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Archive Collection of the
HSA Best Unpublished Haibun Awards

See the contest rules for the HSA Best Unpublished Haibun award.

Winners by Year: 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 |



2019 HSA Haibun Awards

Judged by
Michele Root-Bernstein and Lee Gurga

judge's comments for 2019 awards

First Place:

by Rich Youmans, North Falmouth, MA


Empty feeders creak from the backyard oak. Remember how, after your diagnosis, I filled and hung them for you, waving each from branch to branchHere? How ’bout here?anywhere but where you wanted? I was just trying to make you laugh, to make you forget those strange terms, amyloid and tau. And you did, your eyes brightening, your arms flapping Down! Down! as if you were about to lift off. Later, you watched the birds gather: warblers, wrens, the pale brown cardinal and her red mate. You mimicked their songs and calls, peeps and sweets that rose and fell. When a chickadee zee-zee-zeed, you whispered Predator! and I scanned the sky, looking for a hawk. I saw only cloudless blue. But we both knew it was out there.

hospice . . .
in each breath
the sound of wings

~ ~ ~

Second Place:

by Jacquie Pearce, Burnaby, BC Canada

The Collector

Halfway up the stairs to the Skytrainafter she sees the bar of rainbow light falling across one grey stepshe decides this will be a day to collect things. First, it is the two eagles soaring high above the intersection, which she spotted from the bus window on the way here. Then, the white half-moon, unexpected in the blue afternoon sky. Then, the rainbow, and after that, the view of snow-capped Mount Baker from the Skytrain platform (somehow a surprise every time she sees it).Thinking back, maybe she will count the welcoming smile from the bus driver, too.

Now, she is looking for things. Should she count the pattern of bare branches where a tree’s shadow leans against a wall? The strip of colourful graffiti that parallels the brown train track between Commercial Drive and Main Street? The bright pink of a store awning? Or, should she stop looking and let the next thing find her?

The rest of the day, she picks up images, holds them awhile, then lets them go. The way the late afternoon sun sharpens and elongates the shadow of a prickly seed ball. The halo of light around the fluffy black afro of a little girl looking up at her mother. The gilded edges of an out-of-season bee’s fur. A single white feather on the sidewalk. A tiny yellow jasmine blossom in a triangle of light (no jasmine bush in sight). It’s only after the sun slips from the surrounding buildings window by window, that she stops looking.

evening chill
the bright orange coat
of a homeless man

~ ~ ~

Third Place:

by Marita Gargiulo, Hamden, CT

Sorrento Sirena Sisters


I would sing and you, stronger than I,
would dive beneath the waves
looking for larceny.

By the way . . .

We could have,
but, after a small argument
decided not to
Ulysses’ ship.

Impressed and honored by his tactics
we let him sail past,
swam ahead,
changed to our feet
and met the boat near Positano.

It was one hell of a night!

As for the other vessels,
getting their attention wasn’t the hard part,
nor was keeping it.

Making quick selections came easily too,
though laughing
as we swam back with our bounty
proved treacherous.

This morning
on rocks in the shoals by the temple of Minerva
I hear beautiful, young sirenae,
singing, smiling,
combing their long dark hair,

from a golden thread
her locket of purple shells . . .
harboring wax

~ ~ ~

Honorable Mention (unranked):

Dru Philippou, Taos, NM


I could sit in my backyard and wait for dark. The rose-breasted grosbeak might come to the feeder. I might see jackrabbits in the spent yarrow patch or a raccoon dipping its food in the pond. Or I might hear the feather reed grass blowing to and fro and crickets rasping out their last calls. I could peer between bare branches to Pegasus, then over to Andromeda.

shooting star . . .
I speak his name
one last time

~ ~ ~

Honorable Mention (unranked):

Tia Haynes, Lakewood, OH


Water fades to cool on my neck as I wash away last night, last year, the last ten years. Turning off the faucet, I see the tattoo I’ve forgotten and remember there are places that will never come clean.

I tell her
to pray it away

~ ~ ~


About the Judge

Michele Root-Bernstein is a devotee of haiku, haibun, and haiga. Her work appears in many of the usual journals, in chapbook anthologies and collections, and on three large rocks along a haiku walk in Ohio. She is co-author of The Haiku Life (Modern Haiku Press, 2017). And, at present, she facilitates the Evergreen Haiku study group in mid-Michigan.

Lee Gurga is a past-president of the Haiku Society of America and former editor of Modern Haiku. He is currently editor of Modern Haiku Press. His books of haiku, In & Out of Fog and Fresh Scent, were awarded “First Prize” in the HSA Merit Book Awards; his Haiku: A Poet’s Guide was recognized by the HSA as the “Best Book of Criticism” for 2004. His anthology Haiku 21, co-edited with Scott Metz, was honored as “Best Anthology” by the HSA and given the Haiku Foundation’s “Touchstone Award.” Their anthology Haiku 2014 also received a Touchstone Award.


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