Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards for 2021

Haiku Society of America

Merit Books Awards for 2021

Ce Rosenow and Bryan Rickert, judges

The judges would like to express their appreciation for all the poets who sent in their books. It was our delight to be able to read such fines work. Due to the large volume of quality submissions, it was incredibly difficult to decide on whom to award the praise. It was indeed a great year for high quality haiku books.


First Place

Susan Antolin. The Years That Went Missing. Durham, NC: Backbone Press, 2020.

Every poem in Susan Antolin’s book is of exceptional quality. Not a single poem in this collection can be seen as filler. Every poem, in sequence, creates a seamless rhythm and tone that pulls us through the book with ease. Yet, at the same time, many of the poems arrest us and make us linger more in the depths of their meaning. This book demands multiple readings and delivers something new time and time again.


Second Place

Carolyn Hall. Cricket Dust. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2020.

Carolyn Hall once again amazes the reader with the skills of a poet who has been creating beautiful haiku for decades. With poems that are deceptively simple, yet profoundly revealing, Cricket Dust opens our eyes to the multiple meanings short poems have and to the clarity and precision of the haiku moment.


Third Place

Elmedin Kadric. Light Packing. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2019.

In this collection, Kadric opens the reader to exploring new avenues of expression in the nature of haiku and the nature of being a poet. With innovative and unique juxtapositions, Light Packing takes us on a journey through the familiar in a new and unfamiliar way.


Honorable Mentions (not ranked but presented in alphabetical order by author)

Hifsa Ashraf. Her Fading Henna Tattoo. Human/Kind Press, 2020.

Her Fading Henna Tattoo is an important book that uses well-crafted haiku to address domestic violence and give a voice to those who often have none. Ashraf’s book could be mistaken as addressing a situation limited to another culture; however, in truth, these poems delve into the stark reality of many women all around the globe.

Alan Bridges. In the Curves. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2020.

Alan Bridges’ book In the Curves gives the reader a delightful collection of unique and well-written haiku. His concise and direct style opens us to haiku moments that reflect a wide variety of life experiences.

Debbie Strange. The Language of Loss. Sable Books, 2020.

True to its name, The Language of Loss explores the many facets of loss and survival using both haiku and tanka. One haiku and one tanka are paired beautifully on every page. Never predictable and always revealing, this book delivers consistent quality from start to finish.


Best Haibun Book

Keith Polette. Pilgrimage. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2020.

Keith Polette’s book is filled with intensity, imagery, and artistry. He draws us into his work using descriptive and poetic language, making us feel the moment with all our senses and immersing us into a fantastic and sometimes surreal world. It is an excellent collection of haibun.


Honorarble Mention Haibun Book

Zane Parks. Journey. Lulu.com, 2020.

Zane Park’s Journey is a fun and insightful exploration of one man and his life. Told in vignettes, these haibun, when put together, tell us a greater story about the author that is unique yet touches on many universal truths and situations of love, life, and family.


Three Best Haiku Anthologies (ranked in order)

Gratitude in the Time of COVID-19. Edited by Scott Mason, Chappaqua, New York: Girasole Press, 2020.

During the tough beginning of COVID-19, Scott Mason’s idea to produce a collection of work that would focus the mind of the poet and the reader on haiku moments of gratitude produced a collection that will likely become timeless. This is not a collection of COVID poetry but a collection of poems about all the things that have sustained us through the pandemic event. It is certain Scott Mason did not know that nearly a year since the book’s release, the COVID pandemic would still not be over, and we the poets and readers would still be searching for safe harbor in these rough waters.

Wind Flowers. Edited by Jim Kacian and the Red Moon Editorial Staff, Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2020.

The yearly release of The Red Moon Anthology of English Language Haiku has become a must-read tradition and continues to provide the reader with an amazing sampling of the finest haiku, haibun, and essays from any given year. This release, consisting of works from 2019, is no exception.

Haiku 2020. Edited by Lee Gurga and Scott Metz, Champaign, IL: Modern Haiku Press, 2020.

This is a small and compact collection of work that certainly packs a punch. No fluff and no filler, this anthology presents the more avant-garde realm of haiku today and gives us a sample of what has become a consistent approach to haiku in the past two decades.


Honorable Mention Haiku Anthologes (not ranked but presented in alphabetical order by editor)

The Wanderer Brush. Edited with haiga by Ion Codrescu, Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2020.

Ion Codrescu’s book The Wanderer Brush is an eclectic, global anthology that not only includes haiga but critical insights into, and information about, the poets themselves. The stunning calligraphy and ink work bring the fine poems to life in new and unimaginable ways.

All This Talk. Edited by Charles Trumbull, Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, 2020.

All This Talk gives us a wonderful and well-rounded look into the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society. With beautiful haiku, haiga, and articles, this inviting anthology chronicles a year in the life of a thriving haiku community and its members. The historically significant overview of the Society’s annual retreat at Asilomar is a wonderful way to cap this celebration of YTHS’s forty-fifth anniversary.




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.