beneath the blossoms
she counts her years
on one hand
Sasha A. Palmer, Baltimore, Maryland
We can picture cherry blossoms here, and a young child who is younger than six. The ephemerality of the blossoms echoes with the fleetingness of childhood. We can also feel a sense of delight and wonder in this poem, with the blossoms serving as a seasonal reference. This is a moment that is pleasing to partake in, and pleasing to share.
I don't want to go back
Lynn H. Allgood, Pasadena, California
Jacaranda blossoms are a vibrant purple, and you can immediately picture Southern California, if you’ve experienced jacaranda there. This seasonal occurrence is juxtaposed with a stated feeling, surely a reference to the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. We can empathize with the idea of not wanting to go back to a pre-pandemic normal, perhaps because of an increased appreciation for nature. A key word here, though, is “early,” which leaves the poem open-ended as we contemplate its emotional effect in relation to the pandemic.
Adult Honorable Mentions (in order)
of my grandson’s hand
a flock of cranes
Nicolay Grankin, Krasnodar, Russia
Cranes in some cultures are a symbol of longevity, which produces overtones when paired with the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild. In addition, we are presented with a mystery—why does the grandparent release the grandson’s hand? Surely because of a sense of wonder at seeing the cranes. But what’s unstated is that perhaps the grandchild is rushing forward, and that’s why the hand may be released. This is a vibrant and buoyant poem.
an abandoned platform
Benedetta Cardone, Massa, Italy
The key word in this poem is “abandoned,” which makes us wonder why. And just as the usefulness of a train station platform has passed, so too the fallen blossoms are ephemeral. Even the trains are implied, how they too come and go, and may now be gone from this station forever. And yet there’s a hint of promise here, because of the morning light, suggesting the potential of a full day ahead.
the swings sway
Mona Bedi, Delhi, India
We have had a challenging year with the coronavirus pandemic. It is only fitting that haiku acknowledge this challenge and all its losses. We can imagine this swing set at a school or a neighborhood playground, which the children have not been allowed to use. The wind sways the swings, and we can only hope it’s a wind of change, welcoming more normal days to come. However, another meaning is possible. The lockdown could possibly refer to an active shooter being in the building, a much darker and sadder possibility, yet even that is worth noting in haiku poetry.
Youth Honorable Mentions (in order)
I will never be
such a good poet
Andreea Buzuc, Botosani, Romania, age 13
Many possible meanings in this poem. The cherry blossoms are so “poetic” that this young writer may feel incapable of reaching that standard of eloquence and beauty. It also suggests all the thousands of haiku, maybe even millions, that have been written about this hallowed subject, in Japan and elsewhere. The refreshing conclusion is that, with this poem’s humility, the poet is that good a poet.
my friends replaced
by teddy bears
Sebastian Ciobica, Botosani, Romania, age 9
The sad reality of our pandemic year is that many children have been going to school virtually, online, and have been denied the play and interaction of being in the classroom or at recess between classes. No wonder this poet’s friends have been replaced, but we can trust that it’s only temporary.
one by one
the stars pass from sight
Ana Olaru, Botosani, Romania, age 13
At dawn, as the sky lightens, the stars fade. But in this case one sort of beauty is replaced by another, as they cherry blossoms gain color in the brightening light. The number of blossoms may even be seen to mirror the number of stars. The seasonal reference in the last line, and the poem’s two-part structure, and its emotional effect, as with all of the other poems selected in this year’s contest, serve to exemplify the traditional aesthetics of haiku in both Japan and around the world.
Michael Dylan Welch is founder of National Haiku Writing Month and the Seabeck Haiku Getaway, cofounder of the Haiku North America conference and the American Haiku Archives, webmaster for Haiku Northwest, and president of the Redmond Association of Spokenword. He was keynote speaker for the 2013 Haiku International Association conference in Tokyo and has been teaching haiku for thirty years. His haiku have won numerous prizes and have been translated into at least twenty languages. Michael’s website, devoted mostly to haiku, is www.graceguts.com.