fidelity to one’s own heart finds resonance in the reader’s heart. Haiku, as a result, becomes a sharing of vulnerability, a sharing of emotion that comes from the heart. This was as true a thousand years ago as it is today. No wonder Ki no Tsurayuki’s preface to the first Imperial poetry anthology of 905, the Kokinshū, begins with a matching proclamation: “Japanese poetry takes as its seed the human heart.”

In this context, I narrowed 437 submissions down to eight and chose the following poem for second place:


a commuter train

without a soul

 — Rowland Packer (Canada)

Seldom can an abstraction or subjective feeling, such as thinking a train has a soul, succeed in haiku if it is not grounded in a concrete image, as we see here (set in autumn if one interprets “moon” in the traditional Japanese manner). More importantly, we get a sense that it is so early in the morning that perhaps the train is still empty, and thus does not yet have its “soul” of people. A deeper reading is that this train may well be full of morning commuters, yet is still utterly soulless, its occupants behaving as dutiful automatons on their way to another daily grind. The word “soul,” too, brings an open-endedness to the poem that allows for many interpretations.

The following is my choice for the winning poem in the 2012 British Haiku Society haiku contest:

 shadows under water

my daughter asks me

how to wish

— Hamish Ironside (England)

It is easy to imagine observers on a bridge over a stream, or by a wishing well. “My daughter” tells us of a relationship, and we sense a young girl. Her wish may be childlike, but “under water” first offers very adult overtones. It can mean that your house or stocks are worth less than you paid for them, or it can mean that you feel like you’re drowning, either literally or metaphorically. These overtones heighten a contrast between an adult world and the child’s innocence. The verb “asks” turns the static image-moment of shadows under water into a dynamic moment—the instant something happens, thus focusing the poem. And then everything snaps into place with the word “wish.” We feel a child’s unsullied hopes and dreams, and her trusting desire to welcome help from her parent, to wish for something brighter against the shadows of reality. We are left with many possibilities for what could be wished, and such an open-endedness is perhaps the best we could ask of any haiku.

My gratitude to all the poets who listened to their own hearts and submitted their poems and to the British Haiku Society for the opportunity to select winning poems.


 The adjudicator was Linda Jeannette Ward

The winner receives £125. The runner-up receives £50.

 The winner is Clare McCotter

The runner-up is Claire Everett


Linda Jeannette Ward writes:

There is so much to consider in a tanka competition when change itself seems to have characterized the English-language form over the past two decades. Traditional elements that continue to be of importance in the contemporary form include a five-line presentation, pivot words or phrases, cultural or literary allusions, and the juxtaposition or interplay of subjective emotion with natural or seasonal reference. To achieve this without an excess of sentimentality is an art that probably comes either as a given talent, or with much practice over time.

Once in a while we’re given a tanka that embodies most of the elements of the traditional form, including a correspondence between self and cosmos. The winning tanka exudes a timelessness: it could have been composed in Heian period Japan, or yesterday in Europe, America, or other English-language cultures:

now the pleiades
and my dark horse have gone
winds from the mountain
come to howl
inside this cage of bone

— Clare McCotter (N. Ireland)

In only five lines, this poet has flawlessly expressed mysterious depth, the “yugen” often found in classical Japanese tanka. This poem also has a musical cadence with an over wash of sorrow and loneliness that one can hear/feel echoing “inside this cage of bone,” just as the literal elements of the poem harmoniously resonate with the sounds of “now,” “mou,” and “howl” in lines one, three and four. It is as if one has a visitation of the wind, possessing self after all else has been driven out along with the loss of that “dark horse.” The mystery is presented in the first line with its reference to the disappearance of “the pleiades.” These seven stars, representative of the seven daughters of Atlas in Western mythology, have been symbols in ancient legends around the world. In one story, the Pleiades are said to be a veil between the living and dead. Cultural allusions continue to be a strong feature of tanka in Japanese and English-language forms.

So, what has the poet lost? What was that dark horse, the unlikely winner that one hopes will come from behind? We aren’t told, nor do we know how the Pleiades have been lost. Perhaps clouds have moved in, metaphorically covering the stars one has wished on for so long . . . perhaps the veil between life and death has been lifted, leaving nothing but black sky and howling winds. What is clear is the depth of the despair that is left to resonate throughout the poet’s being – his inner self trapped within a body.

In judging the historically important Tanka Splendor competition, Jane Hirshfield advised poets: “. . . tanka should contain the music of language that has passed through the body.” The runner-up tanka expresses in exquisite juxtaposition the deeply felt frustration of trying to compose a poem or song in just this way.

once more, the robin
whose every word
is song
the weight of my pen
in this eggshell world

 — Claire Everett (UK)

The challenge for the tanka element referred to by Hirshfield is to bring together inner and outer nature as seamlessly as jazz musicians who produce a sound greater than the sum of its parts. As an American who has never had the pleasure of birding the United Kingdom, I’ve missed the opportunity of observing the English robin and hearing its song. As entrants were judged anonymously, I was unaware as to whether the robin of this poem was of British or American origin. Here in the United States, our red-breasted robin sings with its whole body – the sweetness of the song seems to throb throughout its breast. I suspect this is true of the English robin as well.

With this poem, the poet has evidently witnessed the effortlessness of the robin’s song, and presents a shift, as in classical tanka, that offers a contrast with the heaviness of the writer’s or composer’s traditional tool when trying to break through to that same place from which the natural lyricism of nature dwells. The expression of the emotional element in this tanka is accomplished in the best poetic tradition of show, don’t tell. The poem, taken as a whole with its distinct but smooth shift from outer to inner nature, gives us a unity that sings, prompting us to read it “once more.” This tanka, with its subtle linking between the first three and last two lines, is structurally, as well as emotionally satisfying.


The adjudicator was Graham High. The winner receives £100.

The winning haibun is “Urodynamics” by Jane Fraser (Wales) 

Graham High writes:

There has been considerable growth of interest in the possibilities offered by the writing of haibun over the last fifteen years, encouraged in part by the BHS, and the quality of writing has likewise increased during that period. I was disappointed therefore in the overall standard of submissions to the above competition. There were 46 entries in all, two of which had to be disqualified, sadly, as having been previously published.

The haibun I finally settled on as the winner was ‘Urodynamics’. I believed in the veracity of the experience and it held my interest through its invocation of all the senses taking us through a bio-mechanical melange of sensations and processes. The narrative displays a range of communicated impressions as well as the detached sense of being alienated from one’s own body.  The prose style is clean and spare using short sentences and an unobtrusive flow of integrated dialogue while the descriptions are both objectively clinical whilst subjectively vulnerable – using works like ‘maze’ ‘dimness’ ‘echoes’ ‘clouds’. Most of the more fuzzy words are introduced through the haiku so that this world of interior perceptions is carried largely by the poems – a nice and strategic balance which could have been taken further as, at first reading, some of the haiku seem barely differentiated from the surrounding prose

Considered individually not all of the haiku are strong enough to stand alone away from the prose context but the writer successfully uses them in a more cinematic way to mark a shift of scene or time. The ten haiku, evenly and fairly satisfyingly placed, are inclined to be word-heavy.  Some offer heightened concrete images of the X-ray suite, while others suggest imagery from outside and use the haiku as a side window to show a different aspect of the scene.

The tone and quality of the writing was sustained, over what is a fairly long haibun, in a satisfying way. Overall the haibun engaged my interest and convinced me that it had a clear focus on what it was trying to do and handled the subject well.


Urodynamics                                                                 Jane Fraser


 last days of summer,

my cotton socks soaked through

by a sudden squall

 I’m bothered rather than concerned with my waterworks problem as I make my way from the car park to the X-Ray suite. “Get undressed. You can leave your top things on – but pants off. Gown does up at the back. Put your clothes in the basket and come through when you’re ready.” It’s not just the metal shopping basket that reminds me of Tesco.

 on the conveyor belt,

goods passing at top speed

towards the check-out

The theatre is clean; antiseptic clean. Sister’s in blue scrubs; radiography team in white; Mr. Emery, the consultant, in his shirt and tie, relaxed. I tense up. There’s a lot of kit in here, brand spanking-new, draining the NHS budget. And it’s all for me. “We’d like you to pee in the pretend loo, so we can measure your flow before we get going with everything else.”  Apart from Sister, they’re all behind the glass screen, at the computer monitors, watching my performance. I’ve never been videoed before. “Well done,” says Sister, “let’s get you up on the table now. Nice and gently does it.”

flat on my back,

eyes closed, hands together now

across my chest

Sister deals with the catheters. There’s one for every orifice. Despite the anaesthetic gel, I feel the sensations. A bit like tickling, she tells me. “Good girl,” she says. I suddenly feel both very young and very old. I open my eyes and watch the clear water drain from the drip they’ve set up, seep along the transparent tubes and finally disappear into the temporary plumbing system they’ve inserted into the hidden depths of my body. They want to test the capacity of my bladder.

me, watching them,

watching an inflating balloon

on the screen

“You’re doing well,” says Sister, “not long now.”  A pat on the arm. Mr. Emery gives me the thumbs-up from the other side of the glass screen. The white team are recording results in a silent huddle, bent over their machines, Mr. Emery bent over their shoulders. I can see him thinking. His smile has slipped away.

four goldfish in a bowl

swimming round in circles,

open-mouthed and silent

He emerges from the bladder control centre. More instructions for me. “We’re going to tip you up. You don’t have to do a thing; the table will do it for you.”  Out of my control. There’s the press of a button, the whirr of electronics, a smooth transition. The wonder of science. I’m standing vertical, my fridge-cold, bare feet flat on the boards of this magic bed, my catheters dangling. I feel like a cow in a stainless steel milking parlour. Alone in a full room, out of kilter with a woozy head. I am on the edge of panic. I have the frantic urge to empty my bladder, to let go.

He’s back in mission control, Mr. Emery, but Sister, whose told me she’s called Lynne now, is holding my hand and telling me gently, “I’m here,” in a new tone that denotes the other sense of the phrase. “Try and hold as long as you can; I know it’s difficult – but Mr. Emery needs to assess how your bladder is functioning. I squeeze. Tears in my eyes. A few sly and shameful drips on the white kitchen-roll between my feet.

 in black and white                                                                                  on the TV screen,

the balloon about to burst

“You can void now,” Lynne tells me. “Beware of flash floods,” I feebly joke as she nimbly connects my internal plumbing to a large plastic hose. She places the end nozzle into the pretend loo. Pure relief.

at the tide’s turn,

alone on the white porcelain shore

watching the water ebb

“That’s it. All done. You can get dressed now and then Mr. Emery will come and have a chat with you.” I feel safer somehow in my tight, white jeans and T-shirt. Unmedicalised. Intact. Foolishly young.  I wait in the corridor for him to come, breathing in the buzz and business, the semblance of ordinariness on this, the other side of the double-doors where the over-light sanitised space lies within.

me, watching the hands

of my watch tick by –

can’t make out the time in the dimness

The minutes seem to dawdle but too soon he comes towards me, carrying my notes and what looks like a heavy load. I let him off the hook. Make it easier for him. “It’s worse than you thought, isn’t it?” I say. “Mmm,” he replies, too gently for my liking. “There’s nothing nasty, but there’s major nerve and muscle damage to the pelvis – it seems like your gynaecological past has caught up with you.”  I switch to the minor key. I sense my watch rewinding, the hands going backwards.

home and dry at aerobics

pink leotard and leg warmers

jumping-jacks along to Fonda


He promises he’ll do his best to keep me anatomically functional. I try to believe him. He talks me through the options if he can’t. His voice seems to echo loudly in my head. We shake hands and say goodbye. I search for the exit through the maze of corridors.

 through the cumulus clouds

a peep of blue sky

magnifying by the minute



Administrator’s Note:

The British Haiku Society would like to thank the four judges for the time and careful consideration they have put into the task of selecting the winning pieces. The comments in their thoughtful reports are informative and instructive.

Thanks are also due to all those who took part in each of the sections of the British Haiku Awards. As expected, haiku was the most popular section attracting entries from 14 countries while haibun entries came from 6 countries and tanka from 5. The majority of entries came from 5 countries: England, US, Wales, Ireland, Scotland

It is interesting to note that the US seems to favour the newer sections of haibun and tanka while Wales and Ireland have taken a shine to haibun. Australia also provided 9.5% to tanka.
David Steele


Results of the BHS 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


(Haibun Section)


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

The winners:

 “North By Northwest” by Steven Carter (USA)  

“Seasonal Lights” by Diana Webb (UK)


Jeffrey Woodward writes on “North By Northwest”:

This sharp character sketch of a neighbor woman lately deceased shows fidelity to the conventions of biography—an omniscient third-person point-of-view and a voice of cool detachment. Depiction of the protagonist proceeds by way of skillful relation of anecdote and accumulation of detail. We learn that the neighbor died on a ranch not far from the village where she was raised, that she had the habit, as a loving child with the bright nickname Sonny, of adopting stray dogs, that she, as an adult, had an “obsession with flowers,” both wild and cultivated. We also discover that her designs, throughout her life, suffered frequent frustration—that her mother “put a stop” to her eager rescue of strays, that she lost the nickname Sonny after her first daughter died in infancy, that her proud petunias and begonias, upon her own death, “became a twisted mockery of mangled stalks . . . .”

The narrator, meanwhile, reveals his hand only in quiet parenthetical asides that set him in opposition to his subject. He recollects Sonny in his opening sentence by associating her with the present time and scene—“the last day of autumn: last chance to savor the sadness of red leaves . . . .” Much further along in his tale, however, the narrator recognizes a gulf between his desire to embrace this “last chance” and his neighbor’s distance from such longing, for “. . . sadness for her was nothing to savor—free-floating and like a cold wind down Black Leaf Canyon, it wasn’t something she had but something she was . . . .” This icy gust might be the embodiment of his neighbor for all that, a suspicion that seems confirmed by his unguarded personal reflection upon her demise: “Since then, I haven’t been able to think of an afterlife without chills sweeping over me, like that wind down the Black Leaf.”

Ultimately, some aspects of this haibun’s execution shade off from purposeful ambiguity into obscurity. The title, “North by Northwest,” has no direct referent or decipherable allusion. The author coolly repeats the coroner’s finding (“cause of death: pneumonia”) but that verdict holds little meaning and does nothing to unravel the riddle of the changes wrought in Sonny or to remedy the incomprehension of her husband and friends. We should concede that this existential mystery may be the author’s central point, however, while recognizing, in his deft use of colloquial idioms, an air of poetic sincerity and authority.

A set of three haiku acts as an envoy to the prose and, in doing so, affords some clues as to the ambiguous situation of our protagonist. Each haiku depicts Sonny’s homestead now, after her death, in barren terms. The poet presents a “harvest moon” to illuminate a deficiency (the lack of a harvest), then shows us a rusted scythe amid overgrown grass, the scythe, with one stroke, pointing to a plot of land run to seed as well as evoking its conventional association with death’s personification, the Grim Reaper. The migratory geese of the final haiku cast their shadow upon the “toy ranch,” an odd perspective, certainly, where the narrator invites us to view Sonny’s diminished dwelling from the elevated point-of-view of the passing fowl while simultaneously offering an ironic judgment with the qualification “toy,” as if the ranch, far from being a living enterprise, were an idle pastime only.

Lynne Rees writes on “Seasonal Lights”:

There is a formality to the structure of ‘Seasonal Lights’ that suits the subject matter. Just as a sonnet controls and adds dignity to an outpouring of grief or passion, the form here – alternating haiku and understated, brief passages of prose – provides an assisted, staged journey for the reader through the narrator’s prayers and hopes for her grandson’s survival and well-being; a journey which also takes place across the four seasons, from ‘spring rain’ to ‘christmas eve’.

I am not a Christian or even a believer in a supreme being and I was rather surprised to feel so drawn into the story. It is probably the understatement the narrator uses that contributes to that feeling of inclusion:  there is no didacticism in the prose, no call to pray with her. And the haiku exist outside of the reverential atmosphere of the church interiors: they all include a seasonal image to anchor the reader via her own experiences of the natural and human worlds.

There are other worlds interacting with one another in this haibun: the external and the internal, the explicit and the implicit. What the narrator does, shown to us in the prose and the haiku (buying wool, lighting candles, feeding a cygnet) and what is suggested by those actions: hope in the lighting of the candles, nurturing in the feeding a young bird, the image of good health in the shiny conker.

There is such relief when we read that final haiku, a haiku that, if I am honest, would not be strong enough to stand alone, yet in this context it is what a reader wants, and needs, to hear.

‘The women’ the narrator meets in the churches seem more than ordinary women as we read through: they adopt a more mythical role, as guardians of the flames, of people’s prayers and thanks. They do not interfere; they cannot offer anything but their presence and the protection of a place where people might find some comfort.

There were stronger pieces of prose in other haibun submitted to the competition. There were stronger individual haiku. But, for me, no other haibun achieved such a successful integration of those two parts, the flow from one to another and back again. No other haibun felt as consciously structured, taking advantage of the unique opportunities the haibun offers to a writer: the intimate relationship between prose and poetry.


Administrator’s Note:

There were 31 entries from four countries. Our thanks go to all competitors for taking part.

Many thanks go 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 thoughtful reports. They have judged haibun 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

Results of the BHS 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 BHS 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

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