Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards 2008
The Haiku Society of America sponsors this annual award for excellence in published haiku, translation, and criticism.
Return to archive of Merit Book Awards archive.
For full details about the contest rules, see Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards.
Merit Book Awards for 2008 (for books published in 2007)
Honorable Mention (tie):
Stumbles in Clover by Matt Morden: Snapshot Press, PO Box 132, Waterloo, Liverpool, U.K., L22 8WZ, 2007, 80 pp., ISBN 978-1-903543-23-8, 14 USD.
Missed Appointment by Gary Hotham: Lilliput Review, 282 Main St., Pittsburgh, PA , 15201, 2007, 22 pp., No ISBN, 3 USD.
When the 38 entered books for the 2008 Mildred Kanterman Memorial Book Awards were delivered, it was like peering into a heavy bag of freshly collected Halloween candy. Our eyes widened with anticipation to experience them all, to gaze upon their unique, individual wrappers, and devour every page of creativity. It is usually the chocolate bars that are immediately put into the “favorite” pile to be eaten first; therefore, we chose our favorite ten publications based upon appearances. Our lists were strikingly similar, and predictions for possible winners were then quickly made. It was then time to get to know all of these treats by their ingredients, not just by their colorful shells.
We lived with these books for weeks, getting to know each one intimately. The judging process become increasingly difficult, and the discussions about each morsel more in depth—an intense sugar rush! In the end, it was the journeys the authors took us on, dazzling scenes of nature exposed, originality of subject matter, consistency, ease and order of content, and a general reflection of material being published worldwide within the community journals that left the sweetest tastes in our mouths. Our early predictions may not have been dead on, but that goes to show you that you can’t always judge a book by its cover!
Desert Hours is a collection of personal and natural experiences by Marian Olson gained from daily life living in Santa Fe, New Mexico which is full of Native American and Hispanic cultural influences. Karen Fitzsimmon’s landscape piece sets the stage for the reader’s journey into this unique collection of haiku. Upon opening the book, Olson chose a quote from Santoka Taneda, “Settle in this world. There are hidden treasures in the present moment.” Olson does just that, sweeps you away and shows you the beauty of her home through her eyes:
at my touch
Olson brings you in closer, her experiences become your own:
The landscape has a way of opening up its breathtaking beauty to those who are willing to wait and observe:
whole as the snakeskin surrender
a day circling
And just when it seems this rugged hideaway could not reveal anything more, night settles in and displays an entirely new vision to behold.
All in all, this was a satisfyingly themed collection geared toward the emotional aspects of living in a region of timeless beauty, surprise and wonder while using simple language to fully envelop the senses to experience of striking yet delicate images and culture of New Mexico.
The Whole Body Singing by Quendryth Young is a powerful collection from beginning to end as she shares the natural experiences from her homeland of Australia. Young named the book from her introduction haiku:
grey butcher bird
. . . which allows her readers to experience the gravity of her writing from the very start. And no matter the page, Young has an ease at sharing the ordinary and making it extraordinary!
dawn surf . . .
She even adds in a bit of humor:
uphill . . .
But no matter the haiku experience, Young writes each with what seems like such ease, and presents them with such simplicity as in:
As John Bird states in the foreword, Young is “a disciplined wordsmith with an impressive armoury of poetic skills.” The Whole Body Singing will have you coming back again and again as Young hints to within her collection:
The Unworn Necklace by Roberta Beary is a completely different collection than most have or will experience. Beary takes us on a journey of emotions through the close relationships with family members in her life, childrearing, marriage, divorce, illness and more. It is certainly a book that will have you reading from cover to cover and reflecting upon the heavy nature of the haiku.
the empty place
on my finger
. . . and then are granted permission to advance to the frontlines of a brewing divorce, a flurry of angry feelings:
But as time goes on, Beary comes to terms with events, even finds humor in her ex’s new wife, and explores dating again as indicated here:
The eye-catching title of Max Morden’s collection, Stumbles in Clover, causes the reader to stumble for a moment, too, before rushing headlong into his haiku like a bumblebee into ripe clover; however, the cover art plainly boasts to the beholder that Morden is a lover of nature, and has a keen eye for noticing details. A few pages into the book, we read the stunning piece behind the title:
. . . and even more gripping is this haiku on death. In a few powerful lines, the reader’s breath is taken away, a heavy sadness descends upon the heart, and a pause for reflection is certainly required.
A bright, vivid image of beauty lightens the spirit with this haiku:
Deviating from the seriousness of death, a call for renewal is in the air with these cheerful three-liners:
new year’s day
Morden shares moments in a such a way to make the ordinary, extraordinary as in the piece below. No matter the page, the images brought forth from each poem is a delight! Readers will be eagerly awaiting the next collection.
Missed Appointment by Gary Hotham is a quaint collection of only fifteen haiku, but readers should not be deceived by the small size of this mini-chapbook. Each haiku tucked within its pages is striking and poignant.
Another farewell haiku is presented later in the book, as if Hotham is exiting a once beloved time in his life, or someone he loves dearly is departing:
. . . and an even more defining moment:
The ability to be selective with the haiku presented is what made this collection so grand. Readers will enjoy revisiting the haiku and re-examining the experiences behind these exquisite haiku moments.
The Rabbit In The Moon is a collection of haiku written between 1987 and the summer of 2005 by Japanese haijin, Kayoko Hashimoto. In the tradition of Shiki, the “sketch of life” poems in this beautiful book reflect Ms. Kayoko’s haiku exchanges with poets from Japan, Germany, Italy, the British Isles, Australia, and America. Of particular interest to HSA members might be her poems written while in Washington, D.C. as the guest of poet Kristen Deming and her father, who is the former Ambassador to Japan.
In the spring sunbeams
written with Kristen Deming and Francine Porad, a past president of HSA
The title, The Rabbit In The Moon, recalls Raymond Roseliep’s collection of the same name and, like the poems in his collection, Ms. Kayoko’s poems abound in compassion and good will. The image is one which Hashimoto explains “comes from a picture of a rabbit pounding rice in the moon”, which is on a “Kyoto Minoya lacquer incense container” designed by her grandfather as a New Year’s gift for the Year of the Rabbit in 1915. She inherited this container from her mother and carries it with her on all her journeys. The image of a rabbit in the moon comes from one of the Jataka tales in which Buddha rewards the rabbit for his extreme act of charity toward another by drawing a rabbit on the moon that will be visible to all. Is The Rabbit In The Moon then a of symbol of Hashimoto’s own charitable mission as haiku emissary?
Even to Rome
Many of the poems are reminiscent of poems by classic haiku poets such as Bash?, Issa, Buson, and Shiki. Here are a few examples of the poet’s English translations of her Japanese language haiku:
Heaps of chickens
On friendly terms
With a white wake
Straws in glasses
A silver knife
In the postscript to this lovely book (which opens from right to left in the Japanese manner) Ms. Kayoko writes, “Nowadays, haiku has spread across the world. Haiku reflects the shine and tone of life in the universe. Confronted with the beauty of a mountain, river, trees or plants, and recording it with ultimate brevity: that is haiku. Haiku goes straight to the heart.” This is especially true of the haiku in her own collection, The Rabbit In The Moon.
It is always a pleasure to jump right into one of Jim Kacian’s Red Moon Anthologies. Each selected work is nominated and then voted upon to grace the pages of these yearly collections by a select editorial staff. Due to the growing number of first-class haiku journals and competitions available to the community, the final word on placing only those ‘best of the best’ haiku, senryu, haibun, and essays is a difficult yet rewarding annual task.
Big Sky is exceptionally pleasing due to the superb content and layout of the book itself. It features over 150 of the best haijin published today! Kacian’s editorial juices were certainly flowing when it came to formatting this lovely anthology, and his time and attention to detail paid off! Choosing a few select pieces from Big Sky to feature is almost impossible, and that is why the 2006 volume is such a treasure.
This year’s anthology was titled after Tom Painting’s powerful contribution. Just from the first line, Painting reminds his readers of how large and overwhelming the world can be especially for the younger and more fragile generation.
Annie Bachini’s haiku reflects the gravity of this big sky collection as a whole as the essence of all the chosen pieces fill the reader’s thoughts with so many unique experiences. Everyone has felt the pull of inertia upon their bodies, and this collection will certainly pull you in and devouring every word!
lurching to a halt—
small events by w. f. owen is just that, a collection of short haibun capturing times in his life like cherished photographs, and placed carefully into an album. This collection of haibun is in chronological order from boyhood to adulthood, commemorating all of the little twists and turns the journey of life takes you on. owen’s book is carefully constructed, cleanly formatted, pleasing to the eye, and the accompanying haiku fit perfectly with each shared memory.