Susan Antolin, Judge
Ron Swanson, Contest Coordinator
Sponsored by Haiku Northwest
blotched with sky blue
a deniable bruise
Bradford on Avon, United Kingdom
Sifting through hundreds of haiku looking for the gem that will be awarded first place in a contest can leave one wondering if we are asking too much of these small poems. Can one poem simultaneously evoke a moment of awareness, leave mystery for the reader to ponder, employ precisely chosen words, all while appearing effortless? In the case of this year’s winning poem, the answer is yes. Each word in this haiku is deliberately chosen. The gibbous moon in line one refers to the moon that is more than halfway illuminated but still less than full. As we hold that in mind, the following two lines resonate in a thought-provoking way. The second line, “blotched with sky blue,” acts as a pivot. It could describe the gibbous moon, and it could also describe the appearance of the bruise in line three. The word “blotched” is a precisely chosen word that describes both the look of the moon and the bruise. And the word “deniable” in line three leaves the reader with much to ponder. The suggestion of backstory is strong and holds our interest. Why would one want or need to deny a bruise? We can all fill that in with innumerable possibilities.
the child holds her
Spare and evocative, this haiku captures the innocence of a child just beautifully. The brevity of the poem enables the reader to fill in the details that might have inspired the poem. I imagine a child reacting to a flock of flamingos either at a zoo or nature preserve and spontaneously assuming the arabesque position by standing on one leg like a flamingo. The gracefulness of an arabesque adds delight to the poem and makes us view the flamingos as graceful creatures as well. This haiku causes me to question how and why we lose that childlike innocence as we age.
a motherless child
learning to walk
Srinivasa Rao Sambangi
When I read “windblown grass” an image comes to mind of long green grass blowing in the wind. But when I read the lines that follow, I return to line one with a changed perspective. Suddenly, the simple image of windblown grass takes on added meaning. Grass is resilient. The wind may blow leaves off trees, but grass will not blow away. It will bend, but it will straighten again. The heartbreaking image of a motherless child learning to walk is a particularly timely one as the pandemic has orphaned tens of thousands of children, some of them very likely of the age when they are learning to walk. A poignant, memorable haiku.
This haiku conveys a moment and a mood with a masterful economy of words. It places us in the carefree days of summer, with nowhere to be and in no hurry to get anywhere. How does one truly navigate by looking up at the clouds? A playful, lighthearted haiku that evokes the free and easy mood of summertime.
the weight of snow
on a bare bough
The interplay between the parts of this haiku is thought-provoking. A phantom pregnancy is the rare condition that causes a woman to mistakenly believe she is pregnant. The weight of snow on a bare branch might be just as heavy as the weight of blossoms on the same branch in the spring. But when the snow melts, the branch will be bare again, just as the false pregnancy will leave the woman without a child. This haiku reveals more each time we return to it.
a little girl on her father’s shoulders
picks an apple
Seventeen-syllable poems are no longer the norm in English-language haiku, but here, the sense of reaching the very upper limit of how many syllables a haiku can hold matches the action described in the poem. The long second line evokes the outstretched arm of the little girl reaching for an apple. There is an appealing playfulness in the way this poem is crafted.
time to go home—
my dog pretends
to be a stranger
A humorous and authentic moment! I have to admit, I’ve been that person at the dog park with a dog that refuses to leave. To an onlooker, I might have appeared to be attempting to steal someone else’s dog. One might argue that using the word “pretends” artificially ascribes human emotions to a dog, but as the owner of one similarly mischievous dog, I can attest that the word choice here is apt.
It has been a privilege to read through so many excellent haiku submitted to this year’s Porad Award. Particularly at a time when life feels more precarious than ever, it is a significant thing that so many poets devote their time and attention to crafting haiku. I am grateful to have been entrusted with the task of helping to celebrate these poets and poems!
Walnut Creek, California
Thank you to Susan Antolin for judging this year’s contest and for writing insightful comments about the winning haiku. Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s contest. We received 946 haiku from 214 poets representing 38 countries, a truly international event. We look forward to your participation in next year’s contest and invite you to join Haiku Northwest at its monthly meetings as well as the Seabeck Haiku Getaway held annually in October.
Porad Award Coordinator