. The 22 Best Haiku of 2022 Winner and Runners-up of the Society of Classical Poets 2022 Haiku Competition Judged by Margaret Coats (see her remarks below) See all entrants here. . COMPETITION WINNER . a cicada’s husk grandfather in his best suit hands folded, eyes closed —Ngo Binh Anh Khoa . . RUNNERS-UP IN SEASONAL ORDER . New blooms on black trees veiled in quiet bone-white fog spring’s dirge to winter —Hannah Lee . blossoms of the spring two high school students fighting for the window seat —Oluwasegun Oluseyi Adesina . Delicate white wings dance over sun-kissed petals tipsy with nectar —Mia P. Solomonides . Yes, there is a dove sitting in a tall oak tree. I hear a high coo. —Michael Lowenberg . Cerulean sky above yellow sunflowers The smell of burning —Mantz Yorke . mushroom multitudes popping up after the rain a refugee camp —Raymond C. Roy . Turtle, a green leaf blown slowly over the ground by a lazy breeze —Michael David Eaton . lost in perfumed air a small skipper is crossing the wildflower sea —Benjamin Bläsi . The night condenses into black brown coffee drops. They stain the morning. —Ezeifedi Chibueze . Wet cement sky leaks the hills melt into red sludge banana plants mould —Jyi Jyo . high-rise balcony the perfect panorama of summertime smog —Srini . Secrets long buried Beneath this rushing river Now breathe summer air —Bentley Brock . a hot summer night only a slice of the moon for my refreshment —Urszula Marciniak . the last fallen rose wilts sweetly, lightly, slowly blushing so faintly —Natalie Tokita . blue morning-glories mirroring a cloudless sky blue morning-glories —Stefanie Bucifal . Halloween party The devil’s fork in his hand bigger than he is —Andrew Shimield . Autumn spider spins Silk threads overwintering Her offspring within —Mihael de la Montagnes . Fall’s artillery Acorns spatter on my roof Rat! Tat! Winter comes —John Sheills . Concentration camp From the bottom barbed wire hangs Skin scrape frost-encased —John Kolyav . Winter grips us still Icicle soul siesta Drip me back to life —Brianna C . Let’s meet, you and I Under winter cherry trees Love won’t wait till spring —Rose Jakubaszek . . Comments from the Judge Congratulations to the winner, who has not published at the Society of Classical Poets, but who follows similar ideals in his bilingual edition of the Vietnamese classic, The Tale of Kieu. This work has been translated into English several times, but Ngo Binh Anh Khoa presents an English version in the traditional verse form. Congratulations as well to the runners-up, who stand out among a field of 388 competitors this year, up from 246 in 2020 and 339 in 2021. And this field, in my opinion, surpassed earlier years in quality of poems as well as in number of poets. Many thanks to all poets who entered the competition, and made it a delight to judge! In the winning haiku, the image of the grandfather is dignified and peaceful. He might be occupied in prayer or meditation. But because he is compared to a cicada husk, he must be dead, well dressed for a last farewell. Cicadas are insects that make a raucous racket of strident noises for a week or ten days at the end of summer or the beginning of autumn. Then all at once they fall silent, with bodies decaying near hard, shiny shells of chestnut or amber color. This, at least, is what happened in the experience of the haiku contest judge while living in Japan. Linking the seasonal image of a cicada husk and the description of a deceased individual, the poet hints at profound questions about the grandfather’s life and death. It seems he died early, before reaching a mellow autumn or the winter of old age. He made a loud clamor shortly before death, and may have died suddenly along with others like himself. Was he a man who spoke out against injustice or persecution? Was he a leader who caused an uproar by speech or writings? Was he someone known for untiring effort, spending his whole life’s energy in strenuous work at the height of his powers? Haiku brevity leaves the reader to ponder the possibilities, while the poem suggests a soul at rest and a spirit to be honored. Several runners-up show how haiku in traditional form, even with reference to nature and season, can address concerns of human society. Mantz Yorke flies the blue-over-yellow Ukrainian flag, noticing sunflower seed and oil as major products of this country where war continues. Raymond C. Roy speaks of refugees there and elsewhere. Bentley Brock refers to recent dramatic drying up of major rivers such as the Rhine and the Loire. John Kolyav, with only “frost” to represent nature, considers the raw brutality of a concentration camp. Some readers will need explanation of a few creative word choices. The “banana plants” mentioned by Jyi Jyo are “bashō” in Japanese. This could allude to the great haiku poet himself, or to poetry in general, suffering mould in the cataclysm the author describes. Benjamin Bläsi writes of a “skipper” (captain of a boat) in his wildflower sea. At “Halloween” gatherings such as the one Andrew Shimield depicts, persons (especially children) dress in bizarre costumes. Brianna C makes curious use of “siesta” (usually a long afternoon nap) to tell what happens to a soul in winter. In addition to the winner and runners-up, a few more poems from the 2022 competition show the impressive potential of English haiku in traditional form. Those mentioned below are chosen not because they are “the best of the rest,” but because they are excellent examples of particular techniques. Here are two that rhyme all three lines: . bones beneath the ground buried deep within a mound dying to be found —Jason Mackey . Body, heart, and mind Splintered shards too hard to find Leaving me behind —Shade . The pen name of the second author is part of the art, revealing what is left behind. Compare these rhyming haiku in English to a poem formerly attributed to Bashō, but now considered to be the work of Sagami no Tawarabo. At one of Japan’s most scenic spots, gazing at numerous islands (shima) with pine trees (matsu) beautifully weathered by sea wind, he wrote: . Matsushima ya Ah, ah, Matsushima ya Matsushima ya . This is the only Japanese haiku I know that rhymes all three lines. It does so by repetition of the same sounds, known as “identical rhyme” in English. Repetition also produces identical end rhyme on two lines (rather than three) in haiku by such classic masters as Buson, Issa, Ransetsu, Kakei, Shiki, Ryōta, and Taigi. Internal rhyme happens as well, and on rare occasions there is end rhyme like that in English. Rhyme is uncommon in classic haiku, but anyone who thinks it is forbidden needs to read more poems. Among our 2022 runners-up, Stefanie Bucifal (repeating a line) and Natalie Tokita (repeating unstressed syllables in a lovely rhythm) employ the classic identical rhyme technique. To deal with a topic at length, haiku can form part of a sequence. The Society of Classical Poets Competition is intended for individual haiku, but we received one sequence entitled as such that offers an excellent treatment of the covid experience. . COVID Crises We demand answers! Oxygen concentrators Still stuck with Customs. Planes land with supplies. Despite the scramble, no one Gets aid they must have. Pain, tears, and anger Loss that belongs to us all. How much can be borne? —Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan . Three brief observations, from a particular place in the world, work together to express feelings of persons with differing experience all over the globe. Who cannot say, “We demand answers!” to incompetent bureaucrats and political profiteers? There is truly “Loss that belongs to us all.” As judge of this contest, I could not have selected one of these haiku as better than the others, when their effect depends on the sequence of three. But I do thank the author for the powerful example of a cohesive haiku sequence spotlighted here. Riddles are classic in many languages and literatures. Haiku can accommodate them. This one features alliteration and clever wordplay, with the answer to the riddle as “cutting word” separating the poem’s two parts. . Feasted it withers fasted it fattens: for love forfeit is surfeit —Marlin Mattson . This witty riddle, like the above sequence of three poems, and the two rhyming poems before, does not look at nature or give an indication of the season. Does that mean these should be called senryu rather than haiku? We had some discussion of this as the competition was in progress. I said there is no clear distinction between the two, and I believe that is why the Society of Classical Poets has just one category for “Haiku and Senryu.” The name “Senryū” belongs to a Japanese poet of the 18th century, known for sharp, cynical, humorous satires on human failings. He used the haiku form, but moved away from observations of the natural world and attention to the seasons of the year. Poems like his are senryu, while those on nature are haiku. But what about poems that (technically speaking) belong to neither group? Below are two good ones. . planning dad’s birthday I collect the smashed pieces of my piggy bank —Daipayan Nair . This poem, showing a child’s immense love for his father, is very far from cynical and might even be called sentimental. For the family, it refers to the season when the birthday occurs, but that’s not in the poem. This is true for very many poems that reflect on personal events and circumstances. . still a nobody a lump of clay starts to spin on the potter’s wheel —Ravi Kiran . This poem about the beginning of personal development has neither the topic nor the tone of senryu. From a Judaeo-Christian perspective, it concerns God’s action as creator and shaper of each individual life. The image of potter-and-clay undoubtedly has significant implications elsewhere. Thinking about haiku and senryu, it’s important to realize that senryu received that name as a subgroup of poems in a long-established haiku tradition. “Senryu” cannot describe the vast group of all non-nature haiku. Poems like these by Daipayan Nair and Ravi Kiran are haiku, though they differ from many others in not presenting a scene from nature or referring to a season. The classic tradition of haiku developed with the natural world as its focus, and the practice of specifying a season. Other haiku are related to this tradition. Haiku-form poems with topics other than nature can acquire a seasonal reference when included in a sequence or collection, in which the overall concern with nature and seasons is clear. One such book is Kyoto Dwelling (1987; Kindle 2012) by Edith Shiffert. This is a collection of original haiku in English by an American woman who lived in Japan for more than half her life. The 350 poems are in traditional form, unaffected by the dominant fashion for shorter and shapeless free-verse haiku. Another book of interest to haiku writers is Mastering Japanese Form Poetry and the American Haiku (2022) by E. Owen. It explains not just haiku but other Japanese kinds of poetry composed in 5-syllable and 7-syllable lines. It includes many English poems by the author in traditional Japanese forms. Most are longer than the 3-line haiku, although haiku-like sections have an essential place in the more extended verses. Love poetry is Owen’s special interest. It is intended for adults, but composed with suitable decorum. The most important traditional-form haiku book is still Japanese Haiku (1955) from the Peter Pauper Press. In it, Peter Beilenson translates more than 200 poems by the great Japanese masters. It is available free online HERE. Beilenson produced three more equally good books of similar size: : The Four Seasons, Cherry Blossoms, and Haiku Harvest. . . .