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Haiku Society of America Haibun Awards

See the contest rules for the HSA Best Unpublished Haibun award.

Winners by Year: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 |



2020 HSA Haibun Awards

Judged by
Terri L. French & Lew Watts

judge's comments for 2020 awards

First Place:

by Chris Bays, Beavercreek, OH


Dusk-like darkness appears to narrow the forest path. Though noon reigns beyond the pine and oak, across the moss shadows deepen. My step-grandfather and I are searching for blackberries as we often do. He is quieter than usual as we trek downhill toward growing darkness. When I bring up the Battle of Verduntrying to awaken stories of how he leaped from trench to trench as a messenger and watched Big Bertha cannon blast day into nighthe stays silent. Even the mention of his wife, Linahis true loveonly brings the sound of shuffling feet. When we trek uphill toward some flickering light, and I say his name, “Peter,” he mutters, “Who are you? Why are you talking to me?”

dark snow
the stories hidden
in a brain scan

~ ~ ~

Second Place:

by Margaret Chula, Portland, OR

Clothes To Go Out In

My father, who cared nothing for clothes, was embalmed at the funeral home and laid out in his coffin dressed in a dark suit with a light blue shirt and perfectly-knotted tie. Still, his second wife was upset. “Where are his glasses? He doesn’t look right without his glasses.” When Mother died ten years later, she was wrapped in a white shroud and cremated. No elegant clothes or accessories. Even her rings were goneremoved and laid aside for her granddaughter and me. I wish I had been there to dress her in a cashmere sweater and wool pants, to wrap a matching scarf around her neck, and clip on her favorite pearl earrings. At the end, her feet were too swollen for shoes. I would have slipped on a pair of soft slippers so she could go lightly into the next world.

how easily
the snake sheds its skin
then disappears

~ ~ ~

Third Place:

by Doris Lynch, Bloomington, IN

Sustenance on Mulberry Lane

Can I breastfeed your baby? asks my good friend, Alice, who has never had children. Hmmnn, I think. Kristen’s three months old, will she freak out? It’s a strange request, but what harm could it do?

“Sure,” I say more confidently than I feel. “But if she starts crying...”

“Of course, I’ll stop right away.”

my heart beating
in time to hers

Alice heads toward the bedroom with Kris snuggled contentedly in her arms. The baby just nursed before we came. What harm could it do? Under the poster of Santayana, I meditate on the living room rug. A sparrow flies to the window and taps the metal of the windchime, once, twice, a beautiful pinging sound. Searching for food also?

bedroom chortle
two spots spread
across my blouse

~ ~ ~

Honorable Mention (unranked):

by Margaret Chula, Portland, OR

Winter Chill

Omitsu’s comb cracks beneath Buson’s bare feet, leaving an imprint on his heel and a dent in the tatami. So here it is, his wife’s treasured boxwood comb with hand-cut teeth and inlays of pearl. Shaped into a sickle, it glowed like moonlight in her dark hair. The comb must have slipped out as she lay dying, her tresses tanglednot from lovemakingbut from delirium.
Buson cradles the broken comb in his palm. Inhales the scent of camellia oil. He gently begins to remove the long black hairs snarled in the teeth. Wrapping them in a cloth, he carries them outside into the garden, the garden that gave them so much pleasure through every season. Kneeling on the cold ground, he arranges his dead wife’s hairstrand by strandinto the character for love. Black against white in the new snow.

a crow carries back twigs
to build its nest

~ ~ ~

Honorable Mention (unranked):

by Matthew Caretti, Mercersburg, PA

The Car in the Petrol Station Lot

The old Toyota hatchback never leaves its space. The spot next to the restrooms, nestled close to the chipped and graffitied wall. Hoarding the nighttime shadow. The daytime shade. This is when she sleeps. Hidden behind foil-faced sunshields. Behind the peeling film of tinted windows cracked just enough.

spring rain
the puddling
of old asphalt

The weeds grow through the granulating tarmac. Encroach from the verge. Tangle into the wheels. Match the rusted coil springs in their helical ascent. Just as the old car sprouts odd sunset shadows, she emerges to wash herself in the restroom. To stroll the narrow alleys between nearby shops. To visit her favorite 24-hour mamak.

the neatness of clouds
scooping rice and dahl
her hennaed hands

This is where we first met. Or where I first glimpsed her and she caught me glimpsing. Then some weeks later where we first shared a smile, rising simultaneously from our plastic stools to depart. No words and different destinations, yet a lingering smile. But from my flat’s balcony, I caught sight of her again. Connected her with the old Toyota. And later to the métier she there practices.

the lone jetliner
tows in the storm

Since then we have crossed paths more regularly, as if my discovery of her trade in midnight visitors has connected us in some way. We pass in alleyways that are familiar to us both. And at that same mamak. Her light skin and almond eyes suggest a Peranakan lineage, but her dress and adornment are loosely Tamil. Whatever her ethnicity, she pulses the world around her with her presence. The metric foot of her life an iamb to be surethe grandeur of her beauty preceded by the dull ache in my heart.

half stolen
by the morning sky
lovers’ moon

NOTES: Mamak are open-air food establishments serving a unique Indian-Malaysian cuisine. Peranakans are an interracial ethnic group descended from the first Chinese settlers on the Malay Peninsula.

~ ~ ~

Honorable Mention (unranked):

by Jennifer Hambrick, Worthington, OH

Pandemic Power Walk

concrete sidewalk       grid of tree-lined days       all out of phase
in droplet haze       lives stopped cold on hold       behind closed doors
walk through the neighborhood       past locked-up park       past school gone dark
to worn dirt trail           break a sweat behind a mask of cotton caution
jet black sneakers kick up dirt       heart beats fast mop up sweat
walk and walk       earbud talk of healthcare mess       don’t get sick
old man leans on walking stick              walk faster faster
don’t get sick       walk faster       walk around through graveyard
still with cold hard ground       with death-mask grin       around again  again
kick buckets of dirt       sweaty mask       sweaty shirt       breathing fast
and hard and heavy       through that mask       through that mask
       we might just live

empty street
a family of deer
keeping their distance

~ ~ ~

About the Judges

Terri L. French is past Southeast Regional Coordinator for The Haiku Society of America. She served as editor of Prune Juice Journal of senryu and kyoka. Currently Terri is on the editorial team of contemporary haibun online and a member at large of The Haiku Foundation. Author of the books Keepers, The Color of Bruises and Fully Human.

Lew Watts is the author of Tick-Tock, a haibun collection that received an Honorable Mention in the Haiku Society of America’s 2019 Merit Book Awards. His earlier publications include the novel Marcel Malone, and the poetry collection, Lessons for Tangueros. He lives in Chicago.


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