luni, 17 aprilie 2023


Preselector – Seren Fargo, USA

Final judge and comments – Kit Nagamura, Japan




Kit Nagamura / Picks for SGP


The better the collection of entries, the harder it is to judge a haiku contest. Some of the outstanding poets who have participated in this year’s Sharpening the Green Pencil event write in the classic format, and some prefer a more modern vein, minus the kigo.

Some address heavy, somber subjects, and others preserve the karumi, or lightness, that Matsuo Basho so prized in his later years. It is my belief that great haiku come in a variety of forms, and we know them immediately, because they resonate with concrete sensation and truth, but also leave space for interpretation. I have deep appreciation for the works I’ve had the honor to read, and I thank the winners for sharing their visions of the world.


First Place


half time 

my son and I exchange 

our goal posts


Srinivasa Rao Sambangi, India, Hyderabad



At first glance, this haiku seems to suggest a father and son simply changing sides at the halftime of a game of soccer, football, rugby, or hockey. We don’t know if it’s a game in which they are both playing, or simply watching together and rooting for separate teams, but we do know halftimes usually come at the 45-minute point, and last 13-15 minutes. Instead of employing a seasonal kigo, the author here subtly addresses a time of life when the relationship between a father and son shifts, and when their goals can be reversed. Perhaps the urge to make money and be successful fades into a desire for quality family time as a father ages or approaches the halftime of his life, at 45. Sons, often by age 15, are ready to try on independence from their parents, and their goals change, too, focusing outwardly toward their own futures. By leaving in the word “posts” at the end of the haiku, the author saves the poem from didacticism, and creates a thoughtful work on the dynamics of family life.





Second Place


yesterday’s news 

in a wire basket 

another war


Addison Redley, UK, London



Skillful alliteration, with the repetition of w’s, makes the reading of this haiku easy, but the subject matter—the short news cycles covering something as momentous as war—condemns our inability to learn from yesterday’s mistakes. The wire basket, presumably the kind that sits on a news desk, takes on an ominous chill with the final line, turning into a metal cage that holds a record of horrors, read and soon forgotten repeatedly. This dark haiku is a good example of where modern haiku shines, and when a seasonal reference might be beside the point.




Third Place


first light 

the trail to his burial place 

speckled with petals


Cristina-Valeria Apetrei, , Romania, Saveni




At dawn, a spring path to the “burial place” of someone or something, is scattered with fallen blossoms. The scene is pretty, as if nature has festooned the trail with an offering to the dead, and yet of course the fallen petals themselves are expiring. A “trail” and a “burial place” both suggest great intimacy—this is not, it would seem, a formal cemetery, but a place selected specially, a secret interment location. This led me to suspect the haiku is about a deceased beloved pet. The fact that there is a trail suggests that the burial place is visited often enough to maintain a clear path, and that someone (the poet perhaps) prefers the earliest light of day to visit and remember the lost one. The poem brings a lightness to the grieving process and to mono-no-aware, or awareness of the ephemeral nature of life.



Honorable Mentions (3, in no specific order)


winter deepens ... 

in an old coat pocket  

blue glass beads


Daniela Misso, Italy, San Gemini (TR)



Winter arrives, and an old coat is taken from the closet. From inside its deep pocket, conjuring the darkness of profound winter, emerge blue glass beads, the color and temperature of ice. There is pleasing mystery here: whose beads, and why were they forgotten?




fall’s carpet 

the crisp sound  

of crème brûlée


Sandra St-Laurent, Canada, Whitehorse



How skillfully this helps us hear the thin sugar-brittle leaves of fall, and the way they crack under the lightest pressure. Alliteration of repeating hard “c” sounds adds to the crunching tableau. Finally, the poet points out the sweetness of fall, when the scent of leaves and leaf smoke fill the air, and the earth is still soft below.




star by star 

the lane lights up . . . 



Marion Clarke, Northern Ireland, Warrenpoint




We at first imagine a lane at night to be lit up, somewhat implausibly, by celestial stars; only the last line reveals the surprise of snowdrops. The observation that snowdrops are indeed visible at night, and might light up the runway of a lane, is wonderful.



Commended (3, in no particular order)


unsold roses 

in the dumpster  

valentine’s day


Ruwanka Jayatillake, Canada, Calgary




my last-ditch effort 

to keep you with me . . . 

dandelion fluffs


Ivan Gaćina, Croatia, Zadar




foggy morning 

the unpicked rose hips 

in signal red


Viktoriya Marinova, Bulgaria, Sofia





duminică, 17 aprilie 2022



Alan Peat, final judge, United Kingdom



Judge’s comments


It has been both a pleasure and an honour to judge this competition. From a strong field I have chosen two joint winners. One is traditional and the other intriguingly modern. We need to beware of false dichotomies in the world of haiku - the best of the modern will, through time, be assimilated into the tradition : they will themselves become traditional. For this reason I cannot separate the two winners; they are equally deserving of first place.






Ramesh Anand, India


spring’s shadow

the young nurse

mothers my mother



A gently beautiful haiku. The double meaning of ‘shadow’ is clear but doesn’t dominate. The mirroring of  the alliteration of the first line in the last line is beautifully handled as is the interplay between ‘spring’ and the ‘young nurse’. There’s a timelessness to this haiku that really appeals to me. It would be impossible not to relate to this finely written poem.





Richard Thomas, United Kingdom, Plymouth


silver lining —

what the storm takes

from the magpie’s fable




I’m always delighted to come across a haiku that avoids cliché. This intriguing haiku cleverly plays with Aesop yet wears its erudition lightly. Moons and dragonflies certainly have their place but they need careful handling to avoid coming over as ‘cut and pasted’. There is NOTHING ‘cut and paste’ about this haiku : it’s original and the structure works superbly.






Luminița Petrea, Romania, Botosani


crane feather

between heaven and earth

a flying kigo



This haiku grew upon me with each reading. The idea of a single feather becoming something greater than itself drew me in. Whether intentional or not I also couldn’t help thinking of Banya Natsuishi’s ‘Flying Pope’ haiku. At the heart of this haiku there is a striking image of a single falling feather BUT there is  also a comment  on the art of a haiku’s creation: this duality adds a further layer to a fine poem.





Lisa Anne Johnson, United States of America, Ann Arbor


late winter —

a coffee ring settling

beside the coaster




A fine haiku can lift the ordinary into the realms of the extraordinary. That is certainly the case with this poem.  The suggestion of things beginning to fall apart, through age and infirmity, is beautifully handled. The specificity of ‘late winter’ drew me in and the the idea of ‘leftovers’ becoming fixed held my attention. This haiku is finely crafted.





Neena Singh, India, Chandigarh


a street child colors
the unmasked sky



Vandana Parashar, India, Panchkula


not falling for you
not falling for me



Henryk Czempiel, Poland, Strzelce Opolskie


Kiev nights
checking again
if any star falls








Vitaly Svirin, Russia, St. Petersburg


in the wind's voice
there are notes of disquiet...
the bending pines groan.




Adrian Bouter, the Netherlands, Gouda


reading Rilke
reminds me of autumn -
refugee flows




Richa Sharma, India, Ghaziabad


unexpected rain
his apology letter