Annual Selection 2011

Selections and comments by Isamu Hashimoto

Thanks to readers for their excellent submissions in 2011. Haiku in this annual selection are listed in order of daily appearance. The honors of "first prize" and "second prize" (multiple awards) are printed after the dates of the first appearance, and no indication means "honorable mention." I have briefly commented on all the haiku. In principle, selections are based on the essential standards for haiku. As opposed to many other forms of poetry, haiku poetry cannot express ideas at length in its proper form and does not portray human feelings directly, but rather through outer objects. Being Japanese, this is my wish: If haijin across the world became more conscious of kigo in their haiku, it would be much more preferable, because this is the kind of thing that enables haiku to exist.

Annual Selection: 2011

Jan. 1, 2011: Second Prize
peace and love for all
because we live in a
yellow submarine

—Aubrey Holt (Stuebner Airline Klein, Texas, USA)

Comment: "Yellow submarine" is widely known thanks to the Beatles and it is a good choice for a phrase symbolizing world peace.

Jan. 4, 2011
early winter mist...
the frog steadies himself
for a look

— Bruce Ross (Bangor, ME, USA)

Comment: "Steadies himself": a skillful expression.

Jan. 5, 2011
Poetry Day—
10 stitches
to every row

— Helen Buckingham (Bristol, UK)

Comment: This person must be leading a calm and peaceful daily life. "10" is a "full" number, and also the number of "The Ten Commandments." Stitch by stitch she continues.

Jan. 8, 2011
a half-sunset
split by the bridge rails
floats in the sea

—Origa (Okemos, MI, USA))

Comment: "A half-sunset": beautiful lattice shadows on the dusky surface of the sea.

Jan. 10, 2011
flying to the East Coast
to see my ailing brother
to see changing leaves

— Peggy Heinrich (Santa Cruz, CA, USA)

Comment: An elaborate third line.

Jan. 15, 2011
long walk
to the airport gate...
the shampoo left behind

— Deborah P. Kolodji (Temple City, CA, USA)

Comment: Unexpected: "shampoo."

Jan. 17, 2011
cool shuffle of silk
as she walks down the stairs
for the charity ball

— Francis Attard (Marsa, Malta)

Comment: "Charity ball": Kind-hearted people will gather at the charity ball to raise money for public happiness, happy to donate and happy to drink cocktails.

Jan. 18, 2011
some clouds pass
before the winter full moon—
both moving

— Mario Massimo Zontini (Parma, Italy)

Comment: "Both moving": When we look up at the night sky, we aren't aware of the moving moon instantly, but we can notice a group of clouds moving. The third line here must be "a discovery."

Jan. 19, 2011
psychotherapeutic session—
eliminated another layer
of the onion

— Urszula Wielanowska (Kielce, Poland)

Comment: "The onion" makes a humorous contrast with the profound word "psychotherapeutic."

Jan. 31, 2011: Second Prize
stained glass window
through the heart of the Jesus
a sunbeam

— Jacek Margolak (Klelce, Poland)

Comment: "The Jesus": An icon. "A sunbeam" must refer to an arrow for salvation.

Feb. 4, 2011: Second Prize
Even the lighthouse
in the terrible storm
seems shipwrecked

— druart patrick (Urou et Crennes, France)

Comment: The third line grasps the storm in an entirely new light.

Feb. 5, 2011: Second Prize
lantern parade
a dragon turns
the corner

— Barbara A. Taylor (Nimbin, Australia)

Comment: This author keenly perceives the ultimate principles and we can clearly see the dragon turning the corner waving its long tail. Good haijin never leave a fleeing moment unrecorded.

Feb. 17, 2011
gathered round
New Year's mandala

— Don Hansbrough (Seattle, WA, USA)

Comment: A humorous and delicious third line with a solemn atmosphere.

Feb. 18, 2011
In your eyes
the eighth colour
of the rainbow

— Marek Kozubek (Zywiec, Poland)

Comment: As he is in love, the author can see a rainbow and an everlasting oath in her eyes.

Feb. 23, 2011
The Persian palace ruins
The pomegranate trees

— Masoumeh Fakhraee (Bushehr, Iran)

Comment: "Pomegranate" is an impressive key word: If another fruit were used in its place, the haiku would be ruined.

March 1, 2011
gritters grit...
the frost moon
shines on

— Helen Buckingham (Bristol, UK)

Comment: In the first line, there are two "g" sounds, which make us feel so, so cold. Furthermore a frozen cold moon is rising.

March 2, 2011
Central Park lake—
the tops of skyscrapers sticking
from under the ice

— Hana Nestieva (Jerusalem, Israel)

Comment: The park lake where King Kong once skated with his beautiful blonde mate. The park runs almost 10 kilometers in circumference: It is huge and the skyscrapers are tall like the wild animal.

March 11, 2011
snow squeaking
beneath my boots—
full moon

— Jacek Margolak (Klelce, Poland)

Comment: Haiku craftsmanship: contrastive hearing and vision.

March 11, 2011 (14:46): First Prize
O God!
Are you fine?
People are dying.

— Ram Kumar Panday (Nepal)

Comment: Following the catastrophe wrought by the massive tsunami in March 2011, people from around the world sent condolences to the MDN. With deep gratitude I soon created a "Tsunami Special" section for the "Haiku in English" column. This piece could be called a "minimal haiku," but the sorrow of the author is felt so deeply. From the first line, we can hear the author's heavy crying and in the second line, we can sense the author sobbing. In the last line, the author seems to be wailing. I was unable to stop crying for several minutes. This haiku was constructed with a simple few words, but, it helps Japanese people feel "we will never be defeated and we will rise again."

March 12, 2011: Second Prize
her long hair
in the hands of hairdresser's
before chemo

— Urszula Wielanowska (Kielce, Poland)

Comment: Having her long hair shortened, how sad she must have been as a woman and how uneasy she must have felt before chemotherapy. The second line gives us an idea of the bulk of her hair.

March 14, 2011
fisherman's pipe
on the ashtray
morning fog

— Yoav J. Tenembaum (Tel Aviv, Israel)

Comment: The pipe shows us the fisherman's hesitation: Should he go out fishing or shouldn't he? Now he is standing on the pier surrounded by the dense fog.

March 15, 2011
Wet Valentine's Day
his small umbrella
too large for both

— druart patrick (Urou et Crennes, France)

Comment: The floral-printed umbrella bridges their romance.

March 19, 2011
after the hairdressing—
in the mirror a stranger
till I smile

— Heike Stehr (Moers, Germany)

Comment: A nice piece leading us involuntarily to a smile. By the way, how often do you go to the barber?

March 29, 2011
moon silver
on the sleeve
of the departing guest

— Patricia Neubauer (Philadelphia, PA, USA)

Comment: This conjures up a sensation of an ukiyo-e print by Utamaro (c. 1753-1806) in the Edo period or the elegant "shirabyoushi" dancers of the Warring States period starting c. 1467. "Moon silver on the sleeve" shows fresh awareness.

March 30, 2011: Second Prize
From underground
the Buddha—

— John Hamley (Marmora, ON, Canada)

Comment: I mistakenly posted this piece twice during the year due my forgetfulness, and the freshness of the haiku. I recall the two famous lines by Ezra Pound (1885-1972) that make up his poem "In a Station of the Metro":

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough

However, I have not met the word combinations of Mr. Hamley's haiku ("underground," "Buddha," "sunglasses") anywhere—they are concise expressions without any useless words or punctuation. By the way, what color could these sunglasses be—black or the color of a pale "apparition"?

April 4, 2011: Second Prize
out of the fog
comes an ox cart and shouts
in another language

— Lars Vargo (Seoul, Korea)

Comment: Nobody will complain of flaws in this haiku. Good English, good expression and good content.

April 11, 2011
lonesome road
somewhere a trombone
moving the moon

— Rudi Pfaller (Remshalden, Germany)

Comment: A miracle has happened with music of the trombone making the moon go round. Notwithstanding this fantasy, it's fully convincing.

April 15, 2011
the giant

— o g aksnes (Tonsberg, Norway)

Comment: The third line is astonishing — as huge as the flukes.

April 26, 2011: Second Prize
The first thing I saw
Was a giant happy meal
Then Ronald came in

— Dexton Warren (Kihei Charter School, HI, USA)

Comment: In addition, he is a big eater.

April 30, 2011
rain clouds
conversations shift around
the train carriage

— Alan Summers (Bradford-on-Avon, England)

Comment: All the passengers must be afraid of a delay. The train continues to run along the steep precipices under the rain clouds.

May 3, 2011
Budokan, palace
Where emperor kneels before
Guests in cardboard thrones

— Steve Jensen (Delavan, WI, USA)

Comment: The tsunami brought us a special scene we Japanese have never experienced before: The Emperor and Empress knelt in front of common evacuees and cast gracious eyes on them in the Budokan arena.

May 5, 2011
first light
in the valley—
plum blossoms

— Sonam Chhoki (Thimphu, Bhutan)

Comment: The king of Bhutan came to Japan and presented very kind words—like plum blossoms in the valley to the people of the tsunami-hit areas of northeastern Japan.

May 9, 2011
evening sky
rustling palm fronds
catch the moon

— Eileen Benavente-Blas (Dededo, Guam)

Comment: Amusingly the author depicts the southern country with a new knack of catching the moon with rustling palm fronds.

May 10, 2011
on cathedral glass
a man I can name

— Heike Gewi (Aden-Crater, Yemen)

Comment: "Cathedral" may be a hint as to his identity. Perhaps …

May 25, 2011: Second Prize
counting stars
I move round
the galaxy

— P K Padhy (Andhra Pradesh, India)

Comment: On the hilltop he was looking up into space and traveling around the galaxy. How vast and beautiful the heavens are!

May 28, 2011
the hare with amber eyes
jumps back in again

— Alan Summers (Bradford-on-Avon, England)

Comment: Netsuke (small Japanese art sculptures) are attached to purses as stoppers. They are valuable and are often made of ivory or chased gold.

June 2, 2011
jazz club
the steady rhythm
of the ceiling fan

— Gregory Hopkins (Weaver, AL, USA)

Comment: Here's a good match, synchronizing jazz music with the ceiling fan in the cafe in the South. It is as if I am there listening to the melody of Lady Ipanema.

June 8, 2011
a wave of pebbles
washed up along the shore

— Lynne Rees (Antibes, France)

Comment: The "laughter" did not come from young girls but from the waves surging upon the shore.

June 10, 2011: Second Prize
morning chill
the archer
stretches the silence

— Ramona Linke (Beesenstedt, Germany)

Comment: After a short moment, the arrow is released toward the target. The phrase "morning chill" is very effective and "stretches the silence," superbly depicts the tense scene.

July 2, 2011
deckchair meditation...
the lavender

— Helen Buckingham (Bristol, UK)

Comment: She is refreshing herself in a rented park deckchair, meditating and repositioning nearby plants while she is awake. Ah, happy old age … oh sorry, I'll revise that expression: happy middle age!

July 6, 2011
spring sunshine...
Picasso's asymmetry
on the cat's neck

— Hana Nestieva (Jerusalem, Israel)

Comment: This is an exquisite word picture, as good as Picaso's art.

July 7, 2011
a new menu
read by the wind
river café

— Romano Zeraschi (Parma, Italy)

Comment: Witty and smart with a feathery touch.

July 15, 2011
the chelsea show—
flowers trained
to wave

— David Jacobs (London, UK)

Comment: It seems impossible to train flowers, but they move like magic at the Chelsea fair.

July 19, 2011
Summer evening dusk
Stealing light from college halls
Gone home for the night

— John Jennings (Galway, Ireland)

Comment: In the Irish summer evening, he has left dim-lighted college halls to head home. A calm and serene college town in Ireland.

July 20, 2011
empty pier—
old man throws the water
from the paper boat

— Magdalena Banaszkiewicz (Krosno Odrz, Poland)

Comment: At dusk on the melancholic, empty pier, a solitary old man throws water from a little paper boat … so sorrowful.

July 29, 2011: Second Prize
summer cruise
headed for

— Gregory Hopkins (Weaver, AL, USA)

Comment: I appreciate the author's talent in "toriawase" (juxtaposition), a fundamental haiku technique in which two things which are not far from—yet not too close to—each other are used in a single haiku. "Cruise" and "divorce" are juxtaposed and furthermore, "summer" is very effective.

Aug. 1, 2011
under poet's
wobbly cafe table
songbirds find crumbs

— Don Hansbrough (Seattle, WA, USA)

Comment: This may be the author's morning routine work at the café: As he eats breakfast while reading the morning newspaper, his songbird friends came to find his morning provisions.

Aug. 4, 2011: Second Prize
the longest day—
Robert Mitchum lands
in Normandy

— David Jacobs (London, UK)

Comment: Although the phrase "the longest day" in haiku indicates a day around the summer solstice, this famous movie star uses up the day with deadliness and success, landing on the Normandy shore. A witty and smart haiku.

Aug. 5, 2011
Summer sun
Spreading across the sky
Like a egg on a sizzling pan

— Raj K. Bose (Honolulu, HI, USA)

Comment: An amusing comparison: the summer sun and an egg, with a good last line.

Aug. 17, 2011
morning walk—
ahead of me

— A. Sethuramiah (Bangalore, India)

Comment: We are not able to see the "antimatter," but the author might have sensed it in his professional career.

Aug. 18, 2011
car accident
fireman splashing a rainbow
from the asphalt

— D. V. Rozic (Ivanic Grad, Croatia)

Comment: I have been in a traffic accident, though not one as serious as the one in the haiku. Let's take care on the road. In any case, this rainbow could be very beautiful, producing an aesthetic sensation.

Aug. 20, 2011
scintillating glow...
a basket of aubergines
in the summer morn

— Keith A. Simmonds (Tunapuna, Trinidad & Tobago)

Comment: The author is able to be impressed by beauty in his daily life.

Aug. 24, 2011
sudden rain shower
umbrellas in bloom
Tokyo summer

— Eileen Benavente-Blas (Dededo, Guam)

Comment: We Japanese so often put up umbrellas, even in light rain.

Aug. 31, 2011
a soaring hawk
I don't want to be God, but
some wings would be nice

— jerry ball (Walnut Creek, CA, USA)

Comment: Jerry, you will surely be a hawk when reincarnated 30 or 40 years later.

Sept. 1, 2011: Second Prize
before the jump

— o g aksnes (Toensberg, Norway)

Comment: He enjoys seeing slow-motion films. We can feel the author's keen perceptiveness in the use of the word "invisible."

Sept. 2, 2011
southern evening
the fireflies

— Vida (Marietta, GA, USA)

Comment: In your small town in Georgia, fireflies move very slowly … naturally.

Sept. 5, 2011
antique car show
across the grass runway
a white butterfly

— Adelaide B. Shaw (Millbrook, NY, USA)

Comment: A cabbage butterfly has strayed into the grass fields, where cars with character are on show. Antique cars make a scintillating contrast with the small white butterfly.

Sept. 12, 2011
war orphans
dandelion seeds waiting
for the wind

— Carlos Gesmundo (Minneapolis, MN, USA)

Comment: We often have this kind of scene in haiku, if one removes "war orphans." This could be the point of this haiku. Personally, I prefer the singular form "an orphan."

Sept. 19, 2011
starry night
reflected in a field
of fireflies

— Origa (Okemos, MI, USA)

Comment: There is normally no way to see stars and fireflies at the same time in the field, but Origa makes it possible.

Sept. 21, 2011
wet pavements
a cat walks
upon the moon

— Rohini Gupta (Mumbai, India)

Comment: "The moon," it seems, should be a full moon.

Sept. 22, 2011
dark glass building
the moon appears

— Vimalan (Auckland, New Zealand)

Comment: We see one more beautiful aspect of the moon in this haiku.

Sept. 23, 2011: Second Prize
delving into
a mandala

— Helga Stania (Greppen, Switzerland))

Comment: This might be a little bit overdone, but it is fully convincing. A mandala's new form has appeared on the rainy ground.

Sept. 30, 2011: Second Prize
for miles and miles...

— Romano Zeraschi (Parma, Italy)

Comment: How beautiful the sunset and a thousand rows of tomatoes are! There is nothing more and nothing less — simply them depicted as they are.

Oct. 6, 2011
gecko tapping
on our camper trailer—
I fall asleep

— Tomislav Maretic (Zagreb, Croatia)

Comment: I should say this is the first time for me to hear of a gecko tapping a door with its tail. Nature will give us a rare view of little creatures when we expose ourselves to it.

Oct. 18, 2011
Burnt stubble field—
columns of smoke invoking
the rain

— Vasile Moldovan (Bucharest, Romania)

Comment: Japanese people may witness the same situation in their landscapes. "Invoking the rain" arouses nostalgic sentiments of rural life.

Nov. 2, 2011
full moon
a horse walks a horse
to water

— Gregory Hopkins (Weaver, AL, USA)

Comment: "Full moon" is a good and effective choice of words, and there is a heart-warming second line.

Nov. 8, 2011
open air concert...
one of the violas carries
different socks

— Ramona Linke (Beesenstedt, Germany)

Comment: We soon focus our attention on the viola player, because she looks cute wearing different color socks. However, "viola" could be changed for another word.

Nov. 10, 2011
night train
fast gallery of flashing faces...
black suture

— Romano Zeraschi (Parma, Italy)

Comment: For the second line, I'd like to suggest another thought: flashing faces of the passengers.

Nov. 26, 2011
waiting for the bus...
the morning moon above
a street lamp

— Tomislav Maretic (Zagreb, Croatia))

Comment: Here we see two ends of a day: the morning moon in the distance and nearby street lamps shedding dim lights over the city.

Nov. 28, 2011: Second Prize
sea breeze—
the gulls turn white
from head to tail

— Alexey Golubev (Saint Petersburg, Russia)

Comment: As the winds blow on the gulls, the gulls soon turn white from head to tail. The third line is superb.

Nov. 30, 2011: Second Prize
stuffing yourself
unstuffing yourself
what else?

— Jose del Valle (Rockville, RI, USA)

Comment: I remember one Japanese haiku which has almost the same contents, by Tenko Kawasaki (1927-2009): ningenwa kudayorinareri himizika (human beings / made of slender tubes / shortness of the winter days).The third line is a "kigo" in Japanese, which also means "the shortness of life." There is nothing like a kigo in Mr. del Valle's haiku, but it is packed with life.

Dec. 1, 2011
fall conference
I am here, right behind
my name tag

— jerry ball (Walnut Creek, CA, USA)

Comment: This famous American haikuist may now be in some gorgeous nursing home. Thank God he is healthy and making plenty of good haiku.

Dec. 7, 2011
i warm
mother's cold hands...
next life pending

— Charlotte Digregorio (Winnetka, IL, USA)

Comment: You and your mother will reincarnate 30 or 40 years later. The next life really exists, I am sure.

Dec. 12, 2011
only autumn wind
digs deeper
my cavity

— Toshio Matsumoto (Osaka, Japan)

Comment: This is a kind of "concrete" haiku. As time moves from summer to autumn, the author's cavity becomes more and more painful.

Dec. 15, 2011
golden autumn
the girl witch
has us spellbound

— David Jacobs (London, UK)

Comment: Your daughter must be very cute wearing a witch's hat.

Dec. 19, 2011
corn seed sprouts
in the chicken coop
after monsoon rain

— Barbara A. Taylor (Nimbin, Australia)

Comment: It seems so damp after the monsoon rain.

Dec. 20, 2011
Riverbed gallery
driftwood objet d'art
displayed endlessly

— haruo nakamura (Wakayama, Japan)

Comment: I often take a stroll along the Arakawa river flowing along the western part of Tokyo. I once took a snapshot of a huge piece of driftwood whose shape depicted a dinosaur and a young boy beside undulating sea waves.

Dec. 28, 2011
blue moon—
I hold a mirror
to the sky

— hortensia anderson (New York, NY, USA)

Comment: Once in a blue moon, I look into the bathroom mirror and find how old and ugly I have become.

Dec. 30, 2011: First Prize
help my mother
to have a bath

— Ramona Linke (Beesenstedt, Germany)

Comment: A heart-moving masterpiece. I decided this should win first prize without delay. Thinking Mother will not live long, the author helps her to have a bath as an afterglow emerges, slowly and tenderly.