miercuri, 17 aprilie 2024



Preselector - Mona Iordan, Romania

Final judge - Barrie Levine, United States of America


Judge’s Comments (Barrie Levine)

I am grateful to all of the participants who submitted their poems and to the editors who placed their confidence in me. One aspect of my job was pure joy, to read through the entries, each of which exhibited the knowledge, skill, and talent of serious and dedicated haiku poets. On the other hand, the selection process enlisted my intense focus in order to choose and then rank the poems fairly and respectfully. I commend all poets for sharing their fine work for the benefit of the international haiku community.




cattle roundup
a charred bean can
full of rain

Debbie Strange, Winnipeg, Canada


A full plate of sensory imagery invites the reader to dwell on and in the scene that the poet offers. The cattle roundup, an iconic event in the American West, has left debris in its wake as a reminder of the sound and action that disappeared in the dust. This poem casts a spell with its rich content, recreating in the reader’s imagination a way of life that in its hardship and dangers lives vividly in the collective imagination. The r’s present in each line read well as a connecting thread, or perhaps a rope, given the rough and tumble context.

Line 2 gives the reader an opportunity to move beyond the romance of the prairie. Fire has already charred the can, and next, the rain fills it. Perhaps it will rust as it lies forgotten, a modern-day ruin. Nature and its elements take over as it always does, just as summer grasses eventually overtook the warriors’ battleground in Basho’s haiku. The emotional power of this poem is grounded in but exceeds the sum of its parts.




from one twig to another -
a warbler’s song

Paul Callus,  Hal Safi, Malta


“Hopping” drew me in immediately; it is such an upbeat and whimsical word that something good must surely follow. The light mood continues into the second line, with much to visualize in the bird’s movement through the tree. And to the reader’s surprise, it is not just a bird, but birdsong itself that is hopping about. The sensory impact builds with each line: the characteristic yellow color, the perky action, the touch and bounce on each twig, with sound woven throughout. The euphony in the reading, which matches the euphony of the subject matter, elevates this poem to excellence on all accounts.




pine sap
sticking to
our story

Edward Huddleston,  Baxley,  United States of America


The reader is invited into a wooded setting, with sap, shiny and gold, flowing slowly down the trees from spring into summer; the tactile “stickiness” in the first line continues on the second but promptly shifts to a human context with its own set of complexities. The poem allows for layers of interpretation within a taut frame, taking off from the resonant image, with an s in each line for continuity and edginess. Space opens to dwell on the story, truth or fiction or something in between, but in any event a story to which the narrator is fully committed. The possessive “our” brings in two or more participants with no further explanation, leaving even more questions unanswered. We are thrown into an unknown controversy with an unresolved aftermath, and its mystery keeps me wondering long after reading.




as if the wind
knows my name
childhood lane

Rajandeep Garg, Sangrur,  India


The magic of a hometown visit, whether actual or imagined, resonates deeply in this haiku. Opening the poem with “as if” skillfully softens the personification of the wind’s “knowing,” leaving room for ambiguity. The phrase brings to the fore the mystery of memory and the way it is triggered – a dream or reverie? an object or photo? a conversation? a visit? The childhood lane places the scene not only geographically but into a familiar sense of beginnings. The shadow location, memory lane, strengthens the association with skillful understatement. The smooth read of the poem – with the feel of a lullaby in the rhyming of the long a’s at the end of the last two lines - welcomes the child in us for a moment into a visit to the past.   The visitor knows the place, but the place knows them too.





sea horizon
the straight line of
a little girl's fringe

Nadejda Kostadinova, Sofia, Bulgaria


The images in the phrase charmed me immediately: the fringe could be bangs cut straight across the little girl’s forehead, or perhaps a decorative fringe sewn onto her skirt or blouse. 

“Horizon” picks up on the geometry of the straight line but leaves room to ponder the future phases of the child’s life, unknown until the years unfold, and not always as predictable as a straight line. The reference reminds me how we place the side of our hand to our forehead and squint into the distance for a clearer picture, an effective juxtaposition that elevates this poem in my esteem.

Because I have a detailed picture in my mind of the little girl, I feel invested in her fate and hope that her innocence, and by extension that of all children, will not be corrupted by the tough world they live in. This beautiful poem makes me care.




the long whiskers
of a fingerpaint cat
winter rain

Tom Bierovic,  DeLand,  USA


A “fingerpaint cat” is a special breed indeed, created by the enthusiasm of a pre-schooler, with whiskers as long as their imagination will allow. Senses are actively brought into play: the touch of wet fingers smearing paint, the primary colors emerging into shapes, the laughter in the room, and the anticipated tickle of long whiskers. The sober tone of the third line drains the carefree mood just enough to remind the reader that scenes such as this are even more precious in the continuum of time. The consistency of fingerpaint (water-based) shifts gently to the winter drizzle. The juxtaposition of the child’s painting, and the rain that can wash it away along with childhood itself, is a bittersweet reminder of impermanence.




there was a duolingo—
morning birdsong

Kerry J Heckman, Seattle WA, USA


I applaud the narrator’s desire to up the ante and learn to communicate in another language - birdsong itself - if that were possible. This dream may be unattainable, as the writer implies in L1, but the yearning to permeate the veil – and achieve fluency - between the human and natural world, is a strong one for poets.


COMMENDED (unranked)


a withered rose -
in my camera
still a bud

Nada Jačmenica,  Sveti Križ, Začretje, Croatia


The withered rose, dried and browned, formerly a vibrant beauty, sets a tone of contemplation. The narrator, with the aid of modern technology, has stored the bud in the digital memory of their camera, preserving a moment to which they can reconnect at will. The poem depicts through well-chosen images the transformation of nature from its young energy to its inevitable decay, a process of which we are all a part.



faded cosmos
a monarch riding
the last of summer

Gavin Austin, Sydney, Australia


The poet gracefully conflates time and space as the monarch’s movement rides the season itself to its conclusion.  Butterflies in summer are a common sight, but instead of fluttering in a breeze, the monarch takes charge of the current, befitting its name and status, as it and the faded cosmos move in tandem into autumn.





dry pond...

the unsent letter becomes

a paper frog


Yasmina Butnaru, Botoșani, Romania



In our era of accelerated climate change, flood and drought, human action or inaction, and other catastrophic events threaten the natural habitats of flora, fauna, and humans. Basho’s frog replaced by a scrap of paper powerfully highlights these ominous developments. The unsent letter resonates for me as a missed opportunity to repair the planet.


March 25, 2024

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