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Haiku Society of America Senryu Award
Judges' Commentary 2018



2018 HSA Senryu Contest Judges' Commentary

Judged by
Deborah P Kolodji and Tom Painting

First Place ($100)

play date
the awkwardness
of naked Barbies

Joshua Gage, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.

This is the senryu we kept coming back to after reading and re-reading the entries. The word “awkwardness” seems key to appreciation of this poem, capturing feelings of feared inadequacies of new parents, who want to make a good impression on other parents bringing their children to the play date, and yet, there are all those naked Barbies in the playroom! We also tend to think as adults when we observe the play of children, so if a child is playing with a Barbie who isn’t wearing any clothes, there is a sort of natural fear that maybe the child is mimicking adult behavior we’d like to think they don’t know about, and since it is a play date, again we’re back to what are the other parents going to think? There is also a potential darker side to this poem—what if the child was a victim of sexual abuse? The fact that the poem can be read on different levels from the innocence of a child simply preparing Barbie to take a bath to darker themes invoked by the doll’s nudity.

Second Place ($75)

I choose a bench that supports
my views

Ann Magyar, Brighton, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

We live in a world of public opinion and while these days much of what is said is of the “in your face” variety, there are occasions where subtle truths and affirmations can be found. The graffitist who scribes anonymously understands that the best persuasions are a matter of choice. In this senryu a park bench in full view presents the poet an opportunity to make a statement by simply sitting down.

Third Prize ($50)

family reunion
proof we are alone
in the universe

Jay Friedenberg, New York, New York, U.S.A.

Reunions may bring us together, but also reveal our historical differences and the disparate trajectories our lives have taken. Kindred spirits are not preordained through blood, but through common experience and convictions, so often lacking among family members. While difficult to admit, the poet does so by revealing the feeling of isolation in this particular crowd.

Honorable Mentions (unranked)

forest walk
the chirp
of each text

            Jacquie Pearce, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Much has been written about forest bathing and our need to escape the demands of constantly being on social media. Yet, even in the forest, instead of hearing birds chirp, we hear the sound of incoming texts. This senryu captures this dilemma of our current age.

Honorable Mentions (unranked)

bird watching
from the dentist’s chair
hum of the buffer

            Marcyn Del Clements, Claremont, California, U.S.A.

Bird watching seems a welcome distraction from the buffing taking place in the mouth of the person sitting in the chair. The word “hum” often seems to have an emotional calming effect, but “hum of the buffer” sounds ominous, and yet the word “hum” seems to transfer the calming effect it would ordinarily have back to the birds, making this visit to the dentist more tolerable for the patient.

About the Judges:

Deborah P Kolodji is the moderator of the Southern California Haiku Study Group, the California Regional Coordinator for the HSA, a member of the Haiku North America Board of Directors, and the former president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association.  Her first full-length book of haiku and senryu, highway of sleeping towns, won a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award from the Haiku Foundation and an Honorable Mention in the HSA Merit Awards.

Before moving to Atlanta, Tom Painting taught literature and creative writing at School of the Arts in Rochester, NY. He now teaches Junior High Humanities at The Paideia School in Atlanta, GA. Tom has been an active member of the HSA for over 20 years. In addition to haiku, his interests include hiking, and bird watching. He is married to Laura Brachman and has three children, Edith, Sarah and Philip.



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