Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards for 2015

Haiku Society of America

Merit Book Awards for 2015

Charles Trumbull and Neal Whitman, judges

The Haiku Society of America is pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 Merit Book Awards for books published in 2014, judged by Charles Trumbull and Neal Whitman and coordinated by HSA First Vice President Michael Montreuil. First Place Award is made possible by LeRoy Kanterman, cofounder of the Haiku Society of America, in memory of his wife Mildred Kanterman.

Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to all the poets and publishers for contributing their work for this contest. Forty-one books were received: fifteen haiku collections; seven anthologies; eleven haibun or haiga collections plus one book for children; six books of translations or books in two languages; and one book of haiku criticism.

Each year a pair of judges faces the daunting task of not only reading many books written with haiku-heart but of devising guidelines which will guide them to agree on the “best of the best.” This year, the Trumbull and Whitman team decided not to judge per category, but to search for books they believe most deserve to be on the bookshelf of HSA members and other lovers of haiku. These are books meant to be read and reread . . . books to revisited from time to time when there is a need to hold the moon in your heart. Unlike prose, the words, “The End,” do not appear on the last page of a book of poetry . . . the books chosen this year even more than other submissions welcome the reader to finish and refinish the book. The judges also were attentive to the production of each book: how does it feel to hold the book and turn it page by page? More is not always better! A book can be over- or under-produced. The winning books this year best match the book as an object to its content.

The judges were impressed especially and equally by four books: two haibun collections on the one hand and the anniversary anthologies of two preeminent West Coast haiku groups on the other. Try as we might, we could not relegate them to the traditional first, second, third, and fourth places. So, unusually for the Kanterman Merit Book Awards, we decided instead to award ties for both First and Second Places. Six other books, we felt, displayed special merit and so were equally awarded Honorable Mentions.


First Place Award (tie)

Marjorie Buettner. Some Measure of Existence: Collected Haibun. Red Dragonfly Press, 2014.

Marjorie Buettner has long been a master of a soft, introspective, moody, haibun-of-the-heart style that is so well represented in this volume. The judges can only second the recommendation of Marian Olson in her Introduction, that this is “the kind of book you read with intention when your soul is hungry for some substantial nourishment.”


Harriot West. Into the Light. Mountains and Rivers Press, 2014.

Harriot West’s Into the Light took the judges’ breath away for its daring subject matter, haikai craft, and splendid presentation. This is a self-analytical collection that digs deep into the question, “who am I?” Where Buettner is lyrical, West’s prose is finely chiseled, flinty. This, West’s first book of haibun (plus a few haiku), is exemplary.


Second place (tie)

Garry Gay, ed. One Song. Santa Rosa, Calif.: Two Autumns Press, 2014.

Holding this book in your hands, it feels like something that needed to happen: the Two Autumns Readings Series is one of the oldest and most revered institutions in American haiku, and to have a volume celebrating the 25th anniversary is thoroughly appropriate. The book itself is everything one might expect: a fine selection of haiku, one each from every participant in the Two Autumns readings from the beginning, beautifully edited, formatted, and printed in the true Two Autumns Press style.


Haiku Northwest. No Longer Strangers: Haiku Northwest 25th Anniversary Anthology. Bellevue, Wash.: Vandina Press for Haiku Northwest, 2014.

This is a very fine anthology, a worthy monument to Haiku Northwest and its founder, the late Francine Porad. Because of the strength of the work of the members as well as the good editorial choices and sensible, clear layout, this is about as good as a group haiku anthology can be. In addition to the work of active members, No Longer Strangers contains a section of haiku by past members—a nice touch. We especially enjoyed the beautifully researched and written historical essay by Connie Hutchison.


Honorable mentions (unranked)

Ion Codrescu. Something Out of Nothing: Seventy-five Haiga. Winchester, Va.: Red Moon Press, 2014. 160 pages. ISBN 978-1-936848-35-5.

For this ambitious project, sumi-e artist Codrescu responded to seventy-five haiku by North American poets selected by the publisher and aptly meets the challenge of creating haiga with his own visual interpretation. This large format book, presented on high quality glossy paper, is a delight to hold—it is a “page-holder,” not a “page-turner.”


Lee Gurga and Scott Metz, eds. Haiku 2014. Lincoln, Ill.: Modern Haiku Press, 2014.

Haiku 2014 presents the most exciting new take in the crowded field of haiku anthologies that we have seen. Editors Gurga and Metz seek to extend their selections of eyebrow-raising from their anthology Haiku 21 for one more year and, one hopes, on into the future. Haiku 2014 won judges’ points for slimness and sleekness and focus on a particular style of haiku, though some might point out that the contents are the choice of the two editors alone and the anthology does not purport to represent any sort of panoramic view of current English-language haiku activity.


Ron C. Moss. The Bone Carver. Ormskirk, U.K.: Snapshot Press, 2014.

Ron Moss’s The Bone Carver stands out among the individual collections in 2014. This is a book of classically structured haiku displaying a variety of moods, often touching on historical themes and deploying modern one-line verses. Snapshot Press’s typically fine production adds greatly to this book, which no haiku poet should miss.


Edward J. Rielly. Spring Rain Winter Snow: Haiku. Brunswick, Maine: Shanti Arts Publishing, 2014.

Ed Rielly’s Spring Rain Winter Snow collects his haiku written for and about young people—specifically his own children and grandchildren—plus charming illustrations by Angelina Buonaluto. The Kanterman judges imagined what fun it would be to read this book to a child sitting in their lap. The integrity of the haiku, their sequencing, and the production values all propelled the book to the top rank of choices this year.


John Stevenson. d(ark): Haiku. Winchester, Va.: Red Moon Press, 2014.

The enigmatic title of John Stevenson’s d(ark) appropriately captures the character of its content: The haiku (and a few tanka and haibun) are mostly dark in tone, and the collection represents something of an ark, a repository for scripture. Each poem merits close reading and careful thought. Stevenson demonstrates that he is still at the top of the heap.


George Swede. Micro Haiku: Three to Nine Syllables. Toronto: Inspress, 2014.

It is fashionable today to speak of micro haiku and one-line haiku (monostiches or “monoku”), but it is both sobering and intriguing to note that some poets, George Swede in the van, have been writing these mini-mini-poems for almost five decades. Swede, who here defines micro haiku as verses of three to nine syllables, has brought together a retrospective of work written from the late 1970s to 2013. Readers will delight in finding old favorites as well as discovering unfamiliar new work.



The purpose of the Haiku Society of America's Merit Book Awards is to recognize the best haiku and related books published in a given year in the English language. Every year sees a fresh crop of fine individual collections, anthologies, translations, critical studies and innovative forms.

In the past, the HSA Merit Book awards were partially supported by a memorial gift. Leroy Kanterman, cofounder of the Haiku Society of America, made a gift to support the first place award in memory of his wife Mildred Kanterman. See the archives of Merit Book Awards.

The Merit Book Awards competition is open to the public. Books must have been published in the previous year and must clearly contain a printed previous year copyright. A member, author, or publisher may submit or nominate more than one title. At least 50 percent of the book must be haiku, senryu, or haibun, or prose about these subjects (books mostly of tanka, for example, are not eligible). HSA will also consider collections that have only appeared in an e-book/digital book format. Two print copies of the digital book may be sent by the publisher. Books published by HSA officers are eligible for this award. Books published by the national HSA organization, however, are not eligible.

Winners by Year (with judges' comments):

2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993 | 1992 | 1991 | 1990 | 1989 | 1988 | 1987 | 1985 | 1983 | 1981 | 1978 | 1975 |

See the contest rules for entering the next Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards competition.