Haiku Society of America Senryu Awards for 1994

Haiku Society of America Senryu Award
in Memorial of Gerald Brady

Judges Commentary for 1994

Kay F. Anderson & Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff

Thanks to all of you who entered this year's contest for the tremendous honor of being able to read your work. So many times, as we went through the tall stack of 3x5 cards, we were struck by what we could feel about different writers — voices from all over the world. You let us in, if just for a short while, and we're grateful. Among the entries, there was also a large number of haiku which moved us deeply. Of the senryu, what struck us most were those that were humorous, those that captured a human fault or foible, and those that did those things while also giving us depth, letting us understand a little bit more about what it means to be human, for all its occasional shallowness, tunnel vision, naivete, lack of control and irony.

As humans, complete with flaws, we are now each a little richer thanks to the work of this year's winners. Congratulations to you all.


First Place

making sure
nothing grows
the rock gardener

David Carmel Gershator

The first place winner is an excellent example. This piece sparkles with measured restraint. The writer used only seven words, with each line serving as an advancing revelation of the gardener's absolute devotion to what he values. A sharp twist of humor bursts in a collision with the commonly accepted understanding of the concept of "garden" and of "gardener." Even the juxaposition of the words "making" and "nothing," one on top of the other, is powerful.


Second Place

too quick to reply
cutting my tongue
on the envelope

John Stevenson

Ah, the strident emotions in our second place winner that so often strike forth — and then rebound to nick us as well. This fresh insight, on an old human frailty, stings so well. As for craft, all those t's in the piece insist that we get our own tongue working just for the added sensation. Well done.


Third Place

Grandfather’s funeral
Cousin Kate, air kissing,
Spies a mirror, checks her makeup.

Lynda La Rocca

Cousin Kate, our third place winner, blew into our minds as a wind would blow through the door to a seance. She strode across our thoughts and left kisses dangling. Only when she stopped before the mirror did we dare to stare. Oh, Kate, missing the point; afraid to really touch; avoiding even looking at your real self in the mirror, you are each of us. And Grandfather will be each of us too. This senryu transforms spirit into hard fact.


Our selection of four honorable mention poems is in order of our preference.

1st Honorable Mention

in a semi circle
retired sisters watch
“Wheel of Fortune”

Marilyn Taylor

We felt the coolness of the room where we drifted visibly, watching retired nuns (or spinster sisters, perhaps) watching a program that is bouyed by unfilled desires. Their own circle now incomplete through loss, their "fortue" vowed away years ago, their character flaw, perhaps, glows green.


2nd Honorable Mention

with her Virgo horoscope
               she tries Pisces

Mark Arvid White

In "dissatisfied," we recognize the poet's very subtly implied depth in using the word "dissatisfied." After all, a satisfied person doesn't usually linger over the daily horoscope. Even the typographical isolation of the word "dissatisfied" sets it apart as the key to understanding the woman. And how like us all, when dissatisfied with our fate, to look to quickly pick another.


3rd Honorable Mention

first time
at the zoo my son
watches the people

Lawrence Rungren

At the zoo, the words "first time" let us know right off that this is before the loss of innocence, and we chuckle at the little boy who must be taught that the animals are the spectacle, not us. We wonder who is really in a cage, us or the lions, tigers and bears?


4th Honorable Mention

antiquities room
the curator asks
“So what’s new?”

Jim Kacian

We could smell the "antiquities room," touch the frayed leather edges, scarcely see through smeared glass cases. Then we leaped to life at the curator's question. What contrast! What fun!






These awards for unpublished haiku were originally made possible by Mrs. Harold G. Henderson in memory of Harold G. Henderson, who helped found The Haiku Society of America.

Winners by Year:

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

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