Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards for 2017

Haiku Society of America

Merit Book Awards for 2017

Terri L. French and LeRoy Gorman, judges

This year’s selection of 48 single author titles and 7 anthologies was wide-ranging in form and content. Consideration was given to dividing titles into distinct categories such as: haiku only works, haiku with tanka, haiku with essays, haiku with non-haiku related poetry, and a variety of other combinations. In the end, it was decided to go with two divisions: single author works and anthologies. In each entry, the judges looked for originality of individual poems and prose selections, clearness of voice, thematic unity and physical presentation.


First Place

George Swede. Helices. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2016.

Right from first reading this title jumped out. Clear editing and presentation pace the reader through four balanced sections (or helices) combining haiku, tanka, and haibun. Swede’s craft is exemplary. The writing pleases at every turn. There are intro- spective pieces, ones of social concern and more—all sparkling. Helices is a title to read and admire over and over.


Second Place (tie)

Amanda Bell. Undercurrents. Uxbridge, UK: Alba Publishing, 2016.

For a first collection, this book is remarkable. Bell presents haiku and haibun that mix her personal history with the collective history of the rivers of Ireland. Her emotional connection to place immediately draws the reader in to traverse the waterways along with her. Like the rivers themselves flowing to and becoming ocean, Bell’s work carries the reader to a much larger place of both understanding and satisfaction.


Margaret Lane Dornaus. Prayer for the Dead: Collected Haibun & Tanka Prose. Ozark, AR: Singing Moon Press, 2016.

A travelogue through memory, this work invites the reader to enter the author’s journey to discover her place in the context of relationships with family, ancestral heritage, friends and strangers encountered on travels. Love, loss, death, and hope—all the big themes are here. The prose is polished and engaging; the haiku and tanka are moving and integrated with precision.


Third Place (tie)

Maxianne Berger. Winnows. Toronto, ON: Nietzsche’s Brolly, 2016.

Entirely a collection of found haiku, or as the poet terms it “plundered,” from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, this title never ceases to awe. Berger consistently arrives at seemingly effortless, intuitive haiku from what appears to be a seemingly constrictive and painstaking method of creation. The results are impressive.


Peter Yovu. Imago. Princeton, NJ: Ornithopter Press, 2016.

This limited-edition chapbook showcases a highly original and assured voice. Presented in brief suites, the haiku are striking. Yovu often uses irregular lineage and spacing to exceptional effect.


Honorable mentions (unranked, in alphabetical order by book title)

Kyle D.Craig. Invisible Tea. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2016.

A keen eye is at work here presenting life moments often with surprising connections. The writing is often witty and always engaging—a pleasure to read.

Carol Judkins. at the water’s edge. San Bernardino, CA: wildflower poetry press, 2016.

Haiku, tanka, haibun, and tanka prose are pleasingly presented along with stunning shoreline photographs by David Foster. The writing is crisp and the content appealing.

Deborah P Kolodji. highway of sleeping towns. Pasadena, CA: Shabda Press, 2016.

Substantial in scope, the number and variety of haiku is significant. Kolodji’s referencing of science and science fiction themes, in particular, gives the work a distinctive freshness.

Giselle Maya. Cicada Chant: Collected Haibun and Tanka Prose. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2016.

With a series of vignettes, Maya takes the reader through the seasons of her idyllic paradise in Provence. The passages are rich in detail and enchanting.

Philip Rowland. Something Other Than Other. London, UK: Isobar Press, 2016.

This is an innovative mix of haiku and tanka with other poems. Notably, Rowland pushes haiku boundaries and does it with a pleasing panache.


Best Anthology (tie)

nada annunaad: an anthology of contemporary world haiku edited by Kala Ramesh, Sanjuktaa Asopa and Shloka Shankar, Vishwakarma Publications, 2016.

Isn’t it great when dreams come true? This anthology of 746 haiku from 26 countries is the dream child of writer, editor, and educator, Kala Ramesh. From the beautifully designed cover to the well-chosen title, thoughtfully written foreword and diverse selection of poems, the editors have managed to put out a collection not only haiku poets in India can be proud of, but all haiku poets around the world. The book intersperses three-line haiku, one-liners, vertical haiku, traditional and more gendai-ish haiku and senryu without what can sometimes be distracting divisions. It is particularly refreshing that the haiku of students are included. The poems produced by their young, creative minds certainly give hope for the livelihood of the genre. A must-have anthology for any haiku poet’s bookshelf.


galaxy of dust: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2015 edited by Jim Kacian & The Red Moon Editorial Staff, Red Moon Press, 2016.

We come to expect good things from Red Moon Press and Galaxy of Dust is no exception. Containing 147 poems (haiku and senryu), 16 linked forms, and 4 critical essays, it’s a compilation of the finest from the finest. The poems are far-reaching in their style and subject matter—from the thumbprint of a fetus to a galaxy of lost mermaids. The linked verses, too, explore a broad range of topics and emotions from somber to whimsical. The in-depth, scholarly, yet easily readable, essays bring this anthology to another level. Another admirable collection from Red Moon Press.


Honorable Mention Anthology

Scent of the Past . . . Imperfect edited by Renée Owen, Two Autumns Press, 2016.

Though a mere thirty-one pages, and containing the work of only four poets, this collection by the Haiku Poets of Northern California in conjunction with the twenty-seventh reading in the Two Autumn series, contains so many evocative and sensuous poems. The introduction is a little redundant and a bit of a spoiler. Work this good needs no introduction. A lovely read.




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.