Haiku Presence Award 2013

1st Prize (£100)

billowing snow:
the lamb quiet
beneath my coat
Pamela Brown (Wales, UK)

2nd Prizes (£25)

the moon’s apostrophe—
everything I know
learned from books
  Sandra Simpson (New Zealand)

the long day ends leaning on a hazel crook
Pamela Brown (Wales, UK)

autumn sun the old dog rolls in the dust of the lane
John Barlow (England, UK)

faintly to the Pleiades robin song
John Barlow (England, UK)


storm clouds ...
a sea eagle’s shadow
sweeps the treetops
Vanessa Proctor (Australia)

the war off again—
a higgledy-piggledy pile
of pistachio shells
Sandra Simpson (New Zealand)

spring rain
I slip another IOU
into his piggy bank
John Barlow (England, UK)

breeze-tousled ivy
the crook where the owl settles
softened by snow
John Barlow (England, UK)

rain-soaked fell
  out of the snow come the fleece
  and bones
John Barlow (England, UK)

Judges’ Report

1st prize: The hills are a place of danger when there is wind and snow. Paths get covered, landmarks are obscured and even the experienced can lose their bearings but the sheep farmer has no alternative than to be out there looking after her flock, particularly at lambing time. This is a poem of heightened emotion and considerable drama, but the story is open. Is the lamb dead or protected, drawing warmth from the poet's body, frightened by the storm? We may lean towards the latter reading but we cannot be sure. Are the poet and lamb still in the snow or now safe, under shelter? Where is the lamb's mother and why are they separated? A range of possibilities is conveyed by just eight words. The uncertainty adds to the tension and sense of danger. The poem’s concrete imagery has a satisfying unity deriving from the whiteness of snow and lamb and the rich structure of opposites: noise/quiet, turbulence/stillness, cold/warmth, outside/inside. Like the poet’s coat this framework contains the reader, and suggests, perhaps, that all will end as it should. (Ian Storr)

2nd prizes: “the moon’s apostrophe” — The philosophical enquiring here flows naturally from the single image of a crescent moon, depicted beautifully, and originally, as being like an apostrophe. Now that apostrophes in English are under threat from all manner of directions, this punctuation mark may disappear within a few generations and become a footnote in the history of the language. The visual resemblance triggers the thought of the printed word, and the education garnered from the pages of books, and how valuable that is within a world where books might well be superseded by the internet and e-books and whatever technologies follow. However, the statement itself — ‘everything I know / learned from books’ — is undercut, happily, by the suggestion that the natural world and the skies above it have also played a large part in informing her knowledge since infancy; and that, while apostrophes and books may face extinction, the moon will, unless it’s destroyed by asteroids and/or human tourism, remain constant. That contradiction gives the poem added layers which makes the whole very special. (Matthew Paul)

“the long day ends” — For me this was an immediate hit. Clear and direct yet with a hint of ambiguity. An obvious reading would be of a shepherd resting on her crook, possibly reflecting on the events of the day. Additionally, could it not be that it is the day itself that is leaning on the crook resting from its labours? (Stuart Quine)

“autumn sun” — This could be melancholic, the old dog in the autumn, close perhaps to the end of life. There is this dimension to the poem, but the dominant tone is life-affirming. Although the poet does not tell us, we know, from our own experience, that the dog is enjoying what he is doing, and that this is intensified by being in the sun. The repetition of the “o” sound in old and rolls sets up a rhythm in the poem which the two following phrases of three syllables continue. This evokes the experience of the rolling and helps us enter into the pleasure of the dog. (Ian Storr)

“faintly to the Pleiades” — In this slow-burning haiku there is a poetic rightness about the connection of the Pleiades and the robin song. A co-mingling of sight and sound, where the coda of the robin resonates with the clustered stars. Philosophically, it can be seen as an expression of universal interdependence, of how everything, even a snap of the fingers, affects and is affected by everything else. Using a metaphor from the Hua-Yen Sutra of an infinite net with a jewel at every nexus: when one jewel is illuminated every jewel is illuminated. (Stuart Quine)

304 entries were received. Martin Lucas sifted the entries, reducing the field to a shortlist of 103, which was then circulated to the three judges: Matthew Paul, Stuart Quine and Ian Storr. The judges made independent selections, with the results tallied to give the final decision.

Congratulations are due to all successful writers, and thanks to all entrants for their support.

2011 Awards and Judge's comments are already available.

2010 Awards and Judge's comments are already available.

2009 Awards and Judge's comments are already available.

2008 Awards and Judge's comments are already available.