Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards for 1975

Haiku Society of America

Merit Book Awards for 1975

for books published in 1973-1974

Geraldine C. Little (chairperson)
L. A. Davidson, William J. Higginson, Edythe Polster

The committee of judges recognized and commended the “able work of editors of ongoing haiku publications, their dedication to, and promulgation of, English-language haiku.” Recognition and commendation also extended to Joseph Earner for his fine work in the starting and editing of New World Haiku.

First Prize

Calvin French. The Poet-Painters: Buson and His Followers. The University of Michigan Museum of Art, The Center for Japanese Studies, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1974.

A selection from The Poet-Painters:

Buson’s style was predicated on the elimination of the arcane; his visual and literary language were unified by their basis in the concrete world of familiar objects. . . .

Buson sought to emancipate the poetic experience from conventional themes and attitudes, finding poetry in the meanest of circumstances. . . .

Early morning frost—
From the brothels of Muro,
The scent of hot soup.

Asashimo ya2022
Muro no ageya no
Natto jiru.

Departing spring—
I brush the fallen blossoms
From my behind.

Yukuharu no
Shiribeta harau
Rakka kana

~ Buson, tr. by Calvin French

The admittance of banal imagery and colloquial language in no way produces a vulgar effect; it evokes an intimacy and immediacy altogether suited to haiku usage—one characteristic of haiku that distinguishes it from the aristocratic traditions of waka and renga. . . .

The school of haiku poetry headed by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) injected new energy into a flagging poetic tradition. In the eighteenth century Buson [1716-1784] initiated another poetic renaissance. As a painter, he also revitalized the traditional kasen iconography by producing works featuring haiku masters rather than the traditional Heian poets. . . .

He founded no orthodox school, but his ideals were adopted by men recognized as his followers: Ki Baitei, Matsumara Goshum (Gekkei), and Yokoi Kinkoko.


Second Prize

Cor van den Heuvel, Editor. The Haiku Anthology. Anchor Books/Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1974.

A selection from the introduction by the editor:

Haiku in English is still in the process of finding its “way.” Beyond a general agreement that haiku should be short, concise, and immediate (or brief, simple, and direct, etc.), individual poets may often diverge widely in their conceptions of what a haiku is and how one is created. . . .

A great diversity lies in the pages ahead. But though these poets are all moving along individual paths, they are all following the haiku “way.” The variety of their voices should delight us as much as the oneness they reveal enlightens us. For the joy of life is to be able to see it anew each moment. These haiku moments await only your contribution of awareness.

Two poems in the anthology:

The old rooster crows . . .
     Out of the mist come the rocks
          and the twisted pine

        ~ Mabelsson Norway
           (also known as O. Southard)

           Listening . . .
After a while,
     I take up my axe again

~ Rod Willmot


Third Prize

Foster Jewell. Passing Moments. Sangre de Cristo Press, Venice, California, 1974.

From the introduction by Lorraine Ellis Harr:

At this time, in the development of English Language haiku, it is refreshing to find one haijin who consistently maintains the style of Japanese haiku and avoids the English Language poem in haiku form.

Foster Jewell’s approach to haiku is that of one tuned in and turned on by substance-shadow, sound-silence, motion-stillness, large-small, nearness-distance. His haiku have the elusive quality of “sabi” (the sadness of passing time) which he uses effectively.

His recorded moments of expanded awareness extend out and out like ripples on a pond and cause in us a shared emotional response. Few haiku poets capture the exact qualities of Nature’s wonder-working moments as does Foster Jewell. He polishes each moment until its facets reflect prismatically the highlights and depths of the haiku experience.

He notes the absence of a bird’s song as well as its liquid notes; its color, as well as the color of a flower. Letting each experience shape its own haiku he is not bound by the rigid 5-7-5 form.

His ability to focus on the haiku moment is unerring. As we walk with him along a country road, down the farm lane, beside the pasture brook, he stands aside and lets us take an unexpected turn—an unfamiliar look at the familiar—and invites us to see it too. Sand Waves, Beachcomber, Haiku Sketches, Mirage, and now this volume, Passing Moments, are all progressions of the haiku way of life that is uniquely the way of Foster Jewell. . . .

Two of Foster Jewell’s haiku:

How a brook so small
     becomes, in its wanderings,
          a pathway of stars!

     This quiet dirt road,
these ordinary sparrows,
     singing their own songs.


Fourth Prize

Jack Cain. “Paris” (haibun) from Volume 63, a biannual of poetry, October 1964, No. 2, Board of Publications, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, pages 32-35.

An excerpt from Jack Cain’s haibun:

Lips that turn from mine.
Poor little one
Whom I pay.

How insistent this urge that recurs and to which satisfaction brings momentary rest. I lie on my bed, alone. . . .

There is a short letter that asks in tones that tear, please, oh please, come home.

In the cafe’s light
harsh and bright
faces talk.


Fifth Prize

Anita Virgil. A 2nd Flake. privately published, 1974.

a phoebe’s cry . . .
the blue shadows
on the dinner plates

over the dam—
summer’s end


Sixth Prize

Rhoda De Long Jewell. Via Time Machine. Sangre de Cristo Press, Venice, California, 1974.

These stony hills
and corrugated roofs—
ribs of the old hound.

the faded roses
on Grandmother’s carpet—
the early dusk . . .


Seventh Prize

Janice Bostok. Walking into the Sun. Shelters Press, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1974.

pregnant again . . .
     the fluttering of moths
          against the window

one world ends
at the edge
of the porch light


Eighth Prize

Mabelle A. Lyon and Wallace H. Fuller. Roadrunner:  American haiku of the desert Southwest. privately published, 1973.

In a glass jar
     the centipede’s busy feet
          going nowhere

~ Mabelle A. Lyon

Ancient saguaro
     blooming silken-white this May . . .
          my veined, wrinkled hands.

~ Wallace H. Fuller




The purpose of the Haiku Society of America's Merit Book Awards is to recognize the best haiku and related books published in a given year in the English language. Every year sees a fresh crop of fine individual collections, anthologies, translations, critical studies and innovative forms.

In the past, the HSA Merit Book awards were partially supported by a memorial gift. Leroy Kanterman, cofounder of the Haiku Society of America, made a gift to support the first place award in memory of his wife Mildred Kanterman. See the archives of Merit Book Awards.

The Merit Book Awards competition is open to the public. Books must have been published in the previous year and must clearly contain a printed previous year copyright. A member, author, or publisher may submit or nominate more than one title. At least 50 percent of the book must be haiku, senryu, or haibun, or prose about these subjects (books mostly of tanka, for example, are not eligible). HSA will also consider collections that have only appeared in an e-book/digital book format. Two print copies of the digital book may be sent by the publisher. Books published by HSA officers are eligible for this award. Books published by the national HSA organization, however, are not eligible.

Winners by Year (with judges' comments):

|2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993 | 1992 | 1991 | 1990 | 1989 | 1988 | 1987 | 1985 | 1983 | 1981 | 1978 | 1975 |

See the contest rules for entering the next Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards competition.