Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards for 2007

Haiku Society of America

Merit Book Awards for 2007

Ed Markowski & Yvonne Cabalona, Judges 

How to pick the ripest apples from a bin of ripe apples? This was the task we faced as we reviewed the 31 books entered in the 2007 Merit Book Awards. After careful review and consideration, we independently compiled lists of the ten best presentations. Our lists were remarkably similar. At this point the judging became considerably more difficult, as the degree of separation in terms of artistry and craft diminished. We then discussed the merits of each book based on originality, creativity and a continuum of consistency. Another question we factored into our decision making process was, which of these books best presented haiku and the haiki arts to the general public.

Congratulations are due all of the authors who participated in this year's contest. The 31 entries form a composite mirror that reflects a small portion of the vast amount of talent contained within the international haiku community.We are pleased to present the following awards and special category honorable mentions.


First Place:

Jeanne Emrich, Editor. Reeds: Contemporary Haiga. Edina, MN: Lone Egret Press, 2006.

In her introduction to Reeds, Jeanne Emrich writes, "and it is the hope of this editor that the haiga within these pages will be a source  of inspiration to present and future poet-painters." Beautifully arranged, this collection of haiga from 35 contributing poets and painters delivers inspiration, surprise and delight from cover to  cover. As one traverses the pages of Reeds, they are greeted with one eye-popping moment after another. Graphics are presented in a variety of media  including, sumi-e, watercolor, pencil, pen and ink, collage and computer imagery.

In addition to the individual and collaborative works, Reeds features an outstanding essay on Yomeiride by Stephen Addiss, and an interview with Ion Codrescu in which Mr. Codrescu provides valuable insights on both the present and future of haiga. In the interview Mr. Codrescu asks, "Why don't TV channels include a haiga moment in their broadcasts? A TV haiga? Why not? Thirty seconds  of paintaing, calligraphy and haiku would be very good for people." We heartily agree, but until that actually happens, we'll have to be  content with outstanding productions like Reeds.


Second Place:

Water Lines by Carolyn Hall. Water Lines. Liverpool England: Snapshot Press, 2006.

the long night 
a kaleidoscope of moth parts 
in the overhead lamp

This poem by Carolyn Hall which illuminates page 38 is typical of the excellence that shines throughout the author's first collection, Water Lines. Experiencing Carolyn's poetry is akin to sailing on a clear day with a perfect tail wind. From first poem to last, one is taken on a smooth journey marked by ordinary scenery that becomes extraordinary by virtue of the poet's keen and guiding eye.

The poet addresses aging and the passage of time with humor...

just guessing at
the true color
of my hair

and an enlightening sense of seriousness...

so suddenly winter 
baby teeth at the bottom 
of the button jar

When one considers how difficult it is to write a "good" haiku it's staggering to note that all of the poems in Water Lines were written between 2000 and 2005. We may never know the true color of Carolyn Hall's hair, but we're certain that it's luminous. 


Third Place:

Paul Miller [paul m.]. Called Home. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2006.

fog on the bridge 
this small truck 
for all our belongings

This poem, the first in called home, immediately evoked images from John Steinbeck's masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath and serves as a bellwether for this fine collection by paul m.

The poet then takes us on a cross country journey from the saw-tooth peaks of a California mountain range to the woods of New England. Along the way, paul m. provides us with directional signs and maps that indicate connections to place, and the perils and uncertainties of  relocation.

as if 
it had spilt the boulder 
pine seedling

meeting the neighbors 
the shapes of things 
hidden by snow

Paul m.'s poems are simple and expertly crafted. One can literally slip into the author's emotional longings and expectations as they travel down the highway of called home...

California behind us 
my feet dangle off the edge 
of the motel bed


Fourth Place:

Vincent Tripi. Paperweight for Nothing. Greenfield, MA: Tribe Press, 2006.

In paperweight for nothing, vincent tripi challenges both the reader and the boundaries of English language haiku. Tripi's poems cover a broad spectrum of style, from the traditional...

     with no one else riding
        autumn solitude

to the experimental...

snail horns even 
the moment, haiku

to the whimsical...

Why not
    just cry out to Venus
       We're all homesick!

Ultimately, this is a book that addresses questions of spirit and the renewal of spirit from the standpoint of mankind's inseparability from nature. vincent tripi's sensitivity and avoidance of cliche in embracing these issues elevates many of the poems above "genre." This finely hewn, thought provoking collection can well serve as a signpost for both beginning and established haiku poets.


Special Category Honorable Mention For Haibun:

David Cobb. Business in Eden. Essex, UK: Equinox Press, 2006.

David Cobb's Business in Eden begins with a long haibun titled, A Spring Journey To The Saxon Shore and ends with another long haibun titled, A Day In Twilight. In between, Mr. Cobb  takes us on shorter journeys to a school Christmas show, a cemetery, and a "priest hole." Methods of travel include bicycles, taxis and a Danish freighter. Each and every trip is well worth the rigors of travel. The author's prose is clear and clean. His haiku and senryu are well placed and serve to sharpen his expertly rendered tales.


Special Category Honorable Mention for Anthology:

Beary, Roberta & Ellen Compton, Editors. Fish in Love: Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology 2006. Haiku Society of America, 2006.

If fish in love is indicative of the current wealth of talent within The Haiku Society of America, then one can reasonably conclude that the state of this union is prosperous indeed. Roberta Beary and Ellen Compton did an excellent job of  editing. Those HSA members who contributed to this  celebration of haiku and senryu should feel equally proud. fish in love is an anthology to return to time and again.


Special Category Honorable Mention for Best International Collaboration:

Jim Kacian. Presents of Mind. Translation into Japanese by The Kon Nichi Haiku Circle, Kumamoto University. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2006.

From the first moment one opens Presents of Mind, they may feel as though they have been transported into Japanese culture. The translation of Jim Kacian's haiku are from English into Japanese. This book is formatted as books are formatted in Japan, and thus the English speaking reader is provided with an approximate sense of "reading Japanese." Jim Kacian's poems are solid throughout. They are presented in English, Kanji and Romanji. Presents of Mind is a unique  and fascinating presentation.




The purpose of the Haiku Society of America's Merit Book Awards is to recognize the best haiku and related books published in a given year in the English language. Every year sees a fresh crop of fine individual collections, anthologies, translations, critical studies and innovative forms.

In the past, the HSA Merit Book awards were partially supported by a memorial gift. Leroy Kanterman, cofounder of the Haiku Society of America, made a gift to support the first place award in memory of his wife Mildred Kanterman. See the archives of Merit Book Awards.

The Merit Book Awards competition is open to the public. Books must have been published in the previous year and must clearly contain a printed previous year copyright. A member, author, or publisher may submit or nominate more than one title. At least 50 percent of the book must be haiku, senryu, or haibun, or prose about these subjects (books mostly of tanka, for example, are not eligible). HSA will also consider collections that have only appeared in an e-book/digital book format. Two print copies of the digital book may be sent by the publisher. Books published by HSA officers are eligible for this award. Books published by the national HSA organization, however, are not eligible.

Winners by Year (with judges' comments):

2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993 | 1992 | 1991 | 1990 | 1989 | 1988 | 1987 | 1985 | 1983 | 1981 | 1978 | 1975 |

See the contest rules for entering the next Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards competition.