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Here are the Touchstone Award recipients for 2014. 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 2014


  • Carolyn Hall
  • Eve Luckring
  • Lenard D. Moore
  • George Swede
  • Barbara Ungar
  • Diane Wakoski

Nearly 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.


tendrils of crabgrass                                                   
in every direction
that one lie
     — Susan Antolin, Mariposa 30
“. . . an almost perfect haiku syllabically, until the third line when the poet makes a brilliant New Formalist’ choice – giving the third line only 3 one syllable words, which become a forceful fulfillment of the crabgrass trope and illuminate the image. Perfectly chosen word, “tendrils,” foreshadows the revelation, emphasizing that small defections from the truth result in the terrible spread of this weed.”

“This is a poem in which the middle line works perfectly as a pivot. Both crabgrass and that one small lie spread out in every direction. We expect the crabgrass’s relentless reach, but we fool ourselves into thinking one white lie can’t cause much damage. This poet has discovered otherwise.”

“Although it is never explicitly mentioned, this haiku evokes suburbia for me. Crabgrass is grown for forage and has served as a food source in several parts of the world; however, as demonstrated in my google listings, crabgrass is commonly referenced as a nuisance in regard to eradicating it from lawns and controlling its spread. And so it is with a lie. Once a lie is released, (e.g. crabgrass is a bad weed) there is no telling how it might propagate. Like crabgrass, a lie can be invasive, pervasive, and resilient. A lie often points to what we would like reality to be– the ideal manicured lawn, versus what it is — a lawn patchy with crabgrass. Perhaps the idea of suburbia itself — as a manifestation of our yearnings for safety and comfort, as well as an expression of the human inclination to control — is rooted in a kind of denial that can easily surface as we pursue our desires and try to make our dreams come true.”

the widow’s blinds
part slightly
     — Chuck Brickley, Mariposa 31
“With the first line, the reader is momentarily misdirected to an upbeat scene. The lines that follow snap one back to the reality of a grieving widow not quite ready to meet the world without her spouse at her side. But she is taking tentative steps, daring to peek out from behind closed blinds. And what does she see? Forsythia! A hopeful poem after all.”
the long night . . .
an old woman's loneliness
follows me home
     — Karen Cesar, Modern Haiku 45.3
“How great is the distance between the poet and the loneliness that follows her home? What gives this poem its power is the assumption that the old woman’s loneliness resides within the poet. Placing this poem in winter reinforces the fear of loneliness that dogs this aging woman.”
night time
in the hospice aquarium
the pulse of fish gills
     — Joyce Clement, The Heron’s Nest XVII:2
“What i striking about this poem is what is unmentioned, i.e., the gills slits that are (mistakenly) believed to form temporarily in a developing fetus. Since this is a belief held by many, the poem brackets the full expanse of life from conception to death. Also, of course, the pulsing of fish gills epitomizes life in this place where one goes to die.”

“. . . its universal subject matter and imagery touched many of us”

“This “night time” haiku is original; it unfolds with the setting; it also conjures the concept of less activity, especially in the hospice.  Then, too, there is assonance of the seven i’s. In addition, there is the movement of the “fish gills” that “pulse” in the “aquarium” in the second line. More importantly, the specificity strengthens this poem, particularly in the pivot line or second line and the last line or third line. Of course, the first line is specific, too.  What about all of the concrete details? However, quietness settles on the night and in the hospice. The reader knows that someone is being nursed and comforted. The reader also knows that there is the upkeep of the fish.  What about the limited amount of time for the person or people in hospice?  Like the fish gills, this “night time” haiku has a fluid rhythm. Yet, the emotional appeal lingers. How this poem stays with the reader.”

“. . . ‘time’ governs all that is said or alluded to. The time left in one’s life, the time of closure, the timed world of the contained hospice ward, which like the tank/aquarium holds the beat (timing) or pulse of life of which very little is left. There is also an allusion to evolution or time, passed through history to arrive at humankind, in saying “pulse of fish gills,” reminding us that once in embryonic state we too had gills. Time is the umbrella or trope of the whole poem . . .”

“Do you want me?”                                               
she whispers, and turns
to leaves
     — David McCann, Acorn 32
“I don’t know how anyone can resist the pun on leaves. Picturing a lover, whom the poet refers to Daphne, the naiad who was turned into a tree to escape the salacious advances of Apollo, the poem presents the view of Apollo, in this case an ordinary man, whose seduction fails.”

“What I find remarkable about this haiku is the surprise in its turn, which takes place in the very last letter of the last word of the haiku: we expect the word “leave,” but the additional “s” overturns our expectations, as it turns verb to noun, and seems to allude to Daphne turning into a laurel tree or some other metamorphosis. There is magic in it.”

Shortlist (in alphabetic order by author)
autumn sky
only one of us
     —Melissa Allen, Frogpond 37:1 
tendrils of crabgrass
in every direction
that one lie
     —Susan Antolin, Mariposa 30 (Spring/Summer 2014) 
the sky turns to snow
          what to name
the heroine
     —Francine Banwarth, Modern Haiku 45.2 
the widow’s blinds
part slightly
     —Chuck Brickley, Mariposa 31 (Autumn/Winter 2014) 
sine wave
a purple finch
does the math
     —Alan S. Bridges, The Heron’s Nest 2XVII.4 
the long night...
an old woman's loneliness
follows me home
     —Karen Cesar, Modern Haiku 45.3
dandelion fluff —
the weight of his army
burial flag
     —Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă, cattails May 2014, UHTS Contests 
night time
in the hospice aquarium
the pulse of fish gills
     —Joyce Clement, The Heron’s Nest XVII.2 
suburban street . . .
side by side in a bookcase
the tight-shut tales
     —Jan Dobb, Kokako 21 
clapping erasers
all my wisdom
turned to dust
     —George G. Dorsty, bottle rockets 30 
empty park
two crows start
the world over
     —Robert Epstein, Acorn 33
global warming —
my cycles
closer together
     —Seren Fargo, Modern Haiku 45.1
gingko leaves
my father rotating his pen
over a legal pad
     —Michael Fessler, bottle rockets 30
     —Jeff Hoagland, tinywords 14.2
his promised
paper airplane 
     —Yvette Kolodji, The Heron’s Nest XVII.2
trailer park
never enough shade
for the chained dogs
     —Burnell Lippy, The Heron’s Nest XVII.3
     —paul m., Mariposa 31
in and out
of the pumpkin's smile
. . . a spider
     —Carole MacRury, Shiki Kukai, October 2014
petition for divorce
the period
in every sentence
     —Anna Mazurkiewicz, Prune Juice 12
“Do you want me?”
she whispers, and turns
to leaves
     —David McCann, Acorn 32 
ice fishing
my father tries to catch
his breath
     —John McManus, Mayfly 57
old horses
days of endless rain
in their eyes                             
     —Ron C. Moss, The Heron’s Nest XVII.4
afternoon rain
emptying a book
of its words
     —Peter Newton, Frogpond 37:3
if glass breaks easily a bird
     —John Stevenson, Frogpond 37:1 
whale song
I become
an empty boat
     —Michelle Tennison, Acorn 32
home from war
we ease out
the champagne corks
     —Lew Watts, The Heron’s Nest XVII.2
sleep’s episiotomy you slip out
     —Peter Yovu, Frogpond 37:3
birdsong broken into war bling
     —Peter Yovu, is/let December 1
words furred over my awkward animal toward you now
     —Peter Yovu, NOON: journal of the short poem 2014


The Touchstone Distinguished Books Award 2014


  • Cherie Hunter Day
  • Stuart Quine
  • Chad Lee Robinson
  • Alexis Rotella
  • Peter Yovu

Some 65 books were nominated. Award recipients are listed in alphabetical order by title, not according to merit. Selected comments from the panelists give some flavor of the deliberations that have taken place.


by John Stevenson
Red Moon Press, Winchester, VA, USA
available here
“John Stevenson’s fifth publication is a stunning read. The old saying, “You can’t tell a book by its cover” doesn’t hold true here. The title d(ark) alludes to the rather dark quality of the poems, not a book I would pick up when I’m in the midst of depression, but one to study for the clarity of language and in understanding what contemporary haiku is all about and where it’s headed (even though tanka and haibun are included). This collection gets us to think, to stretch the brain cells a little bit further, as in



the strange smell
of someone else’s
it smells like
coming home alone
“When I first read d(ark) I knew others would also consider it a winner, too.”    
Haiku 2014
by Lee Gurga and Scott Metz (editors)
Modern Haiku Press, Lincoln, IL, USA
available here
“Lee Gurga and Scot Metz, editors of Haiku 2014, asked a simple question with complex undertones: “what can haiku be?” The question, of course, dwells in possibility: it is tinged with future, as: what do the haiku which interest us most tell us about the new directions the form is beginning to take? But it is also grounded in the vibrant present, a question a child might ask upon coming across a strange creature for the first time: what is it?

“The choices made give readers rich opportunity to explore this question for themselves: one hundred haiku which in various ways shine as both living objects and as potential. Some readers will reflect on how the spirit of innovation has affected those who write from a traditional standpoint;  others may look for the influence of contemporary poetry on haiku; and yet others may simply look at how one hundred different writers have taken up the challenge of creating poetry from a handful of words.”

columbine, by any other name
     —David Caruso
this morning
it takes the iris to open
     —Michele Root-Bernstein
just please how to forgive spring rain
     —Michelle Tennison


The Bone Carver
by Ron C. Moss
Snapshot Press, Ormskirk, UK
available here
“Perfect bound with an attractive cover and the high production values characteristic of all Snapshot Press publications, The Bone Carver contains ninety-eight haiku and is the first solo collection by Ron Moss. Vivid and assured, its extensive range includes many nature-orientated haiku, together with others that are more human-centred. A number reflect his experiences as a volunteer firefighter with the Tasmania Fire Service (for which he has received the Tasmania Fire Service Volunteer Medal and the National Medal). All are informed by the clarity and precision of his other pursuits as a renowned artist and haiga maker, and often implicitly by his long-standing practice of Zen Buddhism. Avoiding minimalism and the orthodoxy of ‘less is more,’ the haiku are lean yet deeply sufficient. A combination of humour, humanity, keen perception and occasional intimations of deep time, make for an engaging and very satisfying collection.

“In these times of ecocide and a headlong rush towards catastrophe, these haiku, in their quiet way, provide moments of release and an important contribution to the forces of resistance.”

   early hours . . .
the swirl of a brush
   loaded with ink
   simmering rhubarb
mother plays ragtime
   on broken keys
   starry night . . .
what’s left of my life
   is enough

“How blessed we are, when we know enough is enough.”


Honorable Mentions
Alone on a Wild Coast
by Renée Owen
Snapshot Press, Ormskirk, UK
available here
Alone on a Wild Coast is Renée Owen’s first full-length collection, and the manuscript won the prestigious Snapshot Press Book Award. This beautifully designed collection contains 50 individual haiku, 12 haibun, and 2 page-long haiku sequences. Many of the pieces have previously won top awards in haiku and haibun contests. Drawing from her work as a psychotherapist, Owen hones in on her inner landscape, finding apt imagery to convey her emotions in the nature surrounding her northern California home.

alpine lake
sounds of an oak
in the woodpecker’s tap 

“The collection is steeped in sorrow as she minister to a close friend who loses her battle with cancer. In this shifting emotional territory Owen portrays this emptiness with stunning accuracy. 

sea kelp at dawn
I try to tell her
she won’t die 

“Each moment is precious. But rather than shutting down, Owen looks deeply into that struggle to find beauty. There is such plenty here. It’s a needed reminder to look for celebration everywhere.

picking figs
the weight of their soft flesh
fills my palm

“She reiterates the sharp contrast between shadow and light but remains open to both.”

sun blind
the scent of roses still
in her line-dried sheets


alone on a wild coast twilight takes me
Ethiopian Time
by Bob Lucky
Red Bird Chap Books, St. Paul, MN, USA
available here
“Bob Lucky’s Ethiopian Time Is a lovely haibun chapbook, just the right size to slip into a pocket or purse, to read while waiting in a doctor’s office for instance. The subject matter is engaging and informative. Living in a third-world country and putting up with all the inconveniences is well worth it when one writes like Bob Lucky. Here’s one example to take in:

What a Wild Weekend Now Means

Exercise is too grand a word for this stroll we take around the school’s track. Hawks circle overhead, dozens of them, and higher up I spot an eagle,its white breast an occasional glint in the fading light. The moon hangs like a medallion above an acacia tree. We’ve lost count of
the laps.

     shadows merge
     the grunt of mating

“We are lucky to have Bob’s ongoing offerings and I for one am grateful to have this charming book. I’m also glad to live where I do.”

micro haiku three to nine syllables
by George Swede
Inspress, Toronto, ON, Canada
available here
micro haiku contains 101 of George Swede’s haiku, three to nine syllables in length, composed between 1977 and 2013, and arranged according to the date of composition rather than publication. According to the back cover, the author’s intent with this collection is to “help to dispel the notion that a haiku should have 17 syllables written in three lines.” While this collection does that with ease, it does much more. This book presents itself as a study of how short a haiku can be and still be successful. Swede does this using a number of techniques: irony, personification, comparison and contrast, to name only a few, with haiku written mostly in one or three lines, a couple two-liners and even a vertical composition. On the other hand, one can read this collection as a retrospective of sorts, with a focus on Swede’s snappiest haiku. And every one of these poems bears the hallmarks haiku poets have come to know and love about this author’s work. However the reader chooses to approach this collection, one comes away with a deeper appreciation for the capabilities and versatility of haiku. Beginner and veteran haiku poets will find much to savor and study in micro haiku.”

snowflakes     bricks


at both ends


the stars as close as my eyes


Complete Shortlist
  • Cooper, Bill overtones (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press)
  • Crocket, Elizabeth Not Like Fred and Ginger (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press)
  • Epstein, Robert What My Niece Said in My Head (West Union, WV: Middle Island Press)
  • Gay, Garry (editor) One Song (San Francisco: Two Autumns Press)
  • Grayson, David (editor) The Half-finished Bridge (San Francisco: Two Autumns Press)
  • Gurga, Lee and Scott Metz (editors) Haiku 2014 (Lincoln, IL: Modern Haiku Press)
  • Hotham, Gary (editor) Take-out Window: The Haiku Society of America Members' Anthology 2014 (New York: Haiku Society of America)
  • Lilly, Rebecca Elements of a Life (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press)
  • Lucky, Bob Ethiopian Time (St. Paul, MN: Red Bird Chap Books)
  • Martone, John bagworm (Charleston, IL: Samuddo/Ocean)
  • Moss, Ron C. The Bone Carver (Ormskirk, UK: Snapshot Press)
  • Owen, Renée Alone on a Wild Coast (Ormskirk, UK: Snapshot Press)
  • Shea, Martin Until We Were Night: Selected Poems 1V (Los Angeles: Lembeth Hall)
  • Stevenson, John d(ark) (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press)
  • Swede, George micro haiku three to nine syllables (Toronto, ON: Inspress)
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