Category Archives: Competitions

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.

snowbound
the kaleidoscope
stuck

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
crossroad

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