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Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards 2011

The Haiku Society of America sponsors this annual award for excellence in published haiku, translation, and criticism. This page includes judges' comments for the 2009 awards.

Previous year Merit Book Awards web pages:
2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

Return to archive of Merit Book Awards archive.

For full details about the contest rules, see Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards.


 

Merit Book Awards for 2011 (for books published in 2010)

The Haiku Society of America is pleased to announce the winners of the 2011 Kanterman Book Awards, for books published in 2010, judged by Michael Dylan Welch.

These awards are for books published in 2010. The First Place award is made possible by LeRoy Kanterman, cofounder of the Haiku Society of America, in memory of his wife Mildred Kanterman. Congratulations to each of the winners, and to many additional poets who published other worthy books. If you might be interested in serving as a judge for future Kanterman Awards, please notify any Haiku Society of America officer.

Kanterman Award, First Place, $500

Karma Tenzing Wangchuk. Shelter/Street. Port Townsend, Washington: Monitaur Press, 2010. 5.5 x 8.5 inches, 36 pages, saddle-stapled. No ISBN.

Karma Tenzing Wangchuk is a modern Santôka, with dashes of Issa's compassion and Bashô's wandering soul. This book of utterly honest and self-accepting poems, despite their depiction of a sometimes hard place in life, works well not just as a collection of 84 individual poems but as a nuanced sequence that celebrates life as it is, as in "it's the worm / inside the bird / sings the song." The poems explore homelessness, living on the street, and soup kitchens, with touches of nature and joy. Even the book's humble production values (a black-and-white cover photograph and simple typesetting in a stapled chapbook) echo the stark and sometimes gritty subject matter. Tenzing channels Santôka—minus the sake—in so many of these poems, as in the one-liners "bare feet in the grass write five poems" and "shave once or twice a week no one cares." In his stone buddha poems, the buddha is often Tenzing himself, as in "doing nothing— / the stone buddha / hard at it." We see shades of Issa in "school's out / the skateboard park / fills with children" or "little sparrow— / eating, shitting, chirping . . . / me too!" Ultimately, Karma Tenzing Wangchuk's Shelter/Street is urban haiku at its finest, a book that sneaks up on you in an unprepossessing way and makes you care.

in the end
     just as I am
          will have to do

Second Place, $100

John Parsons. Overhead Whistling. Labyrinth Press, 2010. 5.25 x 7.5 inches, 130 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-1-872468-83-9.

Overhead Whistling by John Parsons begins with a quota- tion from Alan Watts, who said "We do not as much look at things as overlook them." What follows is a collection of more than 350 haiku that closely look at things, and see them closely, all of it the stuff of life. The poems carry a fresh and distinctive British voice, including subjects, cultural allusions, and linguistic nuances that sometimes differ from what Americans might be used to. Two cathedral poems: "cottage garden / through canterbury bells / her ring tone" and "new granite steps / to the mall already smooth / as the cathedral's."

Third Place, $50

Christopher Herold. Inside Out. Winchester, Virginia: Red Moon Press, 2010. 5.5 x 7 inches, 102 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-1-893959-96-5.

A Mobius strip graces the front cover of this book, which begins by invoking Chuang Tzu who wondered if he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was a man. Such are the ins and outs of this book, divided into two sections, first "Inside Out" and then "Outside In." The poems fit these classifications in both expected and unexpected ways, exploring not just the indoors and outdoors, but the internal as well as the external, the transcendent and the mundane. The opening and closing poems: "first light / everything in this room / was already here" and "dusk / with nowhere to turn / sunflower."

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)

George Swede. Joy in Me Still. Edmonton, Alberta: Inkling Press, 2010. 5.25 x 8.25 inches, 82 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-0-9810725-5-5.

Gary Hotham. Spilled Milk. Paintings by Susan Elliott. Montrose, Colorado: Pinyon Publishing, 2010. 5.25 x 8 inches, 134 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-0-9821561-5-5.

Carolyn Hall. How to Paint the Finch's Song. Winchester, Virginia: Red Moon Press, 2010. 4.25 x 6.5 inches, 80 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-1-893959-94-1.

Each of these three books offers something distinctive. George Swede is an old hand at haiku, and we would expect nothing less than excellence—and of course he delivers. This book reflects on his career as a psychology professor (he's now retired), and tends to look back on life rather than forward, as in "the line cast / where the river flows / things long forgotten."

Gary Hotham has been doing haiku for just as long as Swede, if not longer, and delivers another pleasing volume of his po- ems, beautifully presented at one per page, interspersed with sumi paintings by Susan Elliott. A sample poem: "at the bus stop— / her hand out / in the rain."

Carolyn Hall is a newer voice, relatively speaking, but has become a standard-bearer for the haiku genre. Her newest collection paints the songs of both the visible and invisible. The opening poem, a one-liner: "to whom it may concern cottonwood puffs."

 

Best Anthology

Stephen Henry Gill and Okiharu Maeda, editors, One Hundred Poets on Mount Ogura, One Poem Each. Kyoto: People Together for Mt. Ogura and Hailstone Haiku Circle, 2010. 6 x 8.25 inches, 136 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-4-9900822-4-6.

The year 2010 seemed to be uncommonly populated with many excellent anthologies. I consider this one to be best because of its clear concept, carried out well. Perhaps its selection also serves as a nod to other bilingual Hailstone haiku anthologies that have been overlooked in previous years. Mt. Ogura, on the northwest side of Kyoto, is the most celebrated mountain in Japanese literature, especially in Fujiwara no Teika's Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, after which this book is modeled. In recent years, however, Mt. Ogura has been neglected, with much trash dumped there. A nonprofit group started by Stephen Gill has sought to clean it up and beautify it, and this anthology seeks to bring attention to Mt. Ogura's poetic legacy and natural beauty. It does so without the environmental agenda getting in the way of most of the poems (mostly haiku, but also a few tanka), and provides great variety—young, old; new poets, and the more seasoned. All content is translated into English or Japanese from the original language and presented in a professional layout and design. For those familiar with Mt. Ogura, the book is a treat, especially with its map and informative footnotes. For those not familiar, the book is an invitation to learn more. A sample poem by Yoshihiko Suzuki (Sagano is the region of Kyoto at the foot of Mt. Ogura): "Temple bell at dusk . . . / Sagano begins to receive / a winter shower."

Honorable Mentions for Best Anthology (in no paricular order)

Lidia Rozmus and Carmen Sterba, editors., paintings by Lidia Rozmus, photographs by Mamoru Luke Sterba Yanka and Lidia Rozmus. The Moss at Tokeiji. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Deep North Press, 2010. 5.25 x 8.5 inches, 52 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-1-929116-16-4.

Billie Dee, editor. An Island of Egrets: 2010 Southern California Haiku Study Group Anthology. Pasadena, California: Southern California Haiku Study Group, 2010. 5.25 x 8.5 inches, 110 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-0-9829847-0-3.

Stanford M. Forrester, editor, Donna Fleischer, contributing editor. Seed Packets: An Anthology of Flower Haiku. Windsor, Connecticut: Bottle Rockets Press, 2010. 5 x 6.5 inches, 100 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-0-9792257-4-1.

Allan Burns, editor. Montage: The Book. Winchester, Virginia: The Haiku Foundation, 2010. 10 x7 inches, 144 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-0-9826951-0-4.

Spring Street Haiku Group, Efren Estevez, production editor. Suspiciously Small: A Collection of Haiku. New York: Spring Street Haiku Group, 2010. 5 x 6.5 inches, 92 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-0-615-32318-3.

This year seemed to be the year of the anthology, as many fine anthologies were published in 2010, hence the many honorable mentions in this category. In another year, almost any one of these anthologies could have won as best anthology, and The Moss at Tôkeiji would be the forerunner because of its high concept and excellent execution—haibun by women only, about a temple in Kamakura that served for more than 600 years as a sanctuary for women during patriarchal times. Professional production and color photographs throughout contribute to making this a must-have collection that also could have won in the haibun category.

The other anthologies mentioned here include the Southern California Haiku Study Group annual anthology edited by Billie Dee, which is notable not only for the range of voices, but the inclusion of Spanish-language haiku from just south of the border in Mexico. Stanford M. Forrester's Seed Packets, though not the first anthology of flower haiku, is especially pleasing in the pacing and subtle grouping of poems. Montage, edited by Allan Burns, is a huge anthology of more than 1,113 haiku that appear at the rate of 21 poems on every other page (opposite short essays introducing the themes covered in each "gallery" of poems, with themes such as frontiers, life and death, and fall migration). The book's sheer number of poems makes it daunting to read, but the thematic groupings and focus on poets as well as themes make it accessible. Also worth noting is the Spring Street Haiku Group's latest anthology, which assembles five smaller annual collections (not previously published) into one pleasing volume by a number of notable poets.

As in other years, if the latest Red Moon Anthology were published only once instead of being part of an annual series, it would deserve greater recognition. For those who read the leading haiku journals, however, the material is already famil- iar. In the other collections listed here, most work is less familiar, thus fresher, or appears in engaging new arrangements. For anyone new to haiku, though, the Red Moon anthologies continue to be a vital and interesting perspective on the haiku scene.

Best Book of Haibun

Cor van den Heuvel. A Boy's Seasons. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Single Island Press, 2010. 6.5 x 7.5 inches, 206 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-0-9740895-8-4.

Any project that Cor van den Heuvel undertakes is typically equivalent to a home run. And he's done so here with A Boy's Seasons. This long-awaited haibun collection, a sort of memoir, explores the author's boyhood New England memories by season, focusing primarily on sports, but also on popular culture and other topics, concluding with haibun covering holidays throughout the year. This weighty and nostalgic book is essential reading for anyone exploring the genre of haibun. The book's final poem, as a sample: "on a train / Christmas lights in all the towns / flicker into the past." Also notable in this category, but given awards in other categories, are the haibun books The Moss at Tôkeiji and Ruth Franke's Slipping Through Water.

Best Book of Translation

Ruth Franke, translated by David Cobb and Celia Brown, paintings by Reinhard Stangl. Schwerelos Gleiten/Slipping Through Water. Schwinfurt, Germany: Wiesenburg Verlag, 2010. 7.75 x 9.5 inches, 120 pages, hardback. ISBN 978-3-9422063-40-1.

The production values of this hardback book by the late German haiku poet Ruth Franke are the best of any of the books mentioned in this year's awards. But more importantly, the content delivers a series of excellent haibun in both German and English translations. The haibun, presented in four sections interspersed with a few individual haiku, reveal the author's life and locations with disarming directness. Readers will feel the subjects of water, waves, aging, loneliness, and many rich memories. Here's a sample poem: "auf einer Parkbank / verdorrte Kiefernnadeln / paarweise," translated as "on a park bench / withered pine needles / still in pairs."

Best Book for Children

Valerie Bodden, Poetry Basics: Haiku. Collingwood, Ontario: Saunders Book Company; Mankato, Massachusetts: Creative Paperbacks, 2010. 8.25 x 11.25 inches, 32 pages, perfectbound. ISBN 978-1-926722-44-3.

The majority of English-language haiku books for children perpetuate the urban myth of 5-7-5 syllables, but this book is an exception. Much of the material is familiar from numerous other sources, but for a compressed and informative overview of the haiku genre for children, there have been few other books equal to this (Patricia Donegan's book, Haiku: Asian Arts & Crafts for Creative Kids, is still the best such book, however, with Paul Janeczko's How to Write Haiku and Other Short Poems not far behind for older children). This richly illustrated large-format book covers haiku's history in Japan and its jump across the pond to the West, especially through Imagism. Although the "onji" myth is perpetuated, syllable-counting is minimized ("most English-language haiku . . . do not have a set number of syllables per line"), and we learn such techniques as using present tense and season words, exploiting the five senses, and employing a two-part structure with a pause. Sample poems by leading Western poets, or perhaps children, would have made the book even better. A short bibliography points to additional resources.

Honorable Mention for Best Book for Children

Kala Ramesh. My Haiku Moments: An Activity Book for Young Haiku Lovers. 5.5 x 5.5 inches, 12 pages, saddle-stapled. Sold together with: Kala Ramesh. Haiku. 5.5 x 5.5 inches; no "pages" or binding (the book unfolds creatively). Both books: Illustrations by Surabhi Singh; New Delhi, India: Katha, 2010. ISBN 978-81-89934-63-7.

These two small books, sold as a pair, have high production values, full-color printing, and a pleasing selection of age-targeted poems. The activity book has brief descriptions of the form, structure, language, and subject matter for haiku, plus writing exercises, and an introduction to haiga and suggestions for teachers. The list of "simple tips" is surprisingly similar to my own "Haiku Checklist" (repeating much of the same wording and order), doing a good job of distilling the key strategies for haiku composition. The companion book provides numerous example haiku to emulate. What is particularly attractive—amazing, really—is how the book unfolds. If you hold the first and last pages between your thumbs and forefingers, and pull, the entire book unfolds, accordion-like, into a large poster-sized novelty. It has no traditional "pages." You can't read it linearly, but can read different triangles and squares of the book in whatever order you like, and then read the other side. This novelty presentation for children—also attractive to adults—imbues haiku poetry with excitement and appeal. A sample poem: "kite contest / the rise and fall / of ohs and ahs."

Special Award for Best Letterpress Book

Michael Ketchek, Over Our Heads. Northfield, Massachusetts: Swamp Press, 2010. 6.25 x 3.75 inches, 60 pages, perfectbound. No ISBN. Letterpress production by Ed Rayher.

Haiku poetry and small letterpress publications are made for each other, and Over Our Heads is a case in point. Another Swamp Press creation, printed on fine papers, the book is shaped like a house, with a moon overhead. A round moon shape is cut into the pages, each circle moved slightly on each page, giving the effect of a waxing and waning moon. Each page features one haiku. The innovative presentation threatens to overshadow the poems, but a careful reading reveals many moving and varied haiku and other short poems, such as "backwoods cabin / still not far enough / from the war" and "even without dewdrops / all those / caterpillar hairs."

Congratulations to all the winners. If you might be interested in serving as a judge for future Kanterman Awards, please notify any Haiku Society of America officer.

3dots

Michael Dylan Welch is vice president of the Haiku Society of America. He has won first place in each of the Henderson, Brady, Drevniok, and Tokutomi contests, among others, and has published his haiku, senryu, and other poems in hundreds of journals and anthologies. He has also published numerous books of poetry, including several books from Japanese, cotranslated with Emiko Miyashita (one of their waka translations was featured on the back of 150 million U.S. postage stamps in March of 2012). Michael cofounded the Haiku North America conference and the American Haiku Archives, and founded both the Tanka Society of America and National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo). His website is: <http://www.graceguts.com>.

 

 


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