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.
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.
in a wire basket
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.
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?
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)
in the dumpster
Ruwanka Jayatillake, Canada, Calgary
my last-ditch effort
to keep you with me . . .
Ivan Gaćina, Croatia, Zadar
the unpicked rose hips
in signal red
Viktoriya Marinova, Bulgaria, Sofia