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Haiku Society of America Senryu Award
Judges' Commentary 2017



2017 HSA Senryu Contest Judges' Commentary

Judged by
Chuck Brickley & Julie Warther

What an honor and challenge to be asked to select the winning entries from among the 669 submissions to the 2017 HSA Senryu Contest! Although we had never met, after a few email exchanges we felt confident our individual shortlists would be nearly identical. Thank goodness, they were not! This is where the true work began, compelling us to take a closer look at the entries through the other’s eyes. We agreed we were looking for fresh, yet universal images. We seemed drawn to simplicity of presentation, yet remained open to possibilities outside the norm. Specifically, we agreed an award-winning senryu is one with which we could experience an immediate connection and which continued to reveal layers of emotional resonance on repeated readings. We are pleased to present the synergistic results of that collaboration in the six senryu below, each exhibiting a quick burst of flavor and a lingering aftertaste. We hope you will savor them as we have.

First Place ($100)

tangled shadows lying about what’s making them

Sam Bateman

Comments: Poetry as Rorschach test. Deft use of the one-line form employed by our first-place award winner invites the reader to explore multiple interpretations. The apparently simple sentence structure offers one interpretation; identification of the overlapped, colloquial phrase “lying about,” another. Intrigue is injected into both with the pun on “lying.” Add the personification of “tangled shadows” and indeed, we have a mystery.

Shadows of bodies tangled in an a air, whispering words of “love.” The shadows of a giant oak precariously clinging to the cliff, enticing an old kid to attempt one last climb. A parable for our times? Lost in the shadows of a tangled web, we blame everyone else, when deep down we know. We are lying to ourselves. It is a tangled web we have woven

Second Place ($75)

flea market
we once had
it all

Joe McKeon

Comments: Something funny about a flea market, and something sad. Like a really good clown, this is a really good senryu. The inclusive “we” suggests that not only the poet and everyone else there, but the poem’s readers—and, by extension, all of humanity—is, in one way or another, mucking about in the marketplace. The “all” we once had, the completeness and fulfillment of every material craving, now carries a dissatisfaction, a realization that it is not the “all,” or even close. Peggy Lee, "Is That All There Is?" Chad Lee Robinson, "migrating geese / the things we thought we needed / darken the garage". Once Sitting On Top Of the World, you’re now haggling with some guy in overalls over the price of a waffle iron with a frayed cord. A waffle iron that looks suspiciously like the one you sold at this very same flea market a couple of years ago. Only now it’s twice the price. The laugh’s on you. On us.

Third Prize ($50)

family cookout
enough of everyone
to go around

Michele Root-Bernstein

Comments: Family gatherings are a time to catch up on the latest news and share our own. But with a limited amount of time and so many people, the stories require polish and pizzazz to stand out from the rest. What starts as a genuine desire to be heard can lead to a competition of one-upmanship. It doesn’t take much of this kind of behavior before all within earshot have had their fill. Enough, indeed!

Honorable Mentions (unranked)

back pain
again I pick up
unsaid words

Kyle D. Craig

Comments: Often those who have never experienced back pain are unsympathetic toward those who do. Here, the poet notes such disbelief—not in the words of others but rather in their tones of voice, their looks. Suffering sharpens one’s sensitivity to the subtleties of our interactions. The poet can’t bend over to pick up the laundry, but can pick up on the slightest of smirks hiding in a smile. Too, the strain of carrying imagined hurts and grudges can be the source of very real physical pain. The senryu, a wink at oneself.

Honorable Mentions (unranked)

no one in line
for tickets

Joe McKeon

Comments: People all over the world stop cars, crowd beaches, and otherwise pause to watch the sun set. How many to watch it rise? Maybe this is what is wrong with our world today. The more I think about it, the more certain I am it is.

Honorable Mentions (unranked)

a fish
in the heron’s bill
town gossip

Roland Packer

Comments: The story of how gossip becomes gospel. Like a heron poised in the shallows we are each always keeping an eye out for the latest bits of news, especially ones that make us feel superior to others. When we do catch a glimpse—no matter how fleeting, tenuous, or true—we snatch it up. Ooh, so-and- so did such-and-such with you-know-who. Once we have this tidbit firmly in our grasp, we swallow it. All in one gulp. Whole.

And every time the tale’s told, the fish gets bigger.

About the Judges:

Chuck Brickley, widely published in haiku magazines and anthologies in the late seventies and eighties, was an associate editor of Modern Haiku 1979 to 1985 under the editorship of Bob Spiess. Since he returned to the haiku scene in 2007, Chuck's haiku have won The Haiku Foundation Touchstone Award for Individual Poems 2014, awards for the Snapshot Calendar Competition 2014 and 2015, and runner up for the Snapshot Calendar Competition 2016. He is the author of earthshine, a 2015 Snapshot Press Book Award Winner published in 2017.

Julie Warther lives in Dover, Ohio where she serves as Midwest Regional Coordinator for the Haiku Society of America and Assisting Editor for The Living Senryu Anthologyhttp://senryu.life



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