Haiku Society of America Haibun Student Haiku Awards for 2003

Haiku Society of America Student Haiku Awards
in Memorial of Nicholas A. Virgilio

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Student Haiku Awards for 2003

Claire Gallagher and Anne Homan

What? None of the five haiku chosen for merit have the 5-7-5 syllable count? Although we have nothing against such structure, the poems that we honor happen not to have it. We believe that other elements are more important. These include the evocation of a moment of heightened awareness, presenting just enough detail so that the reader is enticed to finish the experience in a way that may personally resonate, and possibly a seasonal reference that deepens a poem with enriching connotations.

We also looked for interesting juxtapositions, well-thought-out word choices, fresh images, a good use of rhythm, and language that shows rather than tells — characteristics of all good poetry. We commend the large number of young people who submitted haiku to this contest. This indicates an interest in haiku and the mastery of words to communicate experience and feelings. We send a pat on the back to the many authors whose poems nearly made the finals. The five poems selected are of equal merit and are not ranked.

Our warmest congratulations to the authors of the haiku below! ~ Claire Gallagher and Anne Homan, Judges


summer breeze
the flutter of clothes
thrown over a chair

Laura Santiago
School of the Arts, Age 15, Grade 9, Rochester, NY

The poet’s keen observation is suggestive of an unknown story; the absence of extraneous detail allows the reader to imagine the circumstances and to read into it and resonate with it. Mystery that does not succumb to lack of clarity enhances this poem. The reference to a season is a traditional device that deepens the poem by calling upon the common associations we all have with a welcome “summer breeze”. The soft consonant sounds provide a good flow in this poem, rather like a breeze, and there is a pleasant, unforced rhythm to the whole poem. The long vowel sounds of “breeze”, “clothes”, “thrown”, and “over” increase the languid feeling, while the short vowel in “flutter” seems to mimic the breeze. We particularly liked that the poet chose the definite article “the” before “flutter”; this gives focus to the poem. The poet has made choices that produced a well-crafted poem, so well-crafted that it appears effortless.


pebbles underfoot
in the cold stream

Henry Aigetsinger
School of the Arts, Age 15, Grade 9, Rochester, NY

This haiku utilizes several writing techniques that produced a wining poem. There is a strong juxtaposition of disparate images that give the poem a spark. The second line acts as a pivot line that can be read with the first line as a continuous thought with line one before a pause in thought before line three. Alternatively, a pause after line one would allow lines two and three to link in thought--nicely done. The inference of bare feet evokes early summer near a stream of snowmelt as well as other wading experiences. There is vivid sensory information; the stream-rounded jumble of pebbles is pressing into bare feet. Overhead, and reflected in the water, is the ordered array of blue-white stars. In addition, the flow of the stream around the poet’s ankles might give a feel of the transience of life under stars that seem eternal. This poem reads well; there is no forced rhythm.


in front
of the meth lab
three children hopscotch

C. J. Welch
Walhert High School, Age 17, Grade 12, Dubuque, IA

In this haiku the poet chooses a moment in time that presents an interesting contrast between the sordid contemporary world of a meth lab, and the bright springtime image of children playing. The latter image brings strongly to mind E.E. Cummings’ poem “in Just-” in which “bettyandisbel come dancing from hop-scotch and jump-rope and it’s spring.” Notice that the children in the haiku are playing in front of the meth lab—they are not afraid of the place—it is simply an accepted part of the neighborhood. The strong break in the poem after the second line not only gives the pause in rhythm that is traditionally valued in a haiku, but the poet has also neatly created a break in thought. Ending the poem with the word “hopscotch” brings the reader quietly back to dark implications—the syllables cut off quickly on the tongue. The meanings of "scotch" as a verb include “maim,” “crush,” and “stamp out,” stark words implying perhaps how the meth lab could affect these children’s lives in the future. The poet has suggested all this to the reader without actually saying, “How terrible life can be!”


Ash Wednesday
from lines of silent people
a cough echoes

Emily Cornish
School of the Arts, Age 14, Grade 8, Rochester, NY

The poet of this haiku has begun with the seasonal reference valued for adding resonance to a haiku. Ash Wednesday is a Christian celebration falling in late February or early March. It marks the beginning of Lent, a time of fasting, contemplation, and penitence during the days before Easter. Believers come to church on this day to receive ashes on their foreheads. But even more can be connoted from these two words. What has occurred before Ash Wednesday? Especially in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, people celebrate Mardi Gras—Fat Tuesday— with high spirits and even indulgence. The poem has a pause in the rhythm after the first line; this slows the reader, allowing time to anticipate a change. With its description of a moment in time, the rest of the poem tells a story, but not a complete story—the reader is allowed to fill in the details. We imagine a large stone building—a church, even a cathedral—where the smallest sounds echo. Perhaps the author is thinking about personal intentions for Lenten sacrifice. We feel a sense of community in this moment. The congregation waits patiently in line to receive the ashes. There are no children whining, no adults whispering the latest gossip—only that reverberating cough. The poem ends nicely with the word “echoes,” a word that lingers with its long “O.”


spring evening
rain soaks through the newspaper
on my head

Laura Santiago
School of the Arts, Age 15, Grade 9, Rochester, NY

This poet begins the haiku effectively with a traditional seasonal and time of day reference— “spring evening.” The sun has set, but the stars are not out yet. This may be during daylight savings time, when the evening is longer and easier to savor. After a nice break in thought, the second line begins a mini story. It is raining hard and soaking through a newspaper. The third line gives us a little surprise—the newspaper is not in a gutter or on a lawn, but on someone’s head! Now we have more ideas and questions to add to the story. Did the person carelessly forget an umbrella or never bother with one; did the day begin, as spring days often do, with a sunny, cloudless morning and surprise him/her with spring’s changeful nature? This poem illustrates an excellent choice by the poet of a moment in the stream of experience. The poet leads us to further implications, as the transient daily news dissolves in a life-giving spring rain.

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The Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition for Grades 7-12 was founded in 1990 by the Sacred Heart Church in Camden, N.J. It is sponsored and administered by the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association in memory of Nicholas A. Virgilio, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, who died in 1989. See the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association for more about Nick.

The Haiku Society of America cosponsors the contest, provides judges, and publishes the contest results in its journal, Frogpond, and on its Website (www.hsa-haiku.org). Judges' comments are added to the web site following publication in Frogpond.

Winners by Year (with judges' comments):

2024 | 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 |

For details about the contest rules, read the complete contest submission guidelines.

See the Haiku Society of America publication of the award winning haiku and senryu:

Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition Anthology

edited by Randy M. Brooks
designed by Ignatius Fay

© 2022 HAIKU Society of America


To commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition, the executive committee of the Haiku Society of America published this anthology of award-winning haiku and senryu. The student observations, insights, experiences, emotions and insights evident in these haiku and senryu are a wonderful testament to the fresh voices and vivid imagery of young people. We believe the judges’ commentaries add a valuable layer of meaning as we see how leaders, editors, writers and members of the Haiku Society of America carefully consider the significance of each award-winning poem.

This collection celebrates the work of students whose teachers have gone beyond the stereotypical haiku lesson plan emphasizing only one dimension of haiku—the five/seven/five syllable form. In these haiku and senryu the reader will find a wind range of form, carefully constructed arrangement of lines, surprising juxtaposition of images, and fresh sensory perceptions. They will find what we all love in haiku—the human spirit responding to the amazing diversity of experiences and emotions offered to us in our everyday lives.

Come, enjoy these award-winning haiku and senryu full of the wonder, surprise and angst that are the gifts of being young. These young people enjoy being alive and effectively share that joy through their haiku and senryu.

~ Randy M. Brooks, Editor