Haiku Society of America Senryu Awards for 2008 - Judges Commentary

Haiku Society of America Senryu Award
in Memorial of Gerald Brady

Judges Commentary for 2008

Judges: Alexis Rotella & Scott Mason

An effective senryu is like a magical hand mirror: viewed just so, it yields a partial yet telling reflection of our basic human nature. Some reflections, of course, are more telling than others. We have chosen seven that spoke to us through humor, irony or poignancy with a level of observation and perceptiveness far beyond their few words. More than reflections alone, these brief poems offer glints of genuine insight into the tragic, prosaic and comic pageant of our everyday lives. This year’s contest received 470 senryu from 93 writers. Congratulations to the winners!


First Place:

street corner memorial—
my four-year old
asks for the balloon

David P. Grayson

A parent (we imagine a mother) and her young child happen upon a makeshift memorial on the corner sidewalk of a city or suburban intersection. This was likely the place of some recent tragedy—such scenes are all too familiar to those of us living in populated areas. Perhaps a vehicle struck a pedestrian in this intersection. The impromptu memorial might include handwritten notes, candles or flowers, plus a balloon, left by surviving loved ones. The four-year-old innocently asks his or her mother for the unattended balloon. The mother now faces a quandary: how can she explain to her young child that the balloon “belongs” to someone else—quite possibly another child—who is no longer here to enjoy it?

In just eleven words we experience a moment both authentic and deeply poignant. How well it depicts the “collision” of childhood innocence with the occasional harshness of real life; and how effectively it places us in the shoes of the parent who must mediate between the two. A masterpiece of mixed emotions.


Second Place:

busy Italian restaurant—
happy birthday
sung to the wrong table

Michael Dylan Welch

Here, by contrast, is a moment of pure hilarity. Waiters and waitresses hastily converge to belt out that old standby; and just as quickly they disperse, leaving utter bewilderment in their wake. In this parody of “personal” service, they might just as well have sung to. . . the table!


Third Place:

Tokyo vending machine
   the long line
      behind the foreigner

Margaret Chula

The Japanese have a word — gaman — for “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.” Here a foreigner (we imagine a Westerner) fumbles with instructions, money or the buttons at a vending machine. He or she may be oblivious to all those who are waiting. Their implied silence makes this cross-cultural “encounter” pitch perfect.


Honorable Mention

old palm reader . . .
my life line
her longest yet

Kenneth Elba Carrier

Comment: Who’s kidding who? . . . A poetic sleight of hand.


Honorable Mention

engagement ring
     he decides
     it looks real enough

Marian Olson

Comment: Priceless!


Honorable Mention

parade march—
the old vet with canes
refuses to ride

Catherine J.S. Lee

Comment: . . . or fade away. What made The Greatest Generation great!


Honorable Mention

first day of school
her brother's backpack
with legs

Robert Mainone

Comment: Worn with pride or resentment? Either way, an amusing and lasting image.






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:

| 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 20102009 2008 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993 | 1992 | 1991 | 1990 | 1989 | 1988 |

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.