Haiku Society of America Rengay Awards for 2024 - Judges Commentary

Haiku Society of America Rengay Award
in Honor of Garry Gay


Judged by
Billie Dee & Richard L. Matta


Congratulations to all the contestants in the 2024 HSA Rengay contest. From the batch of poems submitted, it was difficult to winnow out only four winners. Our judging criteria were consistent with those stated by Gary Gay and Renee Owen in their "Ingredients We Look for in Exemplary Rengay". Strong titles and consistent themes, as well as exemplary poeticism in all six haikai verses were discriminating factors in our decisions. It should be noted that the winning rengay were separated only by small margins, each a jewel of craft and poetic charm. We are pleased to present them to you, confident they will bring you the pleasure and admiration of craft we found in each. Happy reading!



2024 First Place


Ding Dong Ding

white coral bells —
those endless rounds we sang
as children

still wanting to believe
life is but a dream

the third blind mouse
able to see

the fuzziness
between sleep and wakefulness
morning bells are ringing 

the farmer’s wife pauses
to catch her breath

warm breeze . . .
cherry petals drift
gently down the stream 

Angela Terry 1, 3 & 5
Julie Schwerin 2, 4 & 6

After shuffling and reshuffling our stack of potential winners, we kept coming back to this polished poem. Maybe it was the relentless ear bugs it implanted that put this one on top. I actually found myself singing that 1955 Harptones tune (verse 2) while driving down the Interstate. The title sets both the uplifting mood and theme for a sequence of vocal fugues. It opens with a classic U.K. Girl Guides round, then moves through pop Do-Wap, nursery rhyme, Frère Jacques, Farmer in the Dell, ending with Row Row Your Boat in a classical waft of sakura. Who could fail to be charmed by the engaging nostalgia, whimsy and unapologetic cheese of this winning collaboration? And remember, “the cheese stands alone . . .” ~ Billie Dee


2024 Second Place


Post Roe

without her
bindweed starts
to flower

until the smell
mousetraps forgotten

a monarch stops
in the purple aster

front porch
a dish of water
for the strays

trust the barn light
to cross the prairie

far back pasture
a young cow
drops her calf

Dan Schwerin 1, 3 & 5
Julie Schwerin 2, 4 & 6

The title of our second-place selection alludes to the 2022 SCOTUS Dobbs ruling. The first verse effectively opens with the link of “her” to “Roe,” then shifts to the unwanted invasive plant, bindweed. We did asked ourselves whether an ellipsis would have helped at the end of line one (to introduce kire). Such is the dialogue of judges. The second verse suggests a problem with the pregnancy and alludes to the third verse dilemma of out-of-state travel for urgent medical care of the delicate patient / butterfly. In the fourth verse “front porch” is the landing place and we imagine someone young, struggling financially, in trouble. Then the trust element in the fifth stanza, a deep verse: darkness and light, fear and hope. The last stanza suggests the abortion, though it doesn’t completely rule out a live birth. This rengay is very compelling, full of metaphors, and addresses a contemporary and very compelling topic. Well done. Overall, the poem is well-rounded by the use of consonance, metaphor and a compelling thematic consistency. ~Richard L. Matta


2024 Third Place

Blow on By

whoosh of wind
a crimson leaf lands
in a new year

around the corner
unseen chimes

cool breeze
the scattering scraps
of a torn letter

sharp screech
high above the well pump
metal blades wheel

origami cranes
fly in the swift draft

in the garden
a whirligig cardinal
wings spinning

Eavonka Ettinger 1, 3 & 5
Annie Holdren 2, 4 & 6


There are many features in this rengay we admire. The primary theme of wind/air movement was enriched by specifically named or easily imagined sounds in each of the six verses. And there’s an almost surreal quality to several of the versus—e.g., a leaf takes off and lands in a new year, origami cranes “fly” in a sudden draft. Effective use of alliteration, assonance and consonance echo throughout the poem, as well as the inventive use of unusual verbs such as “wheel” in “metal blades wheel.” Our compliments to the poets on the lyricism of this fine rengay. ~Billie Dee


2024 Honorable Mention


cradled in a curve 
of wave-carved sandstone
intertidal life

sprouting from the millennia  
jewelweed in a roadside cut

midsummer heat 
we escape into the coolness
of an escarpment crevice

where Thoreau's writings 
come alive                              
kettle pond

fossil hunting 
another layer of memory

holding up  
this blue sky
basalt columns

Jacquie Pearce 1, 3 & 5
Alan S. Bridges 2, 4 & 6


We appreciate the sounds and imagery in this well-crafted poem—the “cradled,” “curve” and “wave-carved” in the first verse, and the hard c’s in the third verse as well. This rengay is also replete with excellent line cuts throughout. Until reading this poem, we didn’t know Walden Pond is actually a glacial kettle lake. Fine writing. ~Richard L. Matta


About the 2023 Rengay Awards Judges

Billie Dee is the former Poet Laureate of the U.S. National Library Service. A retired health care worker, she earned her doctoral degree from U.C. Irvine, with post-graduate training at U.C. San Diego. Although she writes in a variety of genres, her primary focus is Japaniform poetry. She’s won numerous awards, enjoys editing and workshopping in the haikai community. A native Californian, Billie now lives in the Chihuahuan Desert with her family and a betta fish named Ramon. She publishes online and off.

Richard L. Matta is a Pushcart and Touchstone Nominated Poet residing in San Diego, California. Educated as a chemical engineer, he worked as a biomedical scientist and then a forensic scientist. His collaborative rengay have been published in Raining Rengay, Hedgerow, and Tandem. Rengay awards include 2023 HSA Contest Honorable Mention and 2023 HPNC Winning Rengay (both with Billie Dee).

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These awards for unpublished rengay are sponsored by the Haiku Society of America in honor of Garry Gay, the inventor of rengay.

Winners by Year: | 2024 | 2023 | 2022| 2021 | 2020 |

See the complete collection of award-winning haiku from all previous Rengay Award competitions

See the contest rules for entering the next Haiku Society of America Rengay Award competition. 

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Ingredients We Look for in Exemplary Rengay:

by Garry Gay and Renee Owen

Adherence to Form – 2-person rengay (3/2/3/3/2/3) and 3-person rengay (3/2/3/2/3/2).

Compelling Themes – at least one discernable primary theme with a possible bonus for a secondary theme.

Universality of Meaning – why the poem matters and what it speaks to.

Effective Haiku – preferably strong haiku that carry enough weight to stand on their own.

Linking & Shifting – linking creates a pleasing flow, with 2-line stanzas linking well with the lines directly above and below, while the shift adds a new dimension.

Interesting Title – especially compelling if it doesn’t echo a line from the first few stanzas.

Exceptional Writing Style – incorporates poetic techniques, fresh imagery and word choices, a variety of sensory details, varied line/stanza structure, noteworthy sounds (like alliteration, consonance, etc.), avoids clichés and contains no spelling or grammatical errors.

Sense of Mystery or Something Left Unsaid—to engage and stimulate the reader.

Satisfactory Ending – a sense of completion and a possible link between the final and first stanza.

Multiple Rereadings – the poem continues to deepen and hold our interest.