Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards for 2016

Haiku Society of America

Merit Book Awards for 2016

Joe McKeon and Naia, judges

The Haiku Society of America is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 Merit Book Awards for books published in 2015, judged by Joe McKeon and Naia and coordinated by HSA First Vice President Michael Montreuil. First Place Award was originally made possible by LeRoy Kanterman, cofounder of the Haiku Society of America, in memory of his wife Mildred Kanterman.

Congratulations to all who submitted books to this year’s HSA Merit Book Awards. The quality of submissions is a testament to the vibrant talent of those who study and write haiku throughout the world. As we share this year’s awards, we invite you to savor these perceptive collections and make each personal journey yours.


First Place

Edward J. Rielly. Answers Instead: a life of haiku. Encircle Publications LLC, Farmington, Maine, 2015.

From growing up on his family’s dairy farm in rural Wisconsin, through marriage and beginning his own family, to reflections of and from his later years, Edward J. Rielly’s haiku intimately provide glimpses of his life and the answers awaiting discovery within a life fully experienced. Reilly’s imagistic haiku are stunning. On the surface they portray life in rural America from a perspective only one who has lived it can convey; however, as the depth within each haiku unfolds, the reader senses having lived it, too.

This retrospective collection is organized into three parts.

I. Small Boy at the Fence. Rielly’s reflective haiku take the reader beyond the story of a boyhood immersed in rural farm life to universal revelations regarding the hardships and joys of daily life and the importance of family.

Dad and I
planting a weeping willow—
how little I know

gray winter day—
after the farm sale
the cow not sold

II. Across the Full Moon. As Rielly’s life progresses into experiences with fatherhood and aging parents, his haiku reveal a poignant range of emotions.

with a pink Kleenex
rescuing a spider from
my daughter’s fear

across the full moon
a small, dark cloud—
my mother’s “don’t go”

III. Dandelion Puffs. The answers take shape through Rielly’s wellspring of intuitive insights and are offered up in this final section.

distant birdsong—
the old man lays down
his binoculars

listening to the sound
from the deep well...
stone on stone

The circle completes on the last page of Answers Instead: a life in haiku, with the final haiku of Rielly’s retrospective collection.

another birthday—
the road back to childhood
calling me


Second Place

Chad Lee Robinson. The Deep End of the Sky. Turtle Light Press, Arlington, Virginia, 2015.

Rich in stunning imagery, Chad Lee Robinson’s evocative haiku take the reader on an intimate journey through life in the heartland of South Dakota: life as he observed it, life as he lived it, and life as it continues to unfold. With his haiku

letting go
of the oars...
spring breeze

Robinson invites the reader to slow down and experience this sensory journey. In

winter stars...
the name of my father
of my father’s father

he shares one of many intimate moments of deep connection to the land, to the life.


Third Place

Roberta Beary. Deflection. Accents Publishing, Lexington, Kentucky, 2015.

Relationships, expectations, roles, loss, aging—the stuff of life that often makes it hard to find center again—are the guideposts of each reader’s journey through Deflection. With the powerful honesty and evocative layering in this collection, Roberta Beary invites readers to explore some of life’s harsh deflections, as she reveals her own deeply personal experiences.


Honorable Mentions
(unranked, in alphabetical order by book title)

Rick Tarquinio. Mostly Water. Self-published, 2015.

Dan Schwerin. ORS. by Red Moon Press, Winchester, Virginia, 2015.

Bill Cooper. Young Osprey. Red Moon Press, Winchester, Virginia, 2015.





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.