Haiku Society of America Haibun Student Haiku Awards for 1991

Haiku Society of America Student Haiku Awards
in Memorial of Nicholas A. Virgilio

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Student Haiku Awards for 1991

Joyce Walker Currier and Michael Dylan Welch

The 1991 Virgilio Haiku Contest for High School students, sponsored by the Haiku Society of America, received 307 entries from seven high schools (one in Mexico, one in New Zealand, and five in the United States). As judges, we looked for quality, freshness, and originality, and felt that the poems we selected should be complete, needing no further refinement. Our selections are given below, including eight honorable mentions (in ranked order) by category: haiku, senryu, and two visual or concrete poems. We received many other notable submissions, and although they may not be listed here, we encourage their authors to submit them for publication. Special thanks to the teachers and schools concerned for their support--and congratulations to all the winners. Keep writing!

In closing, thank you to the Haiku Society of America, and to Garry Gay, 1991 HSA president, for the pleasure and privilege of judging this contest. It isn't easy to define haiku and senryu, and far more difficult to teach it. We encourage all students, and all teachers, in their practice and experience of haiku. As always, keep writing!
~ Joyce Walker Currier and Michael Dylan Welch


new mother . . .
her old cat appears
at nursing time

Gina Valentine
Wahlert High School, Age 18, grade 12, Dubuque, IA

If you've ever lived on a farm, you know cats have a way of sensing when there's milk around. I am impressed with the integrity of the writer as she deals with and unites her subject matter "as one." Just as the old cat intuitively grasps the mystery of the senses, the poet presents it beautifully in this strikingly pure haiku. ~Currier

I especially like this haiku for its subtlety and maturity. A new baby has come to the home and demands the attention given previously to the old cat. The cat appears at nursing time, a time of closeness, of bonding. Perhaps the old cat has had kittens when it was younger and comes to the new mother as a way of expressing understanding. The contrast of young and old, the newness of the baby, the newness of the mother’s experience of mothering, and the inevitable cycles of life combine to enrich this sensitive poem. Yet much is left unsaid, such as the mother's reaction to the cat now that she has a baby to nurse. The image resonates in many directions. Finally, this poem is filled with sabi, and joy, too, for the new birth. ~Welch


As the sun rises
the flowers open
slowly . . .

Paola Mizrahi
Hamilton School, Age 16, grade 11, Mexico, D.F., Mexico

In this poem the value of the slow pace of nature is shown in the skillful and simple way the poet works with timelessness. Timelessness uses time slowly, and the writer focuses without pretense on the fullness of the creative world and records it. ~Currier

This poem is deceptively simple. We don't know where the flowers are, nor what kind of flowers open slowly in front of the poet, but we do know that the writer is still, centered, patient—and aware enough to notice the pace by which the flowers receive the light of the dawning day. Perhaps the writer is opening in the same way, slowly, to a continued life of awareness. ~Welch


Blowing out
a match
the sudden smell

Jana Juergens
Wahlert High School, Age 17, grade 12, Dubuque, IA

Here is a haiku of sensual impression. The poet is delightfully present as the blown-out match suffuses her with the sudden recognizable smell that brings writer and reader together in our humanity. ~Currier

This is an intimate poem, an experience all of us have felt. When you are close to a match and blow it out, you easily notice its distinctive smell. Perhaps this match was used to light a birthday cake, or maybe a campfire far away in the woods. In the midst of laughter and the smell of chocolate cake—or perhaps the rich scent of pine in a dark green forest—the sudden smell of a blown-out match is indeed startling enough to deepen your awareness of your surroundings. ~Welch


Christmas Day
the hunters
feed the deer

Matt Richards
Wahlert High School, Age 17, grade 12 , Dubuque, IA


Father home
late again . . .
my mother’s eyes

Angela Widmyer
Wahlert High School, Age 17, grade 12, Dubuque, IA


chemistry between lab partners

Noelle Bellaver
Wahlert High School, Age 17, grade 12, Dubuque, IA


"Christmas Day" is a well-crafted haiku about the fallibilities of man/hunter juxtaposed with his prey, the deer. "Father home" is a straightforward haiku of living experience that gives the reader a knowable understanding of cause and effect. And "chemistry between lab partners" is an excellent open-ended one-line haiku. ~Currier

These three poems exhibit compassion, sensitivity, freshness, and humor--the mixed emotions and unusual compassion of the hunters feeding the deer, the young person's quiet observations of her mother's eyes when her father comes home late, and the delightful word-play and double meaning of "chemistry" between two high school students in a class. Each poem suggests an untold story, and that is precisely what a good haiku should do. (Incidentally, the last of these three poems could be classified as a senryu, but I think its success as a poem is more important than how it is labeled.) ~Welch


day after the big test
the nurse’s office

Noelle Bellaver
Wahlert High School, Age 17, grade 12 , Dubuque, IA


beautiful girl
I turn my head and run
the red light

Matt Richards
Wahlert High School, Age 17, grade 12 , Dubuque, IA


out of our flavor
ice cream man
swears in Spanish

Kristin Torgler
Wahlert High School, Age 17, grade 12, Dubuque, IA


These three senryu are a wonderful representation of humor and amusement. Noelle's senryu is pure perception, Matt handles the third line deftly, and Kristin gives us a fine blend of sound and image.

Welch: Noelle's senryu tells a simple truth about certain students. Kristin's shares a simple yet unexpected experience. And Matt's poem surprises us with its twist between the second and third lines. These are fun, immediately accessible poems. ~Currier


train flattened penny

Gina Valentine
Wahlert High School, Age 18, grade 12, Dubuque, IA


re la tion ship

Scott Kluck
Wahlert High School, Age 18, grade 12, Dubuque, IA


Gina's visual haiku communicates to us the "aaahhh," and we, the readers, all see the flattened penny and imagine its untold story. Scott's haiku is a visual account of words carefully spaced to show the brokenness in and out of a relationship. ~Currier

In both of these poems, the shape or treatment of the words makes them work. Who has not laid a penny on a train track, then marveled at the weight of the train, at the penny's subsequent flatness (as shown by the "flat" look of the poem on the page)? Who has not suffered a break-up, as indicated by the separated word? These poems by their nature may not have as much depth or resonance as more conventional haiku or senryu, yet they are satisfying and accessible. We wanted to include them to show that preconceptions about haiku can indeed be successfully challenged. ~Welch


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The Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition for Grades 7-12 was founded in 1990 by the Sacred Heart Church in Camden, N.J. It is sponsored and administered by the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association in memory of Nicholas A. Virgilio, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, who died in 1989. See the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association for more about Nick.

The Haiku Society of America cosponsors the contest, provides judges, and publishes the contest results in its journal, Frogpond, and on its Website (www.hsa-haiku.org). Judges' comments are added to the web site following publication in Frogpond.

Winners by Year (with judges' comments):

2024 | 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 |

For details about the contest rules, read the complete contest submission guidelines.

See the Haiku Society of America publication of the award winning haiku and senryu:

Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition Anthology

edited by Randy M. Brooks
designed by Ignatius Fay

© 2022 HAIKU Society of America


To commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition, the executive committee of the Haiku Society of America published this anthology of award-winning haiku and senryu. The student observations, insights, experiences, emotions and insights evident in these haiku and senryu are a wonderful testament to the fresh voices and vivid imagery of young people. We believe the judges’ commentaries add a valuable layer of meaning as we see how leaders, editors, writers and members of the Haiku Society of America carefully consider the significance of each award-winning poem.

This collection celebrates the work of students whose teachers have gone beyond the stereotypical haiku lesson plan emphasizing only one dimension of haiku—the five/seven/five syllable form. In these haiku and senryu the reader will find a wind range of form, carefully constructed arrangement of lines, surprising juxtaposition of images, and fresh sensory perceptions. They will find what we all love in haiku—the human spirit responding to the amazing diversity of experiences and emotions offered to us in our everyday lives.

Come, enjoy these award-winning haiku and senryu full of the wonder, surprise and angst that are the gifts of being young. These young people enjoy being alive and effectively share that joy through their haiku and senryu.

~ Randy M. Brooks, Editor