Skip to content

HaikuNow! 2013

The winners, runners up, and judge’s comments from the HaikuNow! 2013 Contest are below. For all of this information and additional, notable poems in each category, see the PDF version of the HaikuNow! 2013 Contest Results.

HaikuNow! 2013: Winners in the Traditional Haiku Category

For a description of this category, see Traditional Haiku.

First Prize

john hawkhead

snowflakes falling
on the child’s upturned face
the stillness of stars
     — john hawkhead (United Kingdom)

The sense of wonder that attracted me to this haiku on first reading was still there after several more readings. The snowflakes, the child’s upturned face, and the vastness of the night sky—this, at least to me, presents a truly magical moment that any of us who have experienced our first snow can remember. I can almost see the stars of wonder twinkling in the child’s eyes.

     — Peter Duppenthaler

the Lee at spring tide —
the reflection of a bridge
flows under the bridge
     — Anatoly Kudryavitsky (Ireland)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . . .
all the sparrows fly away
and I lose my count
     — Anon (Malaysia)
Runners-Up Commentary
Kudryavitsky’s haiku combines the stillness-permanence of the bridge and the transitory nature of the water flowing under. The juxtaposition of the solidness of the bridge and its refection flowing along with the tide is what drew me to this haiku. Several of the other haiku I read used the image of a reflection, but the slow, steady, and inevitable spring tide perfectly captures the opposites of up-down, solid-fluid, and stillness-movement. In Anon’s haiku, the deliberate, careful counting followed by the sudden taking to wing of the flock is what attracted me. There is something very poignant about this haiku. Despite the counter’s best efforts to impose order on what later turns chaotic, nature soon turns the tables – nature, as it always will, has taken over the situation. For just a few moments, the counter and birds were one and now the birds have left the solitary human behind.     — Peter Duppenthaler
another winter
we bury conversations
within the silence
     — Seánan Forbes (United Kingdom)
HaikuNow! 2013: Winners in the Contemporary Haiku Category

For a description of this category, see Contemporary Haiku.

First Prize

Don Baird

nagasaki . . .
in her belly, the sound
of unopened mail
     — Don Baird (USA)

Our top prize is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. This poem provides very clear context and imagery, and yet in such a way that the sense of the poem seems almost to evade us. Almost, but not quite.

One cannot speak of “nagasaki” without conjuring the events of 9 August 1945, which to this day are contentious amongst Americans (less so amongst Japanese, who have taken this occasion, along with August 6 and Hiroshima, as a clear signal that they move in a completely different direction, a decision now being revisited in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown). Whichever side you come down on, the cost in terms of people of this second atomic blast was horrific — final reckoning was 87,000 fatalities, and at least 100,000 with secondary conditions like radiation poisoning.

Having established this compelling context, the poet directs us to its polar opposite: not the destruction of life, but its creation. Our gaze is directed not skyward but down, to “her belly,” where we are to hear something: the line breaks and we know what we expect. But our expectations are confounded by the quizzical third line: “unopened mail”?

What is the sound of unopened mail? Why, none. Unopened mail is a blank slate, useful as a prompt to our imagination, perhaps, but simply unknown until we open it. And this child in the belly, what is its message? How can we know until it is born? And into what sort of world will it be born? No matter when it is born — in 1945 or 2013 — into a world where “nagasaki” is a context which still resonates for us.

The poem, too, with its unexpected third line, is unopened mail. Perhaps we’ve conjured some of its sense, but almost certainly not all. My Western sensibility registers only the war-time connotations of “nagasaki” — I imagine one who knows the culture intimately will hear the sound of this mail in much greater depth.

     — Jim Kacian

feeling for the pulse deep winter
     — Lorin Ford (Australia)
deep within
the melody of
a fallen tree
     — Veronika Zora Novak (Canada))
Runners-Up Commentary
It is difficult to use certain words in haiku without risking ennui from a surfeited audience. Nouns like “shadow,” of course, but also modifiers that serve to heighten the circumstance or indicate a rare singularity (and, ultimately, point at the poet) like “just” and “only.” And here I have selected two poems that use “deep” as their chief adjective. Have I simply lost it?I hope not. I believe that the use of “deep” in each of these poems is actually precise and neither is simply a knee-jerk heightening. In fact, I believe both usages run counter to the usual manner in which “deep” functions, and cause the reader to have a secondary response to the poem, prompting further readings where the actual meanings might come to be apparent. Richard Gilbert called this “linguistic fusion” in his essay “The Disjunctive Dragonfly.”The monoku uses “deep” as the hinge word: we are speeding along as the one-line format urges us to do, and we arrive at “feeling for the pulse deep . . .” and realize, wait, we have read too far. Surely “deep winter” in intended as a collocation at the end of the line. Upon rereading, we become aware that both are intended: we feel deep for the pulse, and do so in deep winter, and recognize the affinity between the two parts of the phrase. The poet has managed our experience of the poem so that we must engage both readings for the full effect.Something similar happens in the three-liner, but here the hinge is the very first word, so it isn’t until we’ve gone some distance into the poem that we recognize the pivot we’ve accommodated. Are we “deep within the melody” or is the melody “deep within”? What difference does it make? Quite a lot, I would say. The poem suggests the tree is fallen, so presumably whatever melody the tree now possesses is considerably different than the one it had when it was upright and whole. Presumably the song of the unfelled tree has left an indelible impression on the poet, but because it remains ambiguous, in truth both songs are available to such an interpretation. And the poem is that much more telling for it.Both poets manage the challenges of their chosen forms well, and use them to advantage, creating richer experiences than a “straight” rendering could have done. Poems such as these make judging contests the pleasure it is.

     — Jim Kacian

sucking marrow
from the bone—
autumn drought
     — Sandra Simpson (New Zealand)
road atlas
the plans we made
in thin, blue ink
     — David Caruso (USA)
too heavy
for insect wings
     — Joe Polsky (?)
HaikuNow! 2013: Winners in the Innovative Haiku Category

For a description of this category, see Innovative Haiku.

First Prize

Christopher Patchel

gmo tomātoes tomätoes
     — Christopher Patchel (USA)

Patchel’s prize winner uses a mere two words and an acronym to bring to our awareness not only one of the most controversial topics of our time, but conjures simultaneously class consciousness in Depression Era Western culture. Admittedly Ira Gershwin does much of the heavy lifting here, via the lyrics to his hit song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” from the 1937 musical Shall We Dance? This duet, sung by an enamored couple from unequal social classes, suggests—seemingly tongue-in-cheek—that their differences are so great that they should give up the attempt to connect. And the marker for these differences: pronunciation of eether/eyether neether/neyether, potaydo/potahdo tomayto/tomahto. But after all, a tomahto is merely a tomayto with a macron, is it not?

Well, perhaps not. In the gmo world, the differences are so small as not to be seen. But what are the consequences of these tiny alterations? Though early scientific reports seem to suggest no harm will come from treating these tomatoes as any other, not everyone is convinced. It could well be we won’t know the effects of genetically modifying foods for several generations, and this is enough to give one pause. The poet’s neat use of diacritical marks—the macron and the umlaut—are effective not only in marking the distinctions between the two fruit, but also in making the words themselves slightly foreign—recognizable, but with something subtly changed. Does it make a difference?

     — Jim Kacian

            new                         first step              child
spring            moon — the                   of my
            full                           last word             father
     — Eduard Tara (Romania)
R    O    O   T   S
   e       u        o       u
         a      t                  r
      c                                 v
              h                        i
                    i                v
                      n                   e
     — John Fedyna (?)
Runners-Up Commentary
Both of my runners-up were selected because they portend possible new ways in which haiku might be written in the future. The first, with its shared lines and interplay between images, seems a natural evolution to what we now produce with a pivoted middle line in three-line haiku. This has the additional benefit of placing the contrasted images in spatial relationship with one another, so there’s an accessibility not dissimilar to the three-line horizontal array we’ve seen from the 1970s on, including a couple entries in this year’s Innovative category. In the present poem the lockstep of the passages of life, from life to death, are neatly intimated by the images are puzzled together.The second is, simply, organic form. This is the most difficult format for haiku, in part because it threatens the ease of recognition that haiku has come to enjoy through its standardized rendering. But organic form is the most sensitive to the needs of the particular poem, a true challenge to the poet to find exactly the right way to express the concatenation of images that makes up her poem. Here the effect is almost that of a scattering by wind, but the content roots the poem firmly underground.

     — Jim Kacian

distant thunder
the sound of an ellipsis
     — Terri L. French (USA)
between the event       AMERICA       and the sentiment
     — Lorin Ford (Australia)
Smith graphic
     — Mark Smith (USA)

First-prize winners in each category received $100. Honorable mentions received $25. All winning poems will be featured on The Haiku Foundation web site and permanently archived.


Peter Duppenthaler
Jim Kacian


Michael Henry Lee (Traditional)
Cara Holman (Contemporary)
Peter Newton (Innovative)


Maria Moreno

Back To Top