Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards for 2022

Haiku Society of America

Merit Books Awards for 2022

Agnes Eva Savich and Bill Cooper , judges

Each of the 65 books submitted this year includes work of value, and the judges express their thanks to all.  In a world in need of haiku spirit as much as ever, these books exemplify fresh insights and a sense of caring for life and environment.


First Place

John Stevenson, My Red: Selected Haiku of John Stevenson, Brooks Books, 2021.

This year’s winner, My Red by John Stevenson, includes many of the finest haiku published by the author during decades of exceptional work. An original list of over 2,000 poems was distilled, first by the author, then further by a group of expert reviewers. What emerges is a collection replete with wisdom and gentle humor.

one of your sighs
has stayed with me forty years
so far

someone must be first
to turn away—
moon viewing

a deep gorge . . .
some of the silence
is me

Stevenson, a master of concision and wordsmithing, also puts these skills to use in depicting human frailties, such as learned-helplessness in the one-liner “more automatic words about weapons”. In five words he manages to convey as much or more than a barrel of ink.


Second Place

Edward Cody Huddleston, Wildflowers in a Vase, Red Moon Press, 2021.

The debut collection by Edward Cody Huddleston, Wildflowers in a Vase, offers a fresh perspective on the interplay of nature and human experience, of inner and outer worlds. Wildflowers, for example, take on new meaning when juxtaposed with talk about her twenties or naming children she didn’t have. Other poems show considerable range and depth.

to not have OCD
I wish upon
just the right star

our ancestors
an octave below
the ocean’s voice

mead moon
I can’t sing
but I will


Third Place

Tia Haynes and Jonathan Roman, After Amen: A Memoir in Two Voices, Published by the authors, 2021.

Tia Haynes and Jonathan Roman in After Amen: A Memoir in Two Voices depicts the religious experiences of the authors as members of two different sects. Vignettes range from prayer to choir, from faith to trauma, from adherence to abandonment. The authors leave ample room to allow readers to reflect on their own experiences and beliefs, including shifts in beliefs over time on the journey of self-discovery. Sometimes calming, sometimes provocative, above all honest.

psych ward
all he leaves me with
“God bless”

the pages of my bible

final prayer
the deepening silence
after amen


Honorable Mentions (not ranked but in alphabetical order by author)

Rebecca Lilly, Aporia, Red Moon Press, 2021.

Haiku ranging in shape from sine waves to traditional three-liners take the reader on a rich journey through existential landscapes of literal aporia (in a state of loss) and the paradox of being in the beautiful nature of now while haunted by the ever-present ghost of not-being-ness.


John Martone, A Landscape in Pieces, Tufo, 2021.

Stretching the boundaries of haiku length, arrangement, and his style of terse tone, this work grows on you as the book progresses through minimalist gardens of reflection, bits of Italian, and coming to terms with the frank realness of onions, pines, sun, darkness.


Bill Pauly, Walking Uneven Ground: Selected Haiku of Bill Pauly, Brooks Books, 2021.

A delight to peruse this expansive life’s work of a true haiku spirit from the 1970’s through early 2020s, including a fruitful selection of tan-renga written with Julie Schwerin over the last five years.


Michele Root-Bernstein, Wind Rose, Snapshot Press, 2021.

Each one of these lovely poems is like a deep breath that you want to pause and breathe in again; this e-chapbook is a finely polished small diamond.


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Jim Kacian, Terry Ann Carter, Claudia Brefeld, The Engdangered C, Red Moon Press, 2021.

Among haiga, the endangered c by jim kacian, terry ann carter, and claudia brefeld stands out for its unique combination of monoku, collage, and commentary. Kacian supplies monoku like “one arm under the covers one over spring” and “the endangered c in the middle of the arctic”, and “snowlight things seem so I don’t know” and “the river the river makes of the moon”. Carter enlivens each poem anew by adding  intricate, layered paper art, and Brefeld provides incisive commentary. What emerges is a unique feast.

Honorable Mention

Annette Makino, Water and Stone: Ten Years of Art and Haiku, Makino Studios, 2021.

Perfectly painted pretty colors, poignant haiku, the best kind of storytelling haibun: this decade’s worth of the artist-poets’ work contains all the delights one could dream of from an inspiring haijin of our greater haiku family.

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Sean O’Connor, Fragmentation, Alba Publishing, 2021.

Among haibun, Fragmentation, by Sean O’Connor, recounts the author’s relationship with his father as he experiences dementia following a stroke at a pub near home in Ireland. Through frequent visits, first to the hospital, then rehab, then hospital, O’Connor gives a vivid portrayal of his father’s perspective on caretakers, fellow patients, and visitors. The father can be funny, as when he refers to a tall caretaker as The Long One. Even as his dementia progresses and he becomes more confused (“I’m lost, I’m lost”), the father still retains vivid memories of people long dead and shares a deep camaraderie with his son. Some haibun deal with the author’s own experiences with loss and recovery, as a schoolboy and later in emergency care and psychiatric nursing. Near the end of the book, his father’s care is complicated by visiting restrictions imposed during the Covid pandemic, yet father and son continue with visits in good humor and grace. O’Connor likens his father’s dementia to the fragmentary creations of karst and filmmaking.

Honorable Mentions

Rich Youmans, Ron Moss, Ludmilla Balabanova, Tish Davis, Terri L. French, Peter Newton, Bryan Rickert, and Harriot West, editors, Contemporary Haibun Volume 16, Red Moon Press, 2021.

Truly the cream of the crop of both haibun and haiga, #16 in this anthology series deserves a mention for continuing the fine practice of recognizing the wide-ranging best of a given year in these forms.


Margaret Chula, Firefly Lanterns: Twelve Years in Kyoto. Shanti Arts Publishing, 2021.

A classic haibun journal of living abroad and reveling in the many cultural offerings of the country; one feels like a friend joining the author through gardens, shrines, temples, and customs told through engaging narrative and thoughtful haiku.

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Jacqueline Pearce, editor, Last Train Home. Pondhawk Press, 2021.

Among anthologies, Last Train Home, edited by Jacqueline Pearce, includes a large selection of haiku, tanka, and rengay that dwell on the relationships human beings have with trains and train travel. A train or tracks can serve as foreground or background to human activity.

train whistle
how hard it is
to say goodbye

Rachel Sutcliffe

walking the tracks
my thoughts
go nowhere

Tom Clausen

night train . . .
the false positive
that wasn’t

Angela Terry

Honorable Mentions

Jim Kacian and the Red Moon Press editorial staff, Jar of Rain: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2020, Red Moon Press, 2021.

Jim Kacian and the Red Moon Press editorial staff, jar of rain:  The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2020, Red Moon Press. This annual collection of best haiku/senryu, linked forms, and essays really delivers on its promise of excellence and serves yet again as a stalwart role model of what these genres should strive towards.


Jim Kacian and Julie Warther, A New Resonance 12: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku, Red Moon Press, 2021.

Serving up the 12th crop of 17 featured important haiku poets, this collection doesn’t disappoint in presenting distinctive voices with strongly established points of view in our haiku landscape.

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H.F. Noyes, Favorite Haiku and Other Collected Essays, Red Moon Press, 2021.

Finally, Favorite Haiku and Other Collected Essays, by H.F. Noyes deserves special mention for the way the author discusses each of his favorite haiku, often in relation to general haiku principles.

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About our 2022 judges:

Agnes Eva Savich is a university program coordinator, oboist, and haiku poet. Her work has appeared in major journals since 2004, placed in contests in the U.S.A., Canada, England, and Japan, and been anthologized in several collections. Among her other activities, she founded (2019) and still leads the Austin Texas Haiku Group; served as judge of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Contest (2020); edited the Haiku Society of America Southwest Region 2021 members’ anthology; and prepared the Memorial Presentation for Haiku North America 2021. She has resided in Poland, France, and Chicago, and currently lives in Pflugerville, near Austin, Texas.

Bill Cooper is an academic who began writing haiku in 2009. He publishes in leading haiku journals,  has published nine haiku collections, and served for five years as one of the founding editors of Juxtapositions: A Journal of Research and Scholarship in Haiku. Two of his books were shortlisted for the Touchstone Distinguished Book Awards and one received an Honorable Mention in the Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards. His latest book, Rounded by the Sea, was published by Red Moon Press.

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The books are available at

After Amen is available on-line at Amazon.com
Alba Publishing: http://www.albapublishing.com
Brooks Brooks: http://www.brooksbookshaiku.com
Markino Studios: https://www.makinostudios.com
Pondhawk Press: https://jacquelinepearce.ca/books/poetry/
Red Moon Press: https://redmoonpress.com
Shanti Arts Press: http://www.shantiarts.co/catalog/books_poetry.html Snapshot Press: http://www.snapshotpress.co.uk/index.htm
Martone’s book is available by e-mailing him at <jpmx@protonmail.com>







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.