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Haiku Society of America Senryu Award
Judges' Commentary

Commentary by Year: 2006



2006 Judges: Claire Gallagher and Carolyn Hall

Judges’ General Comments: It was an honor to be entrusted by HSA 2nd Vice-President Marlene Egger with the responsibility of judging the 2006 HSA Senryu Awards for the best unpublished senryu. We read, reread, and pondered the 406 submissions. Throughout the process we  kept in mind that the genre encompasses the full range of human relationships and interactions. You will likely notice that just one of the Honorable Mentions employs a reference to nature (and that, in an ironic vein). Since we believe a natural setting can provide the backdrop for illuminating human nature in senryu, it was not intentional that none of the other selected poems employed a reference to nature. In the end, we selected those poems that displayed the most originality in illuminating the human condition.The contest winners deserve congratulations.  When you read and reread these senryu, we hope that you will find as much merit in the selected poems as we do.  

1st Place - Roberta Beary

first date—
the little pile
of anchovies

Judges’ comments: This very original senryu requires just seven words to describe a complex interpersonal relationship. It is a first date, and there is so much to learn about one another. One member of the twosome, through a desire to please, or perhaps not to offend, has chosen not to insist upon “no anchovies.” Still, at the end of the meal, evidence of this personal quirk is there for all to see. One hopes this is not a relationship-breaker. Anchovies are an acquired taste . . . as are some people.

2nd Place - Daniel Liebert

     mistaking telephone
for doorbell —
     I let loneliness in

Judges’ comments: Without resorting to either humor or wordplay, this senryu reveals much about human nature. In these days when everything seems to have an electronic sound, it is easy enough to imagine mistaking a telephone for a doorbell. From there it is easy to make the leap from joy at the expectation of human companionship to disappointment when that hope is dashed. So often it is dashed expectations that opens the door to deep-seated emotions. The poet has done just that in this poignant poem.

3rd Place - Kenneth Elba Carrier

a deaf man grabs
the other’s hands

Judges’ comments: By the end of line one, we hear loud, if indistinct, voices By the end of line three, the poet has turned our heads completely around. It is human nature to sometimes wish to shut up our opponents. “Grabs” is a powerful word which denotes the aggressive nature of shutting someone up--the equivalent of clapping one’s hand over someone’s mouth. The power of this poem comes from both astute observation and the selective use of language to good poetic effect.

1st Honorable Mention - Kenneth Elba Carrier

crossing the hopscotch
two old women
avoid the lines

Judges’ comments: A lovely poem about aging. Hopscotch is, for the most part, a girls’ game, and (at least for those of us of a certain age) an almost universal part of childhood. When encountering a hopscotch pattern on the sidewalk, it is nearly impossible to quash the impulse to toss the stone and hop through the squares. But impulse and actual hopping are two quite different things. There comes a time in one’s life when the latter is best left to younger folk. One can assume that it is a combination of instinct and muscle memory that causes these two old women to still avoid stepping on the lines.

2nd Honorable Mention - C.R. Manley

dentist’s obituary—
common interests
we could never talk about

Judges’ comments: Who among us has not had to suppress the frustrating impulse to talk with a mouth full of cotton balls, saliva extractors, mirrors and drills. . . especially when, maddeningly, the dentist goes on about this and that? Here the poet has turned that comical experience into poignancy. Only after the opportunity for human interaction and intimacy is permanently gone does the patient discover their common interests and, too late, wants more than ever to engage the dentist in conversation.

3rd Honorable Mention - Garry Gay

As if it were spring
the green mold
on the cheese

Judges’ comments: This charming poem is Issa-like in its approach to nature. (Though Issa might have talked to that cheese!) The surprise in lines two and three is delightful, and we found the glass-half-full attitude of the poet to be most appealing.

4th Honorable Mention - Roland Packer

psychic fair
she brushes some dirt
from the cards

Judges’ comments: Sometimes human nature expresses itself best in humor. We found this both fresh and amusing, even after many readings.

The number and kind of honorable mention was at the discretion of the judges. Congratulations to the winners and to the many outstanding entrants! 



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