Memorial Haiku Contest Winners
National Haiku Writing Month is pleased to announce the winners of the Johnny Baranski Memorial Haiku Contest, judged by Paul Miller, editor of Modern Haiku magazine, held as a once-only contest in 2018. You can read more about Johnny on the Haiku Northwest website. That content includes a spotlight article about Johnny from Modern Haiku magazine that Paul wrote in 2015.
First Prize ($100)
A number of haiku submitted to the contest described violence against women, and of those this poem stood out. While the poem can be read as a single sentence, a more powerful reading is found by noticing the effective pivot in line two and how it breaks the haiku into two two-line sections (“naked oak / still standing” and “still standing / after the rape”). The first two lines set up a perfectly natural autumn scene in which an oak has shed its leaves—we are not surprised to see it still standing. But the powerful and unexpected twist in the third line shifts our focus from the tree to a human being who has gone through a terrible trauma. The nakedness of the tree parallels the physical and emotional nakedness of the victim, increased by the new chill of the season. While it may be a lot to ask, hope is suggested. Like the tree, the victim is “still standing,” and we hope that just as spring growth will re-blanket the oak the victim too will be at least partially healed.
Second Prize ($50)
This haiku operates on several sensory levels: the sight of the vendor, the sound of his call, and a scent that is evoked from memory. All this comes together in a sharp moment with the reader at its center. Our senses ground this haiku, so even though the vendor is mentioned only with a single word, we can conjure a full scene. I easily imagine the heat and dust (you may imagine differently) of Los Angeles where I born. I can practically taste the air. This is what haiku do best: they evoke so much with so little.
Third Prize ($25)
how many more
Another poem that leapt off the page on first reading. The first two lines are a puzzle because it seems that the poet is strangely desirous of rain, and even after the mention of a miscarriage in the last line we still wonder why. I believe this poem describes a moment in which a woman, still in shock, is perhaps looking for permission to grieve, to once again be in sync with a cruel Nature she thought her pregnancy a part of. A deeply lonely haiku—very powerful.
Honorable Mentions (ranked)
There is something ironic in the unreadable scrawl of a prescription. Its use is a vital necessity, yet a doctor’s carelessness seems to belie that. This authoritative abandonment pairs nicely with a winter rain, a season when our future seems equally unknowable.
hearing a story
The internet reports that a “bone moon” is a Native American name for a February full moon and is so named because of the scarcity of game during this winter month. This sense of rawness is an excellent pairing with a personal story. We can imagine all kinds of shared narratives and revelations, but after the last line of the poem the reader should suspect that a harsher truth lies beneath the spoken words. Like the scarce food supply, important things are unsaid.
Winter finds the prison yard, yet an inmate discovers unintended beauty that even the prison walls can’t keep out. A sense of hope in a dark time. I enjoyed the nod to Johnny Baranski, who wrote so many prison poems.
Anne Frank haus postcard unwritten
Some places—and this is true about the Anne Frank House—are too wrought with emotion to put into words, so we sympathize with the poet. But the poem also reminds us of the fact that Frank’s future itself was never written—or never had a chance to be.
Michael Dylan Welch
See this contest’s original submission guidelines.