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New to Haiku: Teen Corner – Haiku Contests for Teens (March – June 2021)

Haiku contests can be a fun way to challenge yourself when writing haiku. There are several haiku contests with upcoming deadlines specifically for teens or with categories for teens. I found most of these on the New Zealand Poetry Society’s Contests, Publications & Groups page, which is a fantastic resource. (We also have a Contests and Awards section in The Haiku Foundation’s Forum. Feel free to post details about your favorite haiku contests!)

Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition

  • Sponsored by: Nick Virgilio Haiku Association and the Haiku Society of America (HSA)
  • Deadline: March 22, 2021 (Tomorrow!)
  • Ages: Any student in grades 7 through 12 enrolled in school as of September 2020.
  • Theme: Any
  • Rules: The full rules can be found here, along with a link to the online entry form. Submit up to three unpublished haiku per student. No simultaneous submissions. (See Julie’s tips at the bottom to learn more about common requirements for contest entries.)
  • Prizes: Six poems will be selected and published in Frogpond and on the HSA website. Each winning student will be awarded a scholarship prize of $100; the high school of each student winner will receive a one-year subscription to Frogpond.
  • Entry fee: None, although donations are welcome.
  • Julie’s Note: Forgot what a senryu is? Check out last week’s New to Haiku post.

First Yūgen International Haiku Contest

  • Sponsored by: “Colonel Constantin Langa” Secondary School in Miroslava, Iași, Romania & Miroslava City Hall
  • Deadline: March 31, 2021
  • Ages: 17 years and under (There is a separate category for adults.)
  • Theme: A simple life, close to nature. Don’t submit poems relating to the Covid-19 pandemic (masks, vaccines, etc.).
  • Rules: Haiku should be in 3 lines, in English or French, with a syllable structure close to 5/7/5. The full rules can be found here. Submit one unpublished haiku using the online entry form. No simultaneous submissions.
  • Prizes: Three teen poets will be awarded diplomas and each will receive a copy of the contest anthology.
  • Entry fee: None.
  • Julie’s Note: I don’t know much about this contest since it’s brand new. But I think it’s awesome that a high school is sponsoring a haiku contest.

Haiku Society of Constanta Contest

  • Sponsored by: The Haiku Society of Constanta in Romania
  • Deadline: May 15, 2021
  • Ages: 7 – 19 years (There is a separate category for adults and poems by adults should be sent to a different email.)
  • Theme: The raging sea, in remembrance of the Fukushima nuclear disaster ten years ago.
  • Rules: Haiku should be in 3 lines, with a short-long-short syllable structure. The full rules can be found here. Submit two unpublished haiku. Write your haiku in the body of the email, stating your city and country. Email your haiku to: danivarvara@yahoo.com stating the age and the class of the child, and the name of the teacher. No simultaneous submissions.
  • Prizes: Diplomas for first through third place, and up to 10 commendations.
  • Entry fee: None.
  • Julie’s Note: That is a heavy topic for a haiku contest. Don’t be intimidated! Let the topic sit in your mind for awhile and write from your heart.

New Zealand Poetry Society Haiku Junior Contest

  • Sponsored by: The New Zealand Poetry Society
  • Deadline: May 31, 2021
  • Ages: 17 years or younger as of contest deadline (There is a separate category for adults.)
  • Theme: Any
  • Rules: There are separate pages of rules for individual poets and for school groups. Online entry only – details can be found here. There are separate entry forms for individual students and for school groups. Poems must be unpublished and no simultaneous submissions.
  • Prizes: Three secondary school students will win $NZ50. (Primary and intermediate school students are in a separate category.) One poet from the entire junior contest will win $NZ100. There may be up to 20 commendations. All entries are eligible to be to be published in the contest anthology.
  • Entry fee: $1 (in NZ dollars) per haiku.
  • Julie’s Note: Teachers get a discount on entry fees for groups of ten (student) poems.

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival (VCBF) Haiku Invitational

  • Sponsored by: Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel Ltd.
  • Deadline: June 1, 2021
  • Ages:  17 years and under for the Youth category. (There are separate categories for adults.)
  • Theme: Cherry blossoms
  • Rules: The online entry form is here. You may enter two unpublished haiku.
  • Prizes: Top poems will be read by celebrities at the festival and will be published in the Haiku Canada newsletter, posted to the VCBF website, and appear in the newsletter of the Haiku Society of America.
  • Entry fee: None.
  • Julie’s Note: It amazes me how many different ways people can describe cherry blossoms! Even though this is the theme, you don’t have to use these exact words – cherry blossoms – in your haiku. Check out prior winners here.

A few tips if you are new to haiku contests:

Follow the contest directions exactly. If the contest rules state that they want haiku with a 5/7/5 syllable pattern or that the poems need to be in 3 lines, be sure to submit that.

Be wary of contests (and publications) that want all rights to your work. All rights means exactly that – once you’ve submitted the poem, it belongs to the contest or publication and you can’t submit it anywhere else.

Most contests want unpublished work. Contests (and publications) have different definitions of unpublished.  Often, this means poems that haven’t been posted anywhere, not even a blog or social media site. Read this section of the rules carefully if your poem has appeared in public.

Many contests also don’t want you to submit the same poem elsewhere until judging is over. Usually they will specify this in the rules by requiring “no simultaneous submissions.”

If the contest has an entry fee, any prize money ideally should far exceed the entry fee

Good luck!

Julie Bloss Kelsey

Julie Bloss Kelsey is the current Secretary of The Haiku Foundation. She started writing haiku in 2009, after discovering science fiction haiku (scifaiku). She lives in Maryland with her husband and kids. Julie's first book of poetry, The Call of Wildflowers, is available for free online through Title IX Press. Connect with her on Twitter @MamaJoules.

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