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HaikuNow! 2014

The winners, runners up, and judge’s comments from the HaikuNow! 2014 Contest are below. For all of this information and additional, notable poems in each category, see the PDF version of the 2014 HaikuNow! Contest Results.

HaikuNow! 2014: Winners in the Traditional Haiku Category

For a description of this category, see Traditional Haiku.

First Prize

Nicole Pottier

fragrance of green tea—
I sharpen my old pencil
under the moon’s light
     — Nicole Pottier (France)
Judge’s Comments

Nicole Pottier’s first prize poem places itself deliberately within the tradition, bravely taking on a conventional imagery of tea and moonlight. Whether such a position is possible, whether the tradition is still viable, seems to be its concern. Quiet as the poem is, nothing is taken for granted here, everything is at risk.

It is alertness that sharpens the old pencil. The poet waits in readiness, aware that the time is late, in full appreciation of the dignity of tradition but on guard against any complacency. The poem has an admirable concision; much is covered in the small space. It holds to a reticence of plain diction, flowing evenly through its seventeen syllables. Everything is suggested, nothing resolved. We are given the fragrance of tea, not its taste. At the end of the poem, far from being brought to a closure, we have not yet begun. Tradition is ahead of us, a privilege and a task.

— Thomas A Clark

rounding a corner
the green blur of new barley
resolves into rows
     — Robert Davey (United Kingdom)
the four-leaf clover
we found together—
not the lucky kind
     — William Hart (USA)
Runners-Up Commentary
While most haiku concern themselves with a moment of perception, being brief enough to catch the moment as it flies, Robert Davey’s lovely poem attends to perception itself. It follows through the green blur of the moment into another moment when perception opens up or, more often, resolves into a known quanitity. Paradoxically, it is only when we recognise the pacifying effects of a synthesis across moments that we can work against it and try to keep the doors of perception open.Much of this thinking occurs at the level of form. There is a play of vowels and consonants that dances through its own development, leading thought. As the line turns, the poem comes into new information, as a poem should. The sound quality of the central line keeps the image fresh. The straight-forward language of William Hart’s brief poem is a pleasure in itself. Here, judgement is balanced, cynicism avoided or stalled, by an evenness of temper and tone. Much is lost but something is found. The whole poem hinges on “together”, a word that seems to outlast its occasion. In less space than a haiku, we are given the course of a life.

— Thomas A Clark

winter wind
the pond ripples
around itself
     — Michael Henry Lee (USA)
caught on the breeze
scent of the departed
lumber train
     — stephen toft (United Kingdom)
HaikuNow! 2014: Winners in the Contemporary Haiku Category

For a description of this category, see Contemporary Haiku.

First Prize

Cherie Hunter Day

raw umber the hill’s shorthand for want
     — Cherie Hunter Day (USA)
Judge’s Comments

Cherie Hunter Day’s poem resides in the head, both by anthropomorphizing a natural feature by ascribing it both volition and a means of communicating (or at least interpretation), as well as by ascribing to it an abstract condition. At the same time the poem retains an earthy, tactile quality. It is this complex interplay that make this the interesting poem that it is. Many of us encounter “raw umber” early in childhood, in our first large box of crayons, a specific brown especially useful for landscapes. Relating this particularity to the hill draws upon such recollections, and perhaps opens us to what we learn of the hill and its need. And what would a landscape be that called for raw umber? It would be a wasteland, lots of dirt without much revivifying green. It’s an exactitude, which helps the reader accept the abstraction of the hill’s “want:” if the poet is so precise about this color, has noticed so well, then we are inclined to accept that she has noticed the need in equal measure. See how little predisposed we might be had she written simply “brown” or “dirt-colored.” In addition, this poem achieves a distinctiveness, in content and in style. Unlike the vast bulk of submissions to this contest, I was certain I knew who had written this poem before it was confirmed for me. This is a tribute to the poet, since there are few haiku stylists whose work is quite so unmistakeable. The poet also indicates her range with this success: she was First Prize winner in the inaugural (2010) HaikuNow! Contest — in the traditional category.

— Jim Kacian

mostly out of guilt summer solstice
     — Stewart C. Baker (USA)
feel of cold flannel
this knowing
not enough
     — Mark Smith (USA)
Runners-Up Commentary
Stewart Baker’s one-liner works primarily through its clever construction. The phrase “out of guilt” cuts two ways: we perform actions “out of guilt” — that is, when it is guilt we feel — but we can also finally simply run “out of guilt” — that is, have no more of it left, or move beyond it. The poem allows both readings full play, and in fact foregrounds them, making them equally available for our interpretation. This is balanced by “summer solstice,” one of the moments of apotheosis for the year (the other being, of course, the other solstice, in winter), which is the symbol of the fullness of the yearly arc, the moment beyond which the season moves in its opposite way, away from the sun and toward darkness. So the poem marks the moment either of atonement, when the solstice ends the surfeit of summer; or else it is the moment of appeasement, when at last guilt is not what drives us forward, just as the season shifts away from plenitude and toward decay. Mark Smith’s sensory experience — the unsatisfactory result of feeling cold flannel (that is, not as welcoming as one might expect) — sets the context well. The ambiguity of the “knowing” — the end of a relationship? the persistence of winter? the awareness of aging? — opens to all these possibilities and more, and so has a moody vagueness rather than the specificity usually encountered in haiku. And this, too, opens to more, since knowing is not enough — what would be enough? and would it be better not knowing? All kinds of questions raised by these eight words, and not many of them with happy answers.

— Jim Kacian

snow blows into your absence
     — Dietmar Tauchner (Austria)
as though
it bore the answer
I look at my watch
     — William Hart (USA)
HaikuNow! 2014: Winners in the Innovative Haiku Category

For a description of this category, see Innovative Haiku.

First Prize

Joseph Salvatore Aversano

apart from nature,
     — Joseph Salvatore Aversano (Turkey)
Judge’s Comments

Joseph Salvatore Aversano’s “apart from nature,” begs the reader to complete the phrase. But one can hardly do so without realizing that such a completion is a betrayal, not only of one of haiku’s longest held precepts, but of our own being. The poem is expertly gauged, right to the provocative comma that stops us, momentarily, and then releases us to our ruminations. Terse and perfect.

— Jim Kacian


  — Tom Painting (USA)
     — Kevin Goldstein-Jackson (United Kingdom)
Runners-Up Commentary
Tom Painting’s “introvertibrae” is a clever interaction between a striking portmanteau word and its graphic realization, the result of which seems true to some kind of notion or experience — a scoliatic redounding upon itself. The word needs the graphic treatment, and the graphic would be random without the coinage — and so, a perfect symbiosis. Kevin Goldstein-Jackson’s “ha / i / ku” can be read in at least two ways. Following its lineation, it might simply be seen to say “ha, I ‘ku’,” a sassy avowal of his adoption of the genre, and in fact such a minimal expression of it that it can be felt to be a taunt. Even at this first reading it has something of the cautionary about it. But there is more to be found here, I believe. One of our truisms is that, as in “team,” there is no “i” in haiku. But just look, Goldstein-Jackson insists: there it is, smack-dab in the heart of haiku, in fact, central to it. And as in spelliing, so in practice. We can take this to be an imprecation against taking ourselves, and our “truths,” too seriously, or at least to examine them with more care.

— Jim Kacian

     — Philip Rowland (Japan)
drones the year of the horse nebula
     — Deborah P. Kolodji (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.


Thomas A Clark
Jim Kacian


john hawkhead (Traditional)
Don Baird (Contemporary)
Christopher Patchel (Innovative)


Maria Moreno

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