2005 Gem State Writers’ Guild Haiku Contest

I’ve forgotten the details of this small contest, or how results were published or announced. I believe I wrote these comments in April 2005. See also “2006 Gem State Writers’ Guild Haiku Contest,” which I also judged.

In all poems submitted for this contest, the word “moon” serves as the seasonal word (or kigo in Japanese), which indicates autumn in traditional Japanese haiku, unless modified otherwise. I looked for poems that had easy and natural lines, clear, immediate, and objective images based on the five senses, and the two-part juxtapositional structure (kire, or cut, in Japanese) essential to the best haiku.

First Place

            under his hand
        the curve of her hip
          a crescent moon

                —Adelaide McLeod

The shape of the moon echoes the shape of the hip, using the haiku technique of internal comparison between the fundamental two parts of the haiku. The word “under” indicates a grammatical relationship between the first two lines of this poem, and the last line is effectively juxtaposed, shifting away from (yet still “right” and connected to) the first two lines. The images are clear and immediate, the line breaks are clean, the lines natural (not padded or chopped), and the diction is objective and imagistic rather than judgmental, conceptual, or analytical (something that weakened many other entries).

Second Place

        On the moonlit hill
        I scatter his ashes
        the wind changes

                —Ann M. Vycital

The change of the wind mimics what surely must be a psychological change within one’s heart and mind after someone’s passing. Again, clear images, clean line breaks, and immediate and objective imagery.

Third Place

                 the tide rolls in
        breaking against the jetty
             moonbeams scatter

                —Adelaide McLeod

These images, as with the other two top poems, are easy to see, and because haiku is a poem about the five senses (rather than intellectual judgments or conclusions)—recording things as they are rather than how we interpret them—we are allowed to have our own reaction to the images rather than being told what to think or feel.

This contest received 31 poems, from Arvylla Breshears, Joan Gleichman, Joe Glymour, Adelaide McLeod, Frances Reid, Agnes R. Smith, Ann M. Vycital, and unknown (two poems). Thanks to all for entering! The top three winning poems admirably lack judgment and analysis, which haiku best avoids. Thanks for the opportunity to make these selections.
—Michael Dylan Welch, Judge