Museum of Haiku Literature Awards:
A Retrospective Selection

First published in Frogpond 40:2, Spring/Summer 2017, pages 85–94. Originally written in May of 2017. A PDF version of this essay is also available on the Haiku Society of America website.

The Haiku Society of America is rich with traditions. One of these traditions, worth celebrating with Frogpond’s fortieth anniversary in 2017, is the Museum of Haiku Literature Award, which has sought to recognize the best contribution to each issue of Frogpond, as selected by the HSA executive committee. The award began in 1981 by honoring the following poem by Tadashi Kondō from Frogpond 4:1:

hoping the shape

of the navel will be good

father cuts the cord

Since then, selections have included mostly individual haiku, but also tanka, haiku sequences, and renku or other linked verse. Each award has included a cash prize of $100. Total prize money has now exceeded $12,000, with funding provided by the Museum of Haiku Literature in Tokyo—a place well worth a visit if you ever have the chance. The Haiku Society of America and its members are grateful for this ongoing support.

Some Museum of Haiku Literature Award selections have remained memorable, others less so. Either way, they reflect the changing tastes and perspectives of HSA leadership, and may serve as a microcosm of English-language haiku development over the last several decades, as the following selections indicate (one selection per year, except as noted). The award continues to encourage the submission of each person’s best poems for publication in Frogpond. Long may this tradition continue.


hot rock by the stream

each of the baby’s toeprints


Ruth Yarrow

This poem is 5-7-5, though completely natural. Frogpond had by this time largely moved on from the predominance of 5-7-5 syllables found in early English-language haiku journals (the first such journal was American Haiku, which started in 1963, and Frogpond started in 1978).


the old garden fence

now keeps the goldenrod

from the goldenrod

Paul O. Williams


Against his coat

I brush my lips—

the silence of snowflakes

Alexis Kaye Rotella


The sound of scissors

through quilt stuffing:

chill autumn moon

David LeCount


The family gathered—

a tear of embalming fluid runs

from my brother’s eye

George Swede


a steady rain

the dentist’s drill

turning to snow

Jane Reichhold


still in the taste

of afternoon tea,

my grandmother’s brogue

Jerry Kilbride


snow geese

Sarah discovers

the letter V

James Minor

The year 1988 saw the first selection of sequences for the Museum of Haiku Literature Award. In fact, each issue that year honored a sequence and an individual haiku, a practice that continued through 1992 for a total of five years.


gone from the woods

the bird I knew

by song alone

Paul O. Williams

This selection is one of the classics of English-language haiku. It was written as a memorial poem for Nicholas Virgilio, who had died in January of 1989. Paul had never met Nick, but knew him only by the “song” of his poems in haiku journals.


Into old pots and pans

thrown out in the backyard—

the musical rain

Tom Tico

In 1990 a sequence of tanka was selected, as was a renku, both for the first time. Back then, there were no separate journals for tanka, and thus tanka were welcomed in Frogpond. But later, with the emergence of various tanka journals, starting with Five Lines Down in 1994, and my founding of the Tanka Society of America in 2000, tanka came to be excluded from Frogpond.


in a backyard

two women folding sunlight

into sheets

Sandra Fuhringer

One highlight from 1991 was the selection of a hundred-verse renku—something that has rarely been attempted in English. This renku was “Green-a-Glitter,” led by Hiroaki Sato, with twelve other writers.


falling leaves

day by day

the house grows brighter

Peter Duppenthaler

The year 1992 also saw the selection of “Windswept Walk,” a kasen renku by thirty-six different participants, which I started. My calculation, in those days before everyone emailed, was that this renku traveled at least 32,000 miles by postal mail before it was completed, even though it stayed entirely within North America.


the petals scatter

over graves swept

and unswept

Kohjin Sakamoto


bird shadow

from tree shadow

to fence shadow

Christopher Herold


leaving the park—

glimpses of cherry petals

on the soles of shoes

Ebba Story


spring planting

her refusal

to compromise

Anthony J. Pupello

In 1996, Frogpond switched from four issues a year to three, making it a little harder to be honored, not just because there was one less award each year, but because the number of poems in each issue also increased. Indeed, Frogpond has grown in size, making the Museum of Haiku Literature Award a rarer and greater honor as the years go by.



in the cold rain

their snow fort

Tom Clausen

faint city stars . . .

the moth’s copper dust

in my palm

Ebba Story

Father’s funeral


suddenly small

Celia Stuart-Powles

porch swing

now and then a breeze

from the river

Robert Gibson

January thaw

the narrow path

fading away

Mark Alan Osterhaus

Of all the years that the Museum of Haiku Literature Award has been given, 1997 has been my favourite, thus I present all five selections (two each were selected for the first and second issues of the year).


starry night—

biting into a melon

full of seeds

Yu Chang


garden work—

talking to each other

back to back

Dimitar Anakiev


snake hunting the boy sheds his shirt









Carolyn Thomas

These two poems show variety—horizontal and vertical. A one-liner was first selected in 1981. Other one-liners have been chosen since that first year, mostly in the last decade, but fewer than five percent of all individual award selections have been one-liners.


Independence Day—

I let him touch

a little bit of me

Fay Aoyagi


spring plowing

a flock of blackbirds

turns inside out

Tom Painting


dim light

the night nurse

describes the rain

Joann Klontz


jackknifed rig

the trooper waves us

into wildflowers

Robert Gilliland


spring evening

the children’s promise

not to get cold

Marcus Larsson


circle of pines

God absent

from the wedding vows

Carolyn Hall

open scissors beside a vase of water

Eve Luckring


distant singing—

the winter stars

almost touch

Ian Daw


the glare off snow

has the run of the house

February’s extra day

Burnell Lippy


bare maple

my daughter says

she’ll come back

Yu Chang


woodsmoke . . .

the guilt of living


Roland Packer


whale songs . . .

when did we stop


Bud Cole


summer heat

the strands of hair not captured

by her braid

Michael Ketchek


silence of snow

we listen to the house

grow smaller

John Parsons


her letter . . .

I’d forgotten

paper can cut

Tom Tico


afternoon rain

emptying a book

of its words

Peter Newton


third deployment

the unfinished dollhouse

beneath a sheet

Steve Hodge

What might we learn from the preceding poems, and from Museum of Haiku Literature award winners not represented here? We might expect to see a progression toward shorter poems, or perhaps toward more variation and experimentation, but I don’t think this occurs, at least not strongly. The sweep of this award may raise more questions than answers. The technique of juxtaposition seems to have been used steadily, but have seasonal references been changing? How are genders and nationalities represented? Should the award limit itself to individual haiku, or should sequences or linked verse again be recognized? And what about haibun and haiga? And are some of these poems possibly senryu rather than haiku? Perhaps a more psychological vein has emerged at times, but overall the selections seem steady and reliable in quality, even while the nature of committee selection may have overlooked possibly stronger poems in some issues. Ultimately, it is a pleasure to read and reread these poems, and that’s really what haiku—and the Museum of Haiku Literature Award—is all about.