2013 Haiku Poets of Northern California Haiku Contest

Written in November 2013, with results published in Mariposa #30, Spring/Summer 2014, and on the HPNC website.

First Place

        rental truck

        filling our house

        with echoes

                Roland Packer

Somehow, this feels like an autumn poem. It is filled not just with echoes, but with discoveries, many of which are opposites. The rental truck may imply that the house is not rented but owned—or was. The house is being emptied of belongings, yet filled with echoes. And these echoes are not just sounds, but memories. Those memories are surely long. And obviously shared because it is “our” house—yet it is no longer a home but just a house. And there’s one more opposite—it’s not really “our” house any longer. All of these details feel sad or nostalgic, which puts us in the mind of autumn. We do not know why a move is necessary, or chosen, but for the moment, despite the nostalgia, the house starts to become foreign because of unfamiliar echoes. Much reverberation in all of this poem’s echoes.

Postscript: While most haiku exhibit a two-part juxtapositional structure, this poem has just one part. Rather than being at odds with Japanese tradition, it is perfectly in keeping with it, because the kireji, which traditionally divides Japanese haiku into two parts, can come at the end of the poem, giving it just one part. That’s what this poem does, while providing many resonances even without a more common two-part structure.

Second Place

        spring sea

        the fishing boats

        go out in pairs

                Michael McClintock

This poem exhibits, for me, a sense of karumi (lightness) because of its simplicity and immediacy. I imagine commercial fishing boats in this poem. They go out in pairs for safety reasons, when the sea can still be dangerous after a long winter. Going out in pairs also suggests a sort of love or sharing that matches the season of love. That’s a metaphorical interpretation of “pairs,” and a similar metaphor could be extended to the boats. Imagine the boats being like people, going out in pairs. In spring, what could they be fishing for but love? Even without this fanciful view of the poem, we see the images clearly and recognize our own inherent need for companionship and security.

Third Place


        I pack the pieces

        of my favorite bowl

                Seren Fargo

As sad as it is to have broken a favorite bowl, here we feel mixes of emotions, showing that even a broken bowl is still loved. The broken pieces of that bowl may represent all that is left to hold on to from the home one is evicted from. Another layer of meaning may be to wonder how the bowl came to be broken. A regretted act of anger, perhaps? Or an accident brought on by having to move and pack the bowl in the first place? In any event, keeping the pieces of that broken bowl suggests a hope to one day put the pieces of one’s life back together again too.

First Honorable Mention

        summer sky

        I stare into the blue

        of my baby’s eyes

                Tracy Davidson

Although my own children are now 10 and 8, I still feel like a new father, staring into the limitless blue of my child’s eyes. I feel the wonder in their eyes every day, and find that same wonder and possibility in this poem—indeed, perhaps in all haiku. For this baby’s life, the sky, indeed, is the limit.

Second Honorable Mention


        dust comes

        to light

                John Stevenson

I can see dust motes shining here in a shaft of sun. The light changes in spring, and so we are seeing the light differently, not just the dust. The wordplay in this poem provides a sense of joy, despite the dust. That dust arises because of spring cleaning or perhaps we are motivated to clean because of the dust. Concise and precise.

Third Honorable Mention

        from God’s lips

        to my ears

        spring breeze

                Gregory Longenecker

If one is religious, it’s easy to imagine, as this poem does, that the breeze comes from God’s very lips. This is a benevolent god, who brings a gentle breeze to match the gentleness of spring youthfulness. This breeze is not just heard by the person’s ears, but felt physically as well.

Contest coordinator: Carolyne Rohrig