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Here are the Touchstone Award recipients for 2013. For more information about the Touchstone Awards Series, please see Touchstone Awards for Individual Poems and Touchstone Distinguished Book Awards. For other archives, see Touchstone Archive.

The Touchstone Awards for Individual Poems 2013:

Panelists: Dee Evetts, Paul Miller, Lenard D. Moore, George Swede, and Barbara Ungar. More than 500 poems were nominated. Award recipients are listed below in alphabetical order by author; they are not ranked according to merit. Comments from the panelists give some flavor of the deliberations that have taken place.


nagasaki . . .
in her belly, the sound
of unopened mail
     —Don Baird, 2013 HaikuNow! Contest (The Haiku Foundation)
from the

“Likening birth to unopened mail is a lovely touch. Adding one of the cities that experienced the atomic bomb creates a number of other resonances exploding with meaning.”

“The site of an atomic bomb blast paired with the unachieved (yet to be achieved?) potential of a child. We don’t know if this modern haiku takes place now or in the past, but it works by creating a number of relationships. There is the obvious one between the bomb blast and the loss of life and future of its victims, but also between the actual victims and future humanity. It is a warning whose effect is heightened by the sound—a ripping, tearing sound—of unopened mail.”


overnight the spider's mathematics
     —John Barlow, Robert Spiess Awards (Modern Haiku)
Comments from the

“Simply complex or complexly simple? The image in the poem appears as suddenly and mysteriously as the unnamed web does. Magic. The visual image and the abstraction work together to create another dimension.”


night border crossing—
the elephant calf holds
his mother's tail
     —Sonam Chhoki, Shamrock 26
Comments from the

“The physical border as well as the parent/child border, but precarious at night.”

“. . . implicit contrast between animals’ natural connection to one another and humanity’s irrational drawing of boundary lines, and the superior animals’ ignoring the silliness of humankind.


washed up body
the one who moves
toward it
     —Mike Dillon, Modern Haiku 44.3
Comments from the

“The first line compels the reader’s attention. The second heightens the tension by focusing on an onlooker. The third provides only one detail— he/she is going to the victim, not away. The reader is left to imagine this person’s motives and subsequent actions.”

“Genuinely dark haiku are a rarity. This has psychological depth, holding out the possibility that the person taking the lead here may be the least expected to do so.”

“It isn’t until the third line that a narrative begins, one in which the unnamed second body starts toward the first. Is it to offer help? To pull it further ashore for inspection by police? In a less literal reading, the second body is all of us moving toward the inevitable.”


sand dune    the width of the wind
     —Harry Frentz, Jeanette Stace Memorial Awards (New Zealand Poetry Society)
Comments from the

“I love the notion of measuring wind, not the way weathermen do—in miles per hour, or force—but in space, its effect.”

“Mysterious, simple, concise, evocative, elusive, and lovely sounding.”


overcast morning
the road worker's gaze
on southbound geese
     —Ferris Gilli, Acorn 31
Comments from the

“A whimsical, snapshot effect helped by the specificity of “overcast” and “southbound” and the fact that it is the road worker gazing. Or, is the road worker the poet?”


prenuptial contract
fish bones neatly spaced
on white china
     —Ron C. Moss, Acorn 30
Comments from the

“A subtly enigmatic scene, the carefully placed fish bones being suggestive of a personality, or equally of some underlying tension. And then a twist at the end: who gets the china?”

“Appropriately chilling image and precise juxtaposition: the future of the (dead) marriage implied by the pre-nup contract equates to the devoured fish left behind on the sterile plate. Or, is the same control-freak behind both the prenup and the neatly placed bones?”


silence of snow
we listen to the house
grow smaller
     —John Parsons, Frogpond 36:2
Comments from the

“The falling snow is actually making the house larger on the outside, but inside, there is a growing claustrophobia. Using the sense of hearing to express this feeling catches the reader off-guard in an expansive way.”

“The first two lines are so quiet and uneventful that is might be easy to stop reading altogether if this was a longer poem. There is a preciousness to it. But then the third line subverts that, and reveals a needed foil, a dark side, by placing man in contrast to the power of nature. This smallness before nature, before something larger, is a part of winter.”


Shortlist (in alphabetic order)

august mist
the magnificence
of thought
     —Ernest J. Berry, Polish International Haiku Competition
gale-force wind
a bird's nest becomes
what it was
     —Alan S. Bridges, IHS International Haiku Competition
cubist lesson . . .
I look at my cat
     —Dawn Bruce, Shamrock 26

dysle,xia s, Sp,ring. fever
     —Metod Češek, Modern Haiku 44.3
cold snap—
a sparrow flicks its tail
of snowflakes
     —Marion Clarke, Shamrock 25
purple clematis . . .
changing her wardrobe
into summer
     —Anne Curran, Shamrock 26
Father's Day . . .
the weight of his hammer
that never fit my hand
     —Michael L. Evans, Francine Porad Memorial Haiku Contest
waiting for the blossoms
the birds are still up
the magician's sleeve
     —Marco Fraticelli, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Contest
   intensive care
the plant's last leaf
      hangs on
     —Scott Glander, Mayfly 54
the love we once shared
in the phone book
a hundred of you
     —Kate Godsey, Chrysanthemum 14
Memorial Day
I paint each fingernail
a different color
     —Carolyn Hall, A Hundred Gourds 3.1
some part of me
still wild
     —Annette Makino, tinywords 13.2
no escaping
this moonlight—
     —Scott Mason, Harold G. Henderson Haiku Contest (Haiku Society of America)
morning fog
when my embryo . . .
had gills
     —Tyrone McDonald, The Heron's Nest 15.1
fire duty
the newly ironed shirt
still warm
     —Ron C. Moss, The Heron's Nest 15.1
a meteor flares—
the scrape of a tailpipe
throwing sparks
     —Chad Lee Robinson, Mariposa 29
humid evening—
the census taker's
arched eyebrows
     —Sandra Simpson, Kokako 19
southbound birds the loop of identity
     —Dietmar Tauchner, Kusamakura Haiku Contest (City of Kusamakura, Japan)
breaching whale
the time between too soon
and too late
     —Julie Warther, Polish International Haiku Competition
orange blossom
lifting her niqab
just enough
     —Sarah Winteridge, Modern Haiku 44.2
a blue coffin
one nail escapes
the solar system
     —Peter Yovu, Roadrunner 13.1

The Touchstone Distinguished Book Awards 2013:

Panelists: Francine Banwarth, Stuart Quine, Chad Lee Robinson, Alexis Rotella, Peter Yovu

83 book-length works were submitted. Award Recipients and Honorable Mentions are listed in alphabetical order by title. Titles and authors are followed by publisher information.

burns book
Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku, edited by Allan Burns
Snapshot Press, Ormskirk, UK
available here
Comments from the Panel
In the introduction to his broad and lovingly curated collection of nature-based haiku, editor Allan Burns states his intention: to “isolate an important and readily identifiable strand of English-Language haiku for in-depth representation, study, and reevaluation. . . .” Though he has limited his choices to haiku which derive from the nature tradition, Burns makes it clear that he is not setting them apart as better than other haiku, those which may not refer to the natural world. Readers may nonetheless find themselves re-evaluating, or at least curious about, the various directions English language haiku has taken.“Undeniably,” he writes, “haiku in recent years has witnessed a kind of anthropocentric creep that mirrors an accelerating alienation of humans from the natural world.”An overview of the nature tradition in haiku beginning with Basho and extending through modern poets writing in English; thoughts on how nature has been viewed in the West; ample selections from the work of forty poets with thoughtful, helpful, and sometimes surprising introductio
ns to each, should all go a long way toward the fulfillment of Burns’ intention for Where the River Goes.As he notes, it was Thoreau who said: “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” In selecting work whose authors turn their attention to the wild, and for whom the natural world, at least sometimes, is something more than a background for a self-portrait, Burns has offered a fresh and gently challenging look at the nature tradition in English language haiku.

Searching on the wind,
   the hawk’s cry
       is the shape of its beak.
               —James W. Hackett
     river's song
     a wounded turtle
     slips into it
                    —Marian Olson
the lake they drained
amber eyes
of the osprey
               —Allan Burns


apology moon
by Cherie Hunter Day
Red Moon Press, Winchester VA, USA
available here
Comments from the Panel
Perfect bound, with an attractive cover and sixty poems arranged one per page, apology moon is the second haiku collection by Cherie Hunter Day.Trained as a biologist, Day’s scientific background brings precision to her poetry. The majority of the haiku are nature-orientated, with her inner life often finding expression and correspondence in the phenomena of the natural world. While many outwardly conform to an orthodox format—three lines with a caesura at the end of the first or second line—it is the innovative and intriguing juxtapositions that set them apart from the merely formulaic. Others employ some of the disjunctive strategies articulated by Richard Gilbert. A subtle blend of tones and colors and a broad range of themes make this a very satisfying collection, a welcome addition to the shelves of any haiku enthusiast.

the necessary roughness
of blackberries
     new litter of kittens—
     the missing rung
     on the hayloft ladder
intertidal zone turning over my options


The Disjunctive Dragonfly: A New Approach to English-Language Haiku
 by Richard Gilbert
Red Moon Press, Winchester VA, USA
available here
Comments from the Panel
Evolution is the key to vitality and longevity. While we honor and celebrate tradition, we invite and welcome innovation in the genre of English-language haiku. Since the first publication of his essay “The Disjunctive Dragonfly” (2004), Richard Gilbert has continued to analyze and update his study of disjunctive strategies/techniques in the art of English-language haiku composition. These strategies and techniques do not dismiss but, rather, expand the elements of traditional haiku practice, such as juxtaposition and kireji. The “new voices” in ELH are vibrant, at times challenging, but Gilbert demonstrates that haiku can reach beyond shasei and realism into a deeper realm of poetic power. In this edition he discusses 7 new disjunctive types, in addition to his original 17, and offers a generous sampling of 275 poems by some of today’s finest practitioners who illustrate disjunctive techniques through a variety of topics, styles, and approaches. With this publication we recognize and celebrate the possibilities for the future of English-language haiku.

sap rising he imagines me completely
               —Melissa Allen
     never touching
     his own face
                    —John Stevenson
inside a bat’s ear
a rose
opens to a star
               —Eve Luckring
     at the edge of the universe a two-way mirror
                    —George Swede
lunar landing shipwreck of my slave name
               —Tyrone McDonald
     In fields       the purple
     flower whorls      careful
     eternity’s       from here
                    —Rebecca Lilly


kacian book
Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years
edited by Jim Kacian, Allan Burns and Philip Rowland
W. W. Norton & Company, New York, USA
available here
Comments from the Panel
Haiku in English is a challenging yet energizing mix of haiku and poets spanning one hundred years of English-language haiku. This beautifully produced hardcover comes with an introduction by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, an “Editors’ Foreword” that goes over some of the editorial decisions, the excellent essay “An Overview of Haiku in English” by Jim Kacian discussing the history and development of ELH that also includes brief bios of some of today’s finest practitioners, and an “Index of Poets and Credits.”Editors Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland and Allan Burns have assembled more than 600 haiku from 235 authors and arranged them chronologically by author rather than alphabetically to show the development of ELH through the haiku themselves. Rather than choose the very best of ELH, the editors chose those haiku that “emphasized each poet’s contribution to the genre, how much s/he brought to it that others could then adopt for their own work.” This decision has created quite a stir among haiku poets, who is and isn’t present, what poems are and aren’t present, and so has the inclusion of poets who are not known for haiku. However, the editors have created an anthology that shows just how rich, varied and complex the history of ELH is. While Haiku in English answers some questions, it raises others, but most importantly it will act as a catalyst for further discussion and debate. It’s uncertain where poets will take ELH in the next hundred years. What is certain is that Haiku in English will inform the course of ELH for years to come.

end of the line
the conductor starts turning
the seats around
               —Cor van den Heuvel
           visible lilacs
        shaped by
     invisible lilacs
                    —Robert Boldman
why and
why not
               —Rajiv Lather


A Five-Balloon Morning
by Charles Trumbull
Red Mountain Press, Santa Fe NM, USA
 available here
Comments from the Panel
A Five-Balloon Morning is a well-crafted chapbook that fits comfortably in the hand. The feel of the what-could-be recycled pages serve well as a collection of haiku and senryu that captures the energy of the New Mexico landscape as well as the man who grew up there:

farmers market
the Indian corn seller's
snaggletoothed smile
     Hopi silversmith
     teaches his son
     to make a chain
small-town cafe
a special tip for the waitress
named Destiny

In a world that is becoming more and more whitewashed it’s a pleasure to read this collection, full of surprises, calling attention to not just the landscape but the characters who people it.

grass hill country
a boy rides bareback
over red earth



Honorable Mentions

    • Christopher Patchel Turn Turn (Red Moon Press, Winchester VA, USA) available here


This year’s Touchstone nominations included a number of fine personal collections, along with the awarded anthologies and longer works of haiku discourse. Christopher Patchel’s Turn Turn is one that rose to the top of our awards list. With the eye of a perfectionist and careful attention to detail, Patchel explores the theme of time marked not only by clock and calendar, but also through personal experiences measured by the heart. The quality on the outside and inside of this collection deserves commendation, with an attractive cover design by Patchel followed by four well-developed sections of 115 haiku and senryu, a pair of haibun, and two sequences. Using just-the-right words and careful precision Patchel conveys single moments of perception with an acute sense of honesty and connection to the essence of things as they are.

a hot shower . . .
finding the note
that resonates
     summer’s end
     the weight of my body
     out of the water
we turn turn our clocks ahead
    • Paul Pfleuger, Jr. a Zodiac (Red Moon Press, Winchester VA, USA  available here


a Zodiac is the first full length collection by Paul Pflueger, Jr. It includes an introduction by Jack Galmitz as well as cover art and illustrations by the author. This volume includes 51 of Pflueger’s genre-stretching haiku, from one-liners to three-liners, even some vertical and organic haiku, a nice variety that keeps the reader on her toes. The haiku are divided into four sections that have more to do with the content of the haiku, a much better arrangement that adds layers of meaning to the haiku that may have been lost with seasonal divisions. Included are many of the author’s
most well-known haiku, these two for example:

a darkness so deep

I am surrounded

by gold beetles

in the incandescence let me let me read me to you

One of the best things about the haiku in a Zodiac is the language. Pfleuger is skilled at choosing words that are loaded with multiple meanings, and is equally skilled at positioning them in the right place within the haiku. More examples:

in the full stop of red engines ago

bling holla milking the hour glass object

Pfleuger is working on and around the edges of what haiku can be, resulting in haiku that are challenging yet engaging. The reader is expected to be a co-creator, and will be rewarded for his patience. For anyone interested in new directions for haiku.


Complete Shortlist

  • Burns, Allan, ed. Where the River Goes/i> (Snapshot Press)
  • Carter, Steven The Distances of Sleep (Alba Publishing)
  • Colón, Carlos Haiku Elvis: A Life in 17 Syllables (or Less) (Laughing Cactus Press)
  • Day, Cherie Hunter apology moon (Red Moon Press)
  • Harter, Penny The Resonance Around Us (Mountains & Rivers Press)
  • Gilbert, Richard The Disjunctive Dragonfly (Red Moon Press)
  • Kacian, Jim & Allan Burns & Philip Rowland, eds. Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton & Co.)
  • Martone, John Bheid (Samuddo/Ocean)
  • Martone, John Perleromeq (Samuddo/Ocean)
  • Muirhead, Marsh Her Cold Martini (The Island Journal Press)
  • Patchel, Christopher Turn Turn (Red Moon Press)
  • Pfleuger Jr., Paul A Zodiac/i> (Red Moon Press)
  • Stensland, Lucas Fun Again (Yet to be Named Free Press)
  • Trumbull, Charles A Five-Balloon Morning (Red Mountain Press)
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