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Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards 2009

The Haiku Society of America sponsors this annual award for excellence in published haiku, translation, and criticism. This page includes judges' comments for the awards.

Previous year Merit Book Awards web pages:
| 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

Return to archive of Merit Book Awards archive.

For full details about the contest rules, see Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards.


Merit Book Awards for 2009 (for books published in 2008)

Judged by an’ya, Oregon & Cherie Hunter Day, California

The First Place award is made possible by Leroy Kanterman, co-founder of the Haiku Society of America, in memory of his wife Mildred Kanterman.

First Place: a wattle seedpod by lorin ford, Post Pressed 2 07/50MacquarieStreet,Teneriffe,Qld,4005Australia,10AUD.

Second Place: Empty Boathouse: Adirondack Haiku by Madeleine Findlay, Single Island Press, 379 State Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801, 40 USD.

Third Place: An Unknown Road by Adelaide B. Shaw, Modern English Tanka Press, P.O. Box 43717, Baltimore, MD 21236, 11.95 USD.

Special Award for Anthology: dandelion clocks edited by Roberta Beary & Ellen Compton, Haiku Society of America Members Anthology 2008. Available from HSA Treasurer, Paul Miller, 31 Seal Island Road, Bristol, RI 02809, 20 USD in North America; 23 USD elsewhere.

Special Award for Themed Haiku Collection: it has been many moons by S.B. Friedman, Lily Pool Press (Swamp Press). Available from the author: 119 Nevada Street, San Francisco CA 94110-5722, 25 USD, including postage.

Special Award for Chapbook: Distant Sounds by Helen Russell, edited by Connie Hutchison, Ann Spiers & Ruth Yarrow. Available from the author: 3710 Providence Pt. Dr. SE, #320, Issaquah WA 98029, 10 USD, including postage.

Special Award for Haibun: contemporary haibun, Vol. 9 edited by Jim Kacian, Bruce Ross & Ken Jones, Red Moon Press, P.O. Box 2461, Winchester, VA 22604-1661, 16.95 USD.

Special Award for Haiku Criticism and Theory: Poems of Consciousness by Richard Gilbert, Ph.D, Red Moon Press, P.O. Box 2461, Winchester, VA 22604-1661, 27.95 USD and includes a DVD-ROM.

In competition for this year’s Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards, we received a total of 43 entries. The books varied greatly in their haiku styles from traditional to contemporary, and in their physical presentations, from the very simple to the quite elaborate. Since there were so many pocket-sized, shorter books submitted, we created a special “chapbook” category. As co-judges, reaching our end results went smoothly and we are in total agreement as to the final placements. Thank you to all the participants and congratu- lations to the overall winners and to the special mentions in each category.

The winning haiku collection, a wattle seedpod, is only slightly larger than a CD jewel case, but lorin ford [AU] has packed it with sparkling haiku gems:

heat shimmer
a kingfisher’s wings
answer the river

sliver moon
the sheath of a cat’s claw
on the doormat

land’s end
a seal returns
the dog’s bark

i dance barefoot
between snails

In the foreword John Bird quotes Lorin Ford on the occasion of her hearing one of Dhugal Lindsay’s haiku read aloud. Her response was “immediate—a physical quiver of recognition . . . ” This is the effect of haiku. It opens us up to our original experience. There is an inherent freshness to Lorin’s approach, a confidence in her choice of words as she shares experiences of her native Australia. She has a wonderful voice in this her debut collection of haiku.

• • •

Empty Boathouse: Adirondack Haiku placed second. Everything about this collection by Madeleine Findlay [NH] is carefully crafted: the photographic images of a bygone era blend perfectly with the haiku. “Each page explores the spaces between words and images, both verbal and visual: the effect is haiku-squared” (from the jacket front flap). Presented as an extended haiga a new/old aesthetic emerges that honors place and time and memory. Almost all of the photographs were gleaned from her family’s collection. The effect is stunning. This hardcover volume is a unique synthesis in the book arts.

The title poem is back to back with the following haiku:

filaments of light
through weathered slats
empty boathouse

the song of the thrush
within the dripping black spruce—
far away thunder

• • •

Third Place went to An Unknown Road. There is almost a palpable hush when reading selections from this book by Adelaide B. Shaw [NY]. It is an opportunity to slow down and reflect:

not quite dusk—
a firefly hovers
without its light

Shaw breathes deeply in quiet places:

the warmth of May
a pregnant woman
smiles to herself

Many of the selections illustrate shasei (sketches from life) a haiku style popularized by Masaoka Shiki. It is this quiet intensity that sets this collection apart.

• • •

The Special Award for Anthology was awarded to dandelion clocks edited by Roberta Beary [DC] and Ellen Compton [DC]. Last year, 2008, marked the 40th anniversary of the Haiku Society of America. Co-editors Beary and Compton, both seasoned writers and winning editors, compiled an attractive and engaging volume from the best available haiku and senryu sent from HSA members. Novice writers are featured alongside seasoned veterans for a refreshing equity.

• • •

The Special Award for Themed Haiku Collection went to it has been many moons . “The moon is always with us. Every hour, every minute ...every frog-leap of our life”—vincent tripi (from the “Preface”). It has been many moons is not only themed insofar as astrologically ... it is doubly-themed through the folklore and cultures of English Medieval, Native American, Celtic, Colonial American, Chinese and Neo Pagan. It is also arranged (not specifically in seasons), rather in order of the calendar months and corresponding moons. S.B. Friedman [CA] opens with this Choctaw haiku and closes with this New Guinea haiku:

oolong leaves unfurl
to fill the whole cup—
little famine moon

gathering the chi
of the rain & wind moon—
city sunflowers

And there are many more equally wonderful “moon moments” in this handsome, delft-blue covered, letterpress edition.

• • •

The Special Award for a Chapbook went to Distant Sounds. This limited edition, handmade chapbook was lovingly assembled by friends of Helen Russell [WA] from Haiku Northwest and Vashon Island Mondays at Three in honor of her 99th birthday—a wonderful testament to friendship and longevity. The author started writing haiku in 1996.

a century
I have lived—
the first aster

a cloud across the sun
and suddenly
I am old

• • •

The Special Award for Haibun went to contemporary haibun, Vol. 9 which is the annual printed installment of the best haibun garnered from the online quarterly journal, contemporary haibun online. This volume features 60 haibun and 20 haiga by 54 contributors from around the world and offers a wide variety of styles and subject matter.

• • •

The Special Award for Haiku Criticism and Theory went to Poems of Consciousness. In the words of Richard Gilbert [JP], the goal of this book “is twofold: to communicate some of what I have learned regarding /gendai/(contemporary) haiku in Japan; and to present theoretical concepts, structures and nomenclature as a means of potentially innovating haiku traditions occurring within the international scene.” His cross-cultural perspective has engaged some lively discussions and serves notice that haiku continues its evolution on the cutting edge of literature and philosophy.


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