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Haiku Society of America Senryu Award
Judges' Commentary 2015



2015 HSA Senryu Contest Judges' Commentary

Judged by
Gayle Bull, Mineral Point, WI
Jerome J. Cushman, Victor, NY

Before reading the 400 senryu entries, we reviewed various discussions of what makes a senryu and ended with the HSA definition: “A senryu is a poem, structurally similar to haiku, that highlights the foibles of human nature, usually in a humorous or satiric way.” The notes go on to refine the definition.

We looked for senryu that had resonance and relevance, and not just a clever turn of phrase or humorous observation. We enjoyed reading the efforts of many fine poets and quickly agreed on our favorites.

~ Gayle Bull & Jerome Cushman

First Prize ($100)

grass trampled
by demonstrators
Earth Day

paul m., Bristol, RI

What comes to mind is the irony that our earth is so fragile, that even when we are showing our support for it we can cause damage. This senryu reminds us that our actions can be in conflict with our intentions and cautions us to be ever more careful. Or perhaps there are those who think Earth Day is not relevant and they are deliberately trampling the grass to show their contempt. Whatever the case this senryu made us reflect on how “the best laid plans . . . can go astray.”

Second Prize ($75)

Independence Day parade
a child marches
in the wrong direction

Jay Friedenberg, New York, NY

Maybe this child will always “march to a different drummer.” That doesn’t mean she/he is wrong, just different, unique— perhaps will always be so and wants us to know it. Or maybe the child is just lost and looking for something or someone she/he can’t find. Maybe this child will always be lost and always be searching. Here the irony is that it is Independence Day and the child appears to be headed in the wrong direction. But then, isn’t that what the British thought about the Americans back in 1776?

Third Prize ($50)

sleepless and alone
I search for new friends
on Facebook

Margaret Chula, Portland, OR

This is a good example of the way the modern world seems to be functioning. Instead of going out to find and interact with real people, this person is doing so electronically in a virtual world. This senryu brings to mind the issues with social media. Will she/he find a relationship that can work or is it doomed from the beginning? Will she/he be looking again within a short period of time for another new friend? We feel there is real pathos in this senryu.

Jerome Cushman has been studying haiku/senryu since 1963 and has had articles published in Frogpond and haiku/senryu pubished in bottle rockets and Frogpond. He has presented at HNA and Haiku Pacific Rim conferences. Amidst is the title of his chapbook. He was instrumental in the formation and functioning of the Rochester Area Haiku Group and the Cradle of American Haiku Festivals in Mineral Point, WI.

Gayle Bull has been involved with haiku since 1963 when her late husband Jim Bull and Don Eulert started American Haiku. She hosts several workshops every year at her bookstore, The Foundry Books. She also hosts The Cradle of American Haiku Festivals and haiku retreats in alternate years. She has had haiku and senryu published in Modern Haiku and Frogpond.



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