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Judges' Commentary for
the Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku Competition


 

Judges' Commentary for 2015


2015 Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku Competition

Judges

Aubrie Cox, Taylorville, IL
Mike Rehling, Presque Isle, MI

This year we had over 3,600 haiku to judge. We were excited to see so much student work come in. There were, of course, the traditional 5–7–5 poems along with those that were clearly writing about the fact that they had to write a haiku. However, with that said, many of them delved deep into the psyche and human experience. We were moved by those that opened up about depression, about heartbreak and the loss of family members. We were also delighted by those that captured the wonders of childhood.

In the end, we looked for quality haiku: poems that had a clear cut and juxtaposition of images and/or ideas, offered original ideas for universal experiences, and simply moved us.

soon-to-be stepdad
blabbers politics
looking for my vote

Elena Bonvicini Grade 10, Sage Hill School Newport Coast, CA

We were enamored with this haiku’s wit and play on words. It captures the essence of the relationship between a child and a future stepparent who desperately wants the child to like him or her. The first two lines make it seem as though the speaker is bored and that the soon-to-be stepdad is blabbering

on about grown-up matters, but the third line provides a twist at the end, showing the reader that the future stepdad is talking to the child but he or she isn’t impressed. “Blabbers” works multiple angles and serves an important role in this haiku.

missing puzzle piece
we blame
the vacuum

Maggie George Grade 11, Sprayberry High School Marietta, GA

Nothing worse in the puzzle world than getting almost there, and having to endure the indignity of an incomplete image. This group of puzzle solvers has not resorted to blaming one another, or using the worn out “the dog ate it” line. No, they have placed the blame squarely on a piece of metal and plastic. There is a creativity in their decision on where to place the blame that shows they indeed are good at problem solving, if not puzzles.

first day of school
eating lunch
in the bathroom

Catharine Malzahn Grade 10, Sage Hill School Newport Coast, CA

Starting in a new school, or a new year in a new building can be tough. We can just imagine a kid on his or her first day not knowing where to sit in the lunchroom and too shy to talk to anyone, so he or she eats alone in the bathroom where there is privacy and not a lot of noise. This haiku does a phenomenal job of conveying emotion without stating that the child may be feeling sad, anxious, out of place, etc. It establishes season and location without any excess words.

coffee crumble cake
my mom
brings up grades

Kian Etedali Grade 12, Sage Hill School Newport Coast, CA

If your mother is going to bring up your grades, chances are you are not on track to be valedictorian of your class. But if you have to endure that discussion it is by far better to do it with “coffee crumble cake” on a plate in front of you. It is a sign of a Mom who gets her way without resorting to brute force, but then again that cake is indeed a force to be reckoned with in the end.

Friday morning prayer
purple hijabs
dance in the wind

Claire Reardon Grade 12, St. Ignatius College Prep Chicago, IL

We don’t see a lot of haiku that mention hijabs, which is unfortunate. The way this poem uses specific language and shifts from line one to line two makes it an evocative haiku. There’s something contemplative about the fabric moving in the wind during prayer: the movement, the rich yet lightness in the color purple, and the early morning air. There are limitless possibilities for smells and sounds that undoubtedly heighten while our eyes are closed and we lower ourselves to the ground.

bedtime story
only pretending
to fall asleep

Sophie Sadd Grade 8, The Paideia School Atlanta, GA

As we grow up there is the inevitable pull between the child in us and the desire to be fully adult. Children are not the only ones torn between these two aspects of our life. Parents want their kids to grow up, but they also hang on to the fond memories of childhood, both their own and their child’s. In this poem we have bridged that gap nicely. The parent is reading the story, and the child has kindly allowed this to happen, but cut short the moment with their own very kind deception. It shows the merger of child and adult in one fell swoop.

• • •

About our judges:

Aubrie Cox went to university to write a novel and came out writing haiku. It’s worked pretty well so far. Now, she is an editor for both the online journal A Hundred Gourds and Juxtapositions: A Journal of Haiku Research and Scholarship. Her poetry and prose can be found in publications such as Frogpond, Modern Haiku, and NANO Fiction. She sometimes tweets @aubriecox.

Michael Rehling is a quiet poet, living in the North Woods of Michigan with his wife and two cats. Twitter at: @MikeRehling.

 

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