Haiku Presence Award 2009

1st Prize (£100)

night birth a lamb shakes fluids into the sleet
Pamela Brown (Wales, UK)

2nd Prizes (£25)

winter solitude
the garden trellis leans
on a cloud
Scott Mason (USA)

barn swallows
           skitter through the sailboats
Marshall Hrycuik (Canada)


Adari pool—
a noon gecko tracks
the mosque shade
Malcolm Williams (England, UK)

summer storm
galahs swivel on wires
to wash their wings
Helen Davison (Australia)

white spots
on a brown butterfly’s wing—
the baby’s toes wave
Diana Webb (England, UK)

high above the clouds
checking out each passenger
a stowaway fly
Phillip Murrell (England, UK)

in the plastic cover
of a missing person notice
two snails feast
Kate Hall (England, UK)

Judge’s Report

night birth struck home on first reading—I was immediately there, feeling the cold, feeling the precariousness, yet persistence, of the life force. The lack of comment in the poem leaves us to feel how blindly this force asserts itself. It’s completely astonishing that a new life, straight from the warmth and security of the womb can be thrust into such a hostile environment and survive. The word shakes in this poem animates so much more than the poem itself. I get the impression that the poet is completely at one with the experience, allowing great breadth and depth to emerge.

cumulonimbus was another first time hit that stayed the course. Although that first word should set a heavy scene, the rhythm and alliteration of the second half of the poem are so effective that the first impression is one of lightness and joy. It’s on re-reading that a sense of urgency is felt through that first image. The overall effect is that of a poem that operates on several layers.

winter solitude tickled me at first; then kept growing and growing. This seems to be a result of the tension between the two images: the solemnity of the first and the apparent flippancy of the second. The second image brings a lightness to first and the first image grounds the second. The barrenness encountered in the winter solitude image allows the reader’s mind to become empty enough to somehow accept the surreal freeing up of the material world which follows. Ultimately, the poem is about leaving the door to creative possibilities open—the “trellis leaning on a cloud” keeps coming back and playing with my imagination. Of course, another way to read this poem is with the garden trellis/leans on a cloud illuminating winter solitude (which is a stock phrase)—the trellis being bare in winter, enabling us to see it in relation to the cloud and thus feel the solitude of winter through this particular aspect.

What stands out for me about these 1st and 2nd prize poems is their openness, presenting strong images while also involving the reader’s feelings and imagination in a big way. 354 entries were received: our congratulations to the authors of all selected haiku, and our thanks to all participants.

Fred Schofield

Fred Schofield founded the Yorkshire/Lancashire haiku group in 1995, and co-ordinated the Haiku Presence touring exhibition. He recently spent a year working on a haiku-and-music project in Leeds schools. He is haibun editor for Presence.