Annual Selection 2009
Judge's Comments: 'Haiku in season'

By Isamu Hashimoto

As expected, there were many high-level haiku this time and we couldn't simply dismiss them as in last year's selection. So, instead of awarding a first prize, second prize, third prize and honorable mentions, stars have been placed after short comments on each haiku. Specifically, a three-star mark (☆☆☆) is the approximate equivalent of a first prize; two stars (☆☆) a second prize; one star (☆) a third prize; and no star about the same as an honorable mention. Three-digit numbers such as "#715" in parentheses indicate the selection group in which the haiku first appeared in the Mainichi Daily News Haiku in English section.

Reading through the selected haiku, I often felt that if some haiku referred to a season (using words from the author's country) or made another similar reference, they would be much better. So here, I would like to quote Robert Spiess' view on kigo, or seasonal words, from his private letter to me: "As human beings, we arose from and remain a part of nature. A kigo helps us to feel our kinship with all creation, and that other life and "non-life" have the right to exist." -- Robert Spiess

Annual Selection: 2009

Selected by Isamu Hashimoto

morning glories--
God opens
his blue eyes

Hubertus Thum (Barsinghausen, Germany, #715)

Comment: No one can ever be aware the color of God's eyes in the flesh, but the author saw them in the morning glories. Ah, yes, blue, indeed.

night ends...
catapulted back
into human life

Andrea D'Alessandro (Bruchsal, Germany, #715)

Comment: Monday-itis (the reluctance to go back to school or work on Mondays), is so troublesome and sad. But seeing someone "catapulted back into the human life" ... oh, what a relief! How about putting in a seasonal word at the top of the first line to make it something like "cold night ends..."?

"No electioneering
beyond this point!" --
day moon

Tyrone McDonald (Brooklyn, New York, USA, #716)

Comment: Pale day moonlight might have some magical power to prevent illegal electioneering or vote-buying.

nearly upside down
in the last wave

Gary Hotham (Scaggsville, MD, USA, #717)

Comment: It's so real that we can feel a second direct experience like Mr. David Cobb once told us about in a comment on haiku: "... re-presenting as if now some real experience/observation ..."

carving a new
shape around me
winter wind

Robert M. Erickson (Alsip, IL, USA, #717)

Comment: Close and long self-observation leads the author to find the excellent phrase "a new shape" -- cold winter winds blow the surrounding air off the warm, thick clothes.

Rising moon--
the empty room

Beate Conrad (Waterford, MI, USA, #717)

Comment: This might the scene of a removal, with the author spending a few final hours with the moonlight filtering into the empty room ... stirring a bit of sentiment.

in the blackbird's
staring eyes
dinosaur's past

John Miles (Paradise, South Australia, #718)

Comment: Interesting haiku reflecting the new dinosaur-to-bird theory -- 250 million years ago, why shouldn't the bipedal dinosaur tyrannosaurus have turned into a human being without having feathers on the way to becoming a bird? God knows.

the tree shakes
as I pull an orange
from its branch

J. D. Heskin (Duluth, MN, USA, #719)

Comment: Some might say this is a haiku which is influenced by Japanese Zen-style precedents, but I highly esteem its entire simplicity and the author's inartistic description to the very heart of the haiku. In this connection, I am attracted by another haiku from the same author: (#721)

I like peonies
even though I drive
a truck

full moon
polishes my window

Don Hansbrough (Seattle, WA, USA, #719)

Comment: Dexterous use of onomatopoeia with "squeak." Dealing with various appearances of the moon in his submissions, the author could be called a No. 1 "moon maker."

afternoon nap:
prints of Italian lace
on my cheek

Raquel D. Bailey (St. Andrew, Jamaica, #720)

Comment: She returns to the real world from a short day dream and feels the prints of beautiful Italian lace tickling her cheek. "I wish I could get back into the dream again," she thinks as she rubs her eyes.

change of shift--
over the docks
the full moon

Wolfgang Beutke (Barum, Germany, #721)

Comment: One couldn't fully appreciate this full moon if he had not been engaged in physical hard labor on the docks until late at night. The moon knows the way home where his family is soundly sleeping.

desert sunrise
a snake track crumbles
grain by grain

George Swede (Toronto, Canada, #722)

Comment: He got first prize, happily living in a newly-built log house after his retirement to observe the hummingbirds. This haiku is so superb that I think I misunderstood his letter about hummingbirds. I am now convinced that he might have built another observation hut in some forlorn dessert to see the sand crumbling grain by grain.

starry sky and the village
connected by
the dog barking

Zelyko Funda (Varazdin, Croatia, #722)

Comment: The second line is the key to understand this situation fully. I wish I could be traveling on the Orient Express just like James Bond in "From Russia with Love" to appreciate this bedazzling vast silence of rural Croatia.

After the storm
steam rises in clouds
over the pampas grass

Paul E. Truesdell, Jr. (Ginowan City, Okinawa, Japan, #722)

Comment: Thanks for giving us steam clouds over vast pampas grass fields after the storm -- so beautiful and really a new landscape.

early morning sun
slowly moves dark lines
over the ceiling

Philip D. Noble (Prestwick, Scotland, #723)

Comment: This haiku has no seasonal word. With a seasonal reference, it would surely be much better. For example ... I don't know. Some haijin once said, "Kigo is respect for living things and everything has a season."

Holidays end?
only the motion of the sea
in the driving mirror

Claudia Brefeld (Bochum, Germany, #723)

Comment: The summer sea and the summer holidays are receding together in the mirror. The driver's sentimentality, mom's, children's ... all will ride quietly away.

Scorching day:
into my son's shadow
for the first time

Eduard Tara (Iasi, Romania, #723)

Comment: The author is glad to be in the shadow of his son for the first time. His son is now bigger and taller than him, and as a father he feels good.

hard to see
hummingbird flutters
under porch lights

Terry Johnson (Indio, CA, USA, #724)

Comment: It was a major accomplishment to realize a hummingbird which could barely be seen was fluttering under the dim lights of the porch. Such a nice discovery!

Just a moment
Scent of rain

Anna Goluba (Warsaw, Poland, #724)

Comment: That delicate scent just before rain falling ... she got it. "Haiku shows us what we knew all the time, but didn't know what we knew." -- R. H. Blyth

morning fog...
but just light enough
for the chickadee

Bruce Ross (Bangor, ME, USA, #725)

Comment: With professional description, Mr. Ross gets close to the delicate behavior of the chickadee. For future reference I quote his view: "Haiku is a moment of insight connected with nature. Most often two images are linked in three short-long-short horizontal lines of about 8-10 words."

frequent flier
funny the feeling of
wind in my trousers

Jose del Valle (Rockville, RI, USA, #725)

Comment: That funny feeling inside the trousers -- this unique haiku is superb. If it contained a seasonal element, it would be a first-prize haiku. "A reference to season/weather is not just a physical reality -- it is a poetic and psychological reality too." -- Gabriel Rosenstock

car washing
pampas grass

Mamoru Ikeda (Ube, Japan, #725)

Comment: Swaying are both pampas grass and the author washing his car.

autumn twilight
they left her
at the hospice

Victor Gendrano (Lakewood, CA, USA, #726)

Comment: Any other season could not fit the scene ... the best selection of "autumn twilight."

New Year's Eve
every jellyfish shines
with its own moon

William Cullen Jr. (Brooklyn, NY, USA, #725)

Comment: A beautiful, calm year-end is depicted thanks to the shining jellyfish, the moon and the author's talent.

Beijing duck--
on the bottom of the bowl
the dragon

Heinz Woellner (Koenigerode, Germany, #715)

Comment: Intoxicated, the author saw a Chinese dragon dancing on the bottom of the bowl. What's better than drinking it up in a toast to health and world peace?

silence enters
my garden

Helga Stania (Greppen, Switzerland, #716)

Comment: Conceivably some of the extreme minimalist haikuists would prefer the following: "silence / enters / fog".

First snow
Turning all the trees
Into cherry blossoms

Takuya Konishi (Edmonton, AB, Canada, #716)

Comment: This couldn't be true literally, but the bottom line has an unexpected punch. Cherry blossoms would be of a greenish mountain species.

perfect movement:
smoke coming out
of a chimney

Michael Lindenhofer (Linz, Austria, #717)

Comment: As "suchness" (nature as it is) is directly expressed without comment from the author, we can clearly and surely see the smoke coming out of the chimney. The following is A. C. Missias's view on haiku: "A brief record of a moment of insight into simple truths about life, presented in an unmediated way that recreates the experience for the reader."

nearly daybreak
the salt spreader returns
from the highway

Angelika Wienert (Oberhausen, Germany, #717)

Comment: We can also hear the roaring of the big truck following the hard task of spreading loads of salt on the slippery roads.

Lent begins--
the scent of hot cross buns
fills the baker's street

Patricia Neubauer (Philadelphia, PA, USA, #718)

Comment: Thinking about the 40 days of Jesus Christ's hardships, the author's attention accidentally digresses to the good smell of delicious buns -- a good humane haiku.

In the way home...
cranes carrying on the wings
the spring moon

Vasile Moldovan (Bucharest, Romania, #718)

Comment: The ellipsis (...) in the first line was used as a cutting device. If it weren't put in, we would understand that the cranes were going back north. Looking up at the sky on his way home, the author noticed cranes were carrying the rising moon on their wings. We could never have such a close encounter in the valleys of skyscraper-filled areas.

resurrection bell
appearing and appearing
flock of pigeons

Juliusz Wnorowski (Warsaw, Poland, #719)

Comment: If changing the repetition of the second line to "appearing and reappearing," then we could see much more layers of the flying pigeons. This change would be far more effective when combined with the word "resurrection."

nightly haul
flouncing on the deck
countless moons

Rudi Pfaller (Remshalden, Germany, #719)

Comment: There must be quite a lot of water pools on the deck of the ship, splashing through the dark night sea. "Countless moons" means no other living creatures are there after midnight.

sparkling on the sea
like a thousand diamonds
a wet mast

Keith A. Simmonds (Tunapuna, Trinidad & Tobago, #721)

Comment: The author drew a very beautiful word picture depicting the wet mast as a diamond-encrusted pillar -- dreamlike beauty, indeed. He has been sending us many submissions. Reading his pieces, I presume he has two phases. One is high-level, the other, beginner's. The reason is lost in the sea fog.

A butterfly
In a sunbeam

Ann-Marie McHarg (London, UK, #721)

Comment: Trying to escape from the column of a sunbeam, this fragile creature dissolves into the sparkling sunlight.

hot afternoon
a blue butterfly blends
into her cellulite

Origa (Lansing, MI, USA, #722)

Comment: Last year's first prize winner again gave us a very beautiful scene we ourselves have not experienced. The word "cellulite" was found as she considered the metamorphosis of a blue butterfly. However, Origa-san, "hot" and "blends" in the first two lines might be a bit "pre-harmonized." I am sure you could come across a more appropriate expression in a wink or two.

morning run...
we catch up with
more than thirteen snails

Ramona Linke (Beesenstedt, Germany, #722)

Comment: Mr. and Mrs. Linke begin to run very slowly counting roadside snails just appearing after the rain. One, four, seven, nine, thirteen... enjoying the slow life.

excruciating heat
light votive candles at the shrine
top of the hill

Francis Attard (Marsa, Malta, #723)

Comment: "Excruciating" has something to do with the Crucifixion, naturally. Candles at the hilltop shrine must be the votive symbol all over the island of Malta.

the shadow of
a white rose

Fereshteh Panahi (Mashad, Iran, #723)

Comment: The few words of this haiku help our dull senses to acknowledge nature as it is. Although the two colors look completely opposite, white, to tell the truth, might be transient.

a damselfly bobs
to the sprinkler's pulse
...afternoon heat

Warren Gossett (Twin Falls, ID, USA, #723)

Comment: If this ephemeral living thing gets soaked, it will die instantly. The air is so hot it runs the risk and bobs with the sprinkler's rotation to sip the water. We can see the heat of the day.

an ice cream truck
drags its tailpipe...
autumn begins

Ed Markowski (Auburn Hills, MI, USA, #723)

Comment: Really, this scene should be moved into summer, but the author felt the beginning of autumn ... and we could get the new face of the season from the tailpipe.

rearview mirror
a flash of lightning
again and again

Jacek Margolak (Kierce, Poland, #723)

Comment: He was struck by the flashes of lightning over and over again and couldn't help but become reflective. His other haiku below (#724) is also good enough to get a prize, but I dared to choose the one above because I could look into the deep abyss of human sinfulness.

silent pond...
my son moves the moon
with his little finger

strange world?
on the last bus
with my first wife

Tony Lewis-Jones (Bristol, UK, #724)

Comment: This is a human-oriented, delicate masterpiece experienced by the author alone. Besides the former husband and his wife, the bus also carries the two contrastive words "last" and "first," and is running and running to the next new stop.

autumn leaves
her recent past

Stephen A. Peters (Bellingham, WA, USA, #725)

Comment: Her horrifying "recent past" ... can the first line "autumn leaves" represent something being not too close to and not too far from the core message? I am sure the author could easily find a better phrase including a seasonal word.

autumn forest:
gold paint on the landscape
yet not dry

Krzysztof Kokot (Nowy Targ, Poland, #725)

Comment: With the last line we can acknowledge the author's uncommon sensibility in writing haiku.

autumn twilight
the novelist must decide
who lives and who dies

jerry ball (Walnut Creek, CA, USA, #725)

Comment: Why does the author of the whodunit decide to conclude the story? The answer has something to do with the first line and it suggests the curtain of a human life falling down as the autumn twilight gets darker and darker. "A haiku represents a moment in time that is filled with life. But we all know that a moment filled with life will be only a passing moment," the author once told me.

thinking of
the universe...
between two sips

K. Ramesh (Chennai, India, #726)

Comment: The chance for a Zen awakening can occur anytime without one noticing.