2022 Japan Fair Haiku Contest

First published on the Japan Fair website on 11 July 2022. Commentary originally written in June 2022. See also two videos at the end, the first one presenting all the winning haiku, and the second one showing the original live-streamed broadcast in which I announced the haiku contest winners.

The 2022 Japan Fair haiku contest in Bellevue, Washington, for poems in English, received 267 adult entries and 57 in the youth category (a significant increase for youth entries). The following selections feature vibrant moments presented objectively yet with subjective overtones, the poems celebrating rich facets of human existence in the year’s passing seasons. Each successful haiku invites you to finish the poem in your mind and in your heart. I encourage you to read each haiku slowly, and then contemplate it again, empathizing with the poet who has shared a significant personal experience with you as the reader. Thank you to everyone who entered, and congratulations to the winners.

—Michael Dylan Welch, judge

First Place


     sap season

     a runner stops

     to check her pulse

             Brad Bennett, Arlington, Massachusetts


If it’s sap season, it must be autumn. A jogger stopping to check her pulse also seems to bring us as observers into a moment of checking our seasonal “pulse.” How is our year unfolding? As summer wanes into the fall, we come to an instant of deeper reflection, even assessment, in thinking about our lives. The poem’s arresting first line begins a series of breathless S sounds (continued with “stops” and “pulse”). Combined with the “er” of “runner” and “her,” this poem’s sounds create a pleasing music and rhythm, even a heartbeat.


Second Place


     warming her hands

     between my own—

     fallen leaves

             Julie Bloss Kelsey, Germantown, Maryland


The air has chilled in the autumn season, but here two friends or lovers have ventured out to enjoy the colorful leaves of autumn. This is a shared moment of personal intimacy, with one person warming the other person’s cold hands. This warmth is not just physical but emotional too.


Third Place


     red signal—

     a few moments

     with cherry blossoms

             Saumya Bansal, Agra, India


Most adults have had this experience when pausing their cars at a stop light. We might be temporarily impatient at having to wait, but the mind of the haiku poet finds solace in such idle moments, in this case appreciating beautiful blossoms. We might not have noticed them if it weren’t for that red light. Even the traffic light’s color echoes with the pink blossoms.


Adult Honorable Mentions (in order)


     harvest moon

     the first line of my poem

     on the page

             Minal Sarosh, Ahmedabad, India


The moon is an autumn season word in the Japanese haiku tradition, so what haiku poet could not feel that their poem’s first line has been provided for them as soon as they see a harvest moon? We also wonder, what will the rest of our poem say? In this case it’s a poem about writing haiku itself—or perhaps a longer poem. And we can thank the moon for inspiring us.


     the cough

     that doesn’t go away

     autumn cloud

             Richa Sharma, Ghaziabad, India


As our worldwide pandemic continues, it’s hard to read this poem without thinking of Covid-19 illnesses that more and more frequently have reached us or people we know. Not only is the cough not going away, but the pandemic itself remains persistent, continuing to loom like an autumn cloud.


     beach day

     the seagulls rise

     with the drawbridge

             David Grayson, Alameda, California


A summer moment—visiting the beach. Only when the drawbridge rises do the seagulls respond, their lazy day interrupted. This poem’s pleasing movement and vivid image captures a visit to the seaside. The rising bridge suggests the departure of both boats and cars, indicating that this summer getaway has come to an end.


Youth Honorable Mentions (in order)


     summer’s end

     last skipping stone

     left in my pocket

             Iasmina Butnarescu, Botosani, Romania


What a youthful joy to skip stones in summertime. But this time that perfect “skimmer” stone is pocketed, as if waiting for summer to return.


     drawing class

     the old calligraphy

     of migrating birds

             Denisa Hritcu, Botosani, Romania


Nature and human behavior come together here, with the artist recording the flights of birds in a drawing class. This migration could be spring or autumn, but it feels more like autumn, perhaps because of the word “old,” which also suggests that the “calligraphy” of the birds predates any human art, a reminder that nature may be life’s highest art.


     moving day

     carving my name

     on the old oak

             Florin Panainte, Botosani, Romania


In a moment of nostalgia before leaving a treasured place, the poet takes the time to leave a record of their existence. It’s not just so future residents will know them, but so the poet will remember that place more deeply. It is indeed a “moving” day.


About the Judge

Michael Dylan Welch is founder of National Haiku Writing Month (www.nahaiwrimo.com) and the Seabeck Haiku Getaway, cofounder of the Haiku North America conference and the American Haiku Archives, webmaster for Haiku Northwest (www.haikunorthwest.org), 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.


This video (2:15 in length) shows all the winners in the 2022 Japan Fair haiku contest. I served as the judge for selections in English. Japanese entries were judged by members of Rainier Haiku Ginsha.

This video presents the entire three hours of the 2022 Japan Fair live-stream on 9 July 2022. You can jump to the announcement of the haiku contest winners at the 2:26:19 mark (my part ends at 2:32:05, followed by Japanese haiku winners and other award announcements).