1995 Nature Company
“Haiku for the Earth” Contest

The following are my selections and commentary for the second “Haiku for the Earth” contest sponsored by the Nature Company in San Mateo, California. These results were announced on Earth Day, 22 April 1995. Winners received Nature Company gift certificates. See also the 1994 results. The contest did not continue after 1995.

Michael Dylan Welch, judge



“Haiku for the Earth” Winner


The trail forks . . .

taking the one

with wildflowers

     Garry Gay

     Windsor, California

Second Place Winner


Forest hike . . .

breaking stride

for the first trillium

     Donna Gallagher

     Sunnyvale, California

Honorable Mentions (in order)


on the wide water

a single duck

perfectly still

     Paul O. Williams

     Belmont, California

North star—

poking the embers

with the walking stick

     Garry Gay

     Windsor, California

Night after the storm,

on the pond your stone

scatters the stars

     John Chilcott

     San Francisco, California

Urban stream—

a heron’s slow steps

around an old tire

     Garry Gay

     Windsor, California



Judge’s Comments

Choosing poems for the second annual Nature Company “Haiku for the Earth” Contest has been no easy task, considering the breadth of experience shown by the poets and the quality of their poems. What I looked for, in addition to fine crafting of poetry and natural syntax, was a clear moment of awareness, purity of expression, a deeply felt or implied sensitivity toward nature, and, in some cases, a combination of a person with nature.

     In the celebratory spirit of Earth Day, I also leaned toward poems with a positive and uplifting spirit, as seen especially in the first two winning poems. Garry Gay’s “The trail forks” puts the reader right there, out in the woods or in a mountain meadow, and reveals an interpenetration with nature so delightful in successful haiku. The poet takes the trail with wildflowers—he is drawn by the beauty of nature—and this detail emphasizes the celebration of nature inherent in Earth Day and haiku. An overtone, in this poem’s depiction of a relationship with the earth, is that we have a choice in how we treat the earth. The positive message of choosing nature’s beauty suggests a responsibility toward protecting that beauty.

     The second-place winner, Donna Gallagher’s “Forest hike,” is similar in both tone and content to the winning poem—although I had no intent to select just hiking poems. Here we experience a forest setting, where we feel the cool shadows in the trees. We see a hiker striding along with a destination. Yet the poet’s stride breaks to notice a flower, revealing an appreciation for nature’s beauty that a person without a sensitivity for nature would not possess. An added overtone is in the detail of the first trillium. Is it the first trillium of the season, or the first trillium seen by the poet on this hike? Perhaps it is both, and we are rewarded in this poem by participating with the poet in an awareness of this special flower.

     The honorable mention poems are also moments of sharp awareness and interpenetration with nature, of beauty and lyrical insight. And at least one of the poems, Garry Gay’s “Urban stream,” deals with human disregard for nature. I think it is also important to recognize this subject as a reminder that while nature can be beautiful, we still have work to do. While the focus in my selections has been primarily on haiku depicting the beauty of nature and our relationship with nature, haiku need not be just about what seems beautiful.

     The poems presented here are my choices from 124 entries, given to me anonymously. I hope you enjoy these poems as much as I have. The first two poems will be awarded Nature Company gift certificates, and Garry Gay’s winning poem will also be published in Woodnotes, the quarterly Journal of the Haiku Poets of Northern California. Many other fine poems were submitted, including many by high school students. I encourage each of you to continue writing and reading haiku, and in noticing and protecting the natural world around us.

     Congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to all who entered the second annual Nature Company “Haiku for the Earth” contest, for sharing your haiku moments, and for helping to celebrate the earth on Earth Day 1995. Make every day Earth Day!

—Michael Dylan Welch