Haiku Society of America Haibun Awards for 2022

Haiku Society of America Haibun Awards

Haibun Awards for 2022

Jennifer Hambrick & Rich Youmans
2022 judges commentary


First Place:

by J Hahn Doleman, California, USA

Tree of Fortunes

The same one all the children in the village played under before the war. The same one they hung the partisans, the gypsies, and the Jews from when the war was nearly over. Up into this same one I climb higher, ignoring the voices in my head telling me to come down, telling me I won’t make it, that I’ll fall to my death, or worse, be punished. But, I’ve done it before. I know just where to reach, where to grab hold of the cool, hard skin, and just when to let slip a branch to reach another. Hand over hand, legs and feet lending support, I’m almost there now, across the smooth sections burnished by hundreds of ropes now gone, and I’ve arrived. In the wide crook of two branches I settle in for takeoff, waving to all the others below — the envious ones, the admirers, the resentful. Doesn’t matter. A breeze is already lifting me inside my cockpit, and I feel my back pressed into the trunk, my fuselage, as we float up into the blue-green firmament from where I survey frontiers, do battle with the enemies of hope, and discourse with birds and clouds. 

afternoon shade
among the acorns
a bullet casing

~ ~ ~

Second Place:

by J Hahn Doleman, California, USA

Mood Swing

Lately these nights it’s our joints creaking more than the bed rails, slipping in and out of their sinews with startling sloshes and squeals, replacing that repetitive, urgent thumping with something more soulful and rich, as if the banal pop song of our youth has transformed into a spontaneous, syncopated jazz duet that leaves ever more to the imagination.

blackout curtains
a mockingbird blends in
with the saxophone

~ ~ ~

Third Place:

by Evan Vandermeer, Tennessee, USA


She woke up right when I did, eager to tell me about her dream. In it, she's at our unborn daughter's high school volleyball game, and as she's about to cheer her on she stops short, remembering we still haven’t decided on a name.

Suddenly lucid, she approaches the coach and says, "Excuse me, where is Alice?" The coach tilts her head, confused. "Sorry, I meant Lyra. Where is Lyra?” Again, confusion. She asks once more, this time using the third and last name in the running.

Smiling big, the coach turns and points.

knowing now
what we didn't know then—
full moon

~ ~ ~

Honorable Mention:

by Matthew Caretti, Pennsylvania, USA

A Church Organ Through Banana Leaves: Island Poem

The supply chain disruption of stevedores singing the blues. Still the fresh avocados and the fruit seller’s smile. Her eyes where the stream becomes sea. Her knowing hands and the rough of the cassava. The Valentine’s Day hug of a container ship stuck on the horizon. Perhaps it was the stowaway who ate my chocolates.

forever home
questioning again
the ocean

Hunting coconut crabs an old islander clings to tradition. Finding foolscap in the heirloom desk. A first draft of his grandfather’s memoir. They wheel him into earshot of the king tide. He reflects on Tagaloa’s hymn. Inside his mirror the blind spot of my own age spots. Here where another family quits their ancestral land homes become hammersong.

static swarm
a slow dissolution
into space

There atop the ancestor graves Sunday leis encircle the island. Then a Bible school for the young to learn by rote what’s nearly been forgotten. A high stakes game as fan palms shuffle the morning moon. The monochrome cat coming home. Mewling. Crossing the bar soon my own footprints too will be washed away.

sunrise swell
the stars tire
of twinkling

Gale force rooftops tumble toward the sea. The timbre of the village bell just before rain. Through the deluge plash of an emerald dove’s cut and clarity. I think of the old hermit who furnishes a seaside pillbox with flotsam. Listens to the whisper campaign against him by strafing gulls. Recalls lessons by the missionaries. She sells sea shells . . . He questions it all. A scrawl of white sand punctuated by pumice.

death dream
even sea defers
to rain

Almost always never this supermoon and my gaze. An arc of insomnia as the harbor wake exposes cracks in the moon. Mixes with them the chant of more rain. A kintsugi of light and water. Palm silhouettes before an antipodal eclipse of the coconut. I reinvest in the clouds. Stretch time till retirement along the longitude of this towline.

no tap tap
of the tatau needle
they call me naked

A saltwater baptism by fire and ash where lava skies liquefy the horizon. A stabilimenta designs the paths of coming cyclones. Everywhere morning birds don’t alight. A note to self about the flight of frigatebirds. About the wings of island gulls shaping wind. About village dogs and my preference for the one that chases its tail.

by subtracting
ukulele song

~ ~ ~




The purpose of the Haiku Society of America's Haibun Awards competition is to recognize the best unpublished haibun submitted. Authors may submit up to three unpublished haibun, of no more than 1,000 words, not submitted for publication or to any other contest. Publication is defined as an appearance in a printed book, magazine, or journal (sold or given away), or in any online journal that presents edited periodic content. The appearance of poems in online discussion lists or personal websites is not considered publication. Judges will be asked to disqualify any haibun that they have seen before..

Winners by Year (with judges' comments):

| 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 |

For details about the contest rules, see the Haiku Society of America Haibun Awards guidelines.