2014 Porad Award Winners
John Stevenson, Judge
First Place ($100)
cold floor . . .
It is probably not physically painful, stepping on broken moonlight, but this poem suggests pain at a deeper level of sensation. Buson’s famous poem about stepping on his dead wife’s comb, reportedly written while she was very much alive, partakes of this same sensation. The current poem is likely be read by knowledgeable haiku readers as a corollary to Buson.
Since Buson’s poem seems to have been fictional in some part, we might wonder whether he experienced a physical pain and then created a context in which it would have meaning. Or if he began with the emotion and imagined physical circumstances that would most effectively communicate his feeling. The current poem seems to extend this, saying that because of what Buson accomplished we can take the next step within the context he created. We no longer need the physical pain to invoke or explain the deeper sensations.
Some may think that it’s wrong for us to presume to put ourselves in the company of Buson or anyone that others have designated as great poets. But this is a mistake. We are all in this together. We are all in this alone. These are not contradictory statements. In fact, they are a single statement. We are alone together. By taking a walk with Buson, this poet seems to put the emphasis on “together” and that is why, for me, it belongs at the top of this list.
Second Place ($50)
slowly sizing up
The “O negative” of women’s fashion, strings of pearls go with a wide variety of outfits and strike a note of class for a range of informal and formal occasions. This poem embodies some of that versatility and elegance.
Are the pearls natural or cultured? Are they of the highest quality or lesser? There are professional systems for grading the quality of pearls, just as there are for diamonds and graduate students. We are always judging and ranking each other and everything around us. The result is like neatly strung strands of pearls. It is simultaneously absurd and beautifully touching. The use of a familiar idiom (sizing up) in a literal fashion effectively invokes this dichotomy. That the poem is then submitted to a contest creates an irony to which I could not resist responding, with a second prize.
Third Place ($25)
all my irons in the fire out
A somber thought for anyone who hopes to “have it all.” It is not just that individual irons in the fire may be neglected in favor of others but the fire itself may go out through our distraction and neglect of what is most essential.
Read in other ways, this could express a moment of ultimate accomplishment, in which all projects have been completed. Or a moment of frenetic activity, in which all projects have simultaneously reached a critical stage. Or a moment of ultimate surrender, in which all schemes have been abandoned. Written in a single line, I read it as all of the above, hammered into a poem of tempered steel.
my day at work | her air violin
Congratulations to each winner, and thank you to all the poets who entered 403 poems for consideration. We hope that you will enter the 2015 Porad Award for haiku. We also welcome haiku poets in the Seattle area and beyond to join Haiku Northwest at its monthly meetings, and to attend our annual Seabeck Haiku Getaway retreat each autumn. Please explore our website for more information.