2022 Drevniok Award—Haiku Canada
First written in early May 2022 and published in The Betty Drevniok Award 2022 flyer, made available on 22 May 2022 as a PDF on the Haiku Canada website (also available on my Trifolds and Trifold Downloads pages). The flyer did not include the coordinator’s comments, added here, that Pearl Pirie read when announcing the results during the 2022 Haiku Canada week of Zoom events. See the 2007 Drevniok Award, which I also judged.
Michael Dylan Welch, judge
is the placebo . . .
Inlet Beach, Florida
Where does this poem take you? The moon suggests a variety of cycles, and for those of us in the northern hemisphere, January sets us in the middle of winter in the cycle of seasons. What does this mean in the context of a medical trial? And why is the person in the poem taking part in such a trial? The poem immediately raises these questions, and its openness to possible answers plays a significant part in engaging us as readers. Perhaps there’s a disappointment here, in a wish for true healing from an experimental drug yet fear in the suspicion that such healing won’t be coming if all we’re receiving is a placebo. The moon suggests light, and possibly hope, but January may suggest the darkness of despair, and this echoes the uncertainty of whether one is receiving a possibly life-saving drug . . . or maybe just a placebo. Perhaps just a few of us have taken part in clinical trials, but we can still empathize with this poem, because, for both writers and readers, every good haiku is a poem of empathy.
I hear the river
call my name
Vancouver, British Columbia
This poem brings to mind a personal interpretation through Margaret Craven’s seminal novel, I Heard the Owl Call My Name, set in British Columbia. In the Kwakiutl First Nations tradition, the owl’s sound was a harbinger of death. Here, though, we have a river rather than an owl. And in contrast to the owl, the river is perhaps a harbinger of life rather than death. The setting of the hometown suggests that the person in the poem is visiting after having been away, surely because that hometown’s river had been calling the person’s name, drawing them home. Even when home, one can long for home, just as Bashō longed for Kyoto even when in Kyoto.
home from hospice—
your empty cup
in the sink
Victoria, British Columbia
We each bring our own experiences to haiku, and for me this poem reminded me of my dad and the two months he spent in hospice before he died. I remember the phone call from my mother to say he had passed away, and although my dad had been away from home, I imagined my mother alone in the house they shared for so many years, knowing that her husband, my father, would never return. His empty cup wouldn’t have been in the sink, but as she walked around the house the evening of his death, she would have seen many other reminders of his presence. At first we might read “home from hospice” in a positive way, that the dying person has recovered and returned home, but this momentary possibility receives a twist of reality when we see that it’s someone else who has returned home without a loved one, where that empty cup symbolizes how empty the person must feel in their heart.
Honourable Mentions (in no particular order)
I borrow a book
of spring poems
Such optimism in the face of winter doldrums! A pleasing detail in this poem is the fact that the book is borrowed, which underscores connection, itself an optimistic choice. Spring has come early in this poem.
on her thumbs, the dents
of knitting needles
Indra Neil Mekala
At night, when the moon shines through undrawn curtains, we see those momentarily dented thumbs, a sign of passionate devotion to one’s craft. We also feel a sense of relationship between the observer and the woman who is so fond of knitting that she keeps at it late into the evening.
the family we choose
The image of the trees represents the person and their relationship to their family. Surely the person is a pine rather than an oak, and we can wonder what that means. Does the pine “choose” its oak family? Surely that’s not possible, but the poet is pining for a family that it wishes it could choose, or recognizes that the family they have is probably not what they would choose if they could.
long walk with a friend
from blackberry bushes
Victoria, British Columbia
It is a pleasure to see the picture here, and to feel the shared joy of picking blackberries together. But the extra joy amid the task is the stories these friends share, perhaps stories they’ve told each other before, or with new stories added in, all of them savoured.
This year we had submissions from 246 poets with 718 haiku entered. Poems came from 35 countries, led by 85 from Canada, 42 from the United States, followed by India, Croatia, Romania, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Submissions came from Europe, Africa, India, and Asia. Countries included Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Ghana, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Pakistan, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Indonesia, Philippines, Russia, France, Italy, Poland, and New Zealand. I’d like to thank Michael Dylan Welch for accepting the position to judge.