one book left
in the little free library
Ann Magyar, Brighton, Massachusetts
The neighborhood where I live has a little free library where you can help yourself to any book that grabs your fancy and leave books as well. This practice brightens and connects the community, providing a way to see books that you might not otherwise know about. But what sets this poem apart is the juxtaposition of the first two lines with plum blossoms. Just as the blossoms seem to come and go quickly, so too do the books. Spring has also brought neighbors out of their houses, so no wonder there is just one book left—for now.
cherry petals . . .
I leave my sorrows
in the breeze
Daniela Misso, San Gemini, Italy
How does this happen? Whatever sorrows one might have amid the challenges of life—an illness, a lost pet, a dying loved one—they can be momentarily lost when one sees beauty in the world. As these cherry petals drift in the breeze, they take the poet’s sorrows with them. A key word here, though, is “leave.” Those sorrows aren’t just taken. Rather, the poet chooses to leave those sorrows behind. This is an active choice, not passive, and suggests a brighter future with diminished sadness.
Jay Friedenberg, Sleepy Hollow, New York
The contemplative and exacting pastime of folding origami brings us to silence, not just in concentration but in devotion and attention. Paper-folding can be both an escape from ourselves and into ourselves. Writing and reading haiku can do this too. As poet Mary Oliver once said, “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
Adult Honorable Mentions (in order)
cherry blossoms . . .
Daisy Sclater, Ditchling, England
At the ephemeral moment of seeing cherry blossoms, perhaps falling in the breeze, the poet here may well be thinking about a loved one—the years and even physical distance between them. This haiku suggests loss, yet also respect and honor. It’s perhaps not so much about difference but about timing. An older person, implied in this poem, was once young themselves. The blossoms will fall, and some of the tree’s seeds will become new trees to bloom in the future.
the young girl rings
her bike bell
John Pappas, Brighton, Massachusetts
How beautiful, to see wisteria in full bloom. No wonder the young girl rings her bike bell in an act of joyful participation with the beauty around her. The Italian actress Eleanora Duse once said, “If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.”
the strange coincidence
of being alive
Stefanie Bucifal, Konstanz, Germany
In a way, every person alive has won a huge lottery—to be alive at all. That we are born when others have never existed is perhaps chance rather than coincidence, but this poem asks us to consider coincidence. If we blow on dandelion fluff, where will the seeds go? Will any of them survive and grow? Chance governs each seed’s survival, just as unknown factors may affect our own existence. But coincidence brings different chances together.
Youth Honorable Mentions (in order)
on each fallen leaf
Luca Bobeica, Botosani, Romania, age 12
These have been busy snails, adding traces of their existence to the fallen leaves. We can’t see the snails anymore, and soon those fallen leaves will disappear too. Which leads us to wonder—in the ongoing march of time, where have each of us left our mark?
a support group
of rag dolls
Iasmina Butnarescu, Botosani, Romania, age 14
This is a youth poem, but it could easily have been written by an adult. Regardless of our age, moving can be stressful, and we could all do with a support group to help us through its challenges. That this support group is one of rag dolls is a reminder of how stressful moving can be on children and teenagers.
horseshoe crabs heading
for the ramparts
Gian-Luca Niculcea, Botosani, Romania, age 12
This castle is under siege! And this seems to be perfectly fine with the poet, or perhaps unavoidable. It’s easy to imagine a long summer day, and as the sunlight wanes, surely the tide will turn and take the sandcastle. But first, horseshoe crabs will have their go. We all come from dust and return to dust—or sand. This is a poem of acceptance, and of close observation.
Michael Dylan Welch is the founder of National Haiku Writing Month (www.nahaiwrimo.com) and cofounder of the Seabeck Haiku Getaway, 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, and he has published 75 books. Michael’s website, devoted mostly to haiku, is www.graceguts.com.