Haiku Society of America Haibun Student Haiku Awards for 2013

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

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Student Haiku Awards for 2013

Mary Stevens and John Stevenson


through the teeth
of the jack-o-lantern
the wind

Addison Owen
The Paideia School, Age 14, Grade 9, Atlanta, GA

A jack-o-lantern almost always has teeth and they are almost never the sort of teeth that indicate good dental hygiene. In fact, they are the sort of teeth that, in a human being, would be especially sensitive to changes in temperature and might react to an autumn wind with a twinge of pain. Of course, we don’t so much feel the wind as see it in this haiku. It causes the candle within to flicker, falter, and perhaps expire.

The wind moving through the mouth of the jack-o-lantern brings to mind how living beings take in and exhale air as part of the breathing process. The word “spirit,” in its sense as the animating principle in humans and animals, comes from the same Latin root as “breath” (respiration). That which is alive, breathes. But could it also be true that breathing feeds the flame inside? If breath is an animating force, the implications of this poem are ghoulish . . .

A number of idioms come to mind when reading this poem: speaking “through the teeth” and “in the teeth of,” to name a couple. This poem stood out from the first reading because it is so well crafted. The line breaks, in particular, are cut in the most expressive way possible.


family dinner
the lights
too dim

Danielle Murdoch
The Paideia School, Age 14, Grade 8, Atlanta, GA

In any group, there are going to be different perceptions about the comfort level for things like the temperature, the lighting, the music. It is clear that the poet is not the one who decides what the proper lighting is in this family group. All the same, it is good to be clear about this within oneself. Someday, when creating a new family, it will be good to be articulate about it.

Traditional Western poetry often expresses the poet’s deepest feelings explicitly. In contrast, Japanese aesthetics values suggesting emotion instead of stating it outright. This can make writing haiku very challenging for Westerners, who want to express and who strive to be heard and understood. This poem does not reveal the storyline.

Instead it uses suggestion to allow readers the space for their own interpretations and emotions. The feeling of longing in the poem is conveyed subtly, and it is enough.


late autumn
his callused hands
feed the line

Grace Futral
The Paideia School, Age 14, Grade 8, Atlanta, GA


autumn wind
the spool feeding
the thread

Olivia Babuka Black
The Paideia School, Age 15, Grade 9, Atlanta, GA

These poems, both of which we found to be well written, provide together an opportunity to illustrate how similar material can produce very different effects, even in so small a poem as a haiku. Both poems begin by invoking the chill of autumn. Both then present an image of some kind of line being fed out from its source. But the tones of each poem are very different.

The first poem focuses on the hands that are engaged in this task. As such, it suggests a teaching moment, in which the knowledge and skill of one generation is being offered to its successor.

The second poem shows us only the mechanism. Though human hands must surely have been involved in the process at some point, what we are looking at now is part of a machine.

In the first poem, the poet is witnessing not only an activity the older man has been doing for many years, but one that the residents of the place have been doing for hundreds—or even thousands—of years before him. In this way, it is both of the moment and eternal. And the implied outdoor landscape sets this basic human activity in a large physical spaciousness.

In contrast, the sound of the wind outside in the second poem draws the attention indoors to the whirring of a sewing machine. Autumn is a time of turning inward—to indoor activity and introspection. What creative projects will come from those rich, inner processes that happen so readily during the winding-down time of year? In addition, the juxtaposition of the kigo “autumn wind” and the image of the spool feeding the thread bring to mind the passing of time, giving the poem a kind of lonely beauty.

With very similar images, we have poems of community and of solitary reflection, of spaciousness and of the inner world, of the eternal in the ordinary and of impermanence.


a crack
in the parking lot
I tightrope to the car

Liana Klin
The Paideia School, Age 13, Grade 7, Atlanta, GA

This walking-carefully-on-a-crack brings to mind the children’s rhyme “step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” That this poet is deliberately walking on a crack suggests that he or she is probably not superstitious. A person on a tightrope sets one foot in front of the other, gingerly, with arms extended out to each side. In this “tightrope” walk, however, there is no height involved, so any damage resulting from a misstep would be minimal. But so often we feel the need to step carefully and keep balance. Adults and some young people can be so concerned about how they might look to others that they never allow themselves the pure fun of such a moment. A true poet is neither a child nor an adult but rather a creature of and in the moment.


words come slow like honey Ohio rain

Coral Lee Age 17, Grade 12 Sage Hill School, Newport Coast, California

While haiku writers avoid using simile, we felt the merits of this poem outweighed that convention.

This poem gives the strong sense of place so common in traditional Japanese poetry. In this poem, it comes from more than the poet's just naming the state. Through the repeated vowel sounds in “slow” and “Ohio” and in “come” and “honey,” the poet conveys the dreamlike effect of a slow, all-day rain.

As poet John Ciardi pointed out, asking what a poem means may not be as useful a question as asking “how” it means. This haiku is a good example. While one could construct a narrative to account for the images—something about rainy days spent with laconic but eloquent companions—this is not necessary in order to appreciate the poem. The musicality is intense and needs no more explanation than the opening notes of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”


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About our 2013 judges:

Mary Stevens lives in the Hudson Valley among much wildlife. A member of Haiku Society of America since 2002, she aspires to get out of her own way when writing haiku. Her haiku have been published in several journals, the 2009 Red Moon Anthology, and the 2005 Snapshot Press Haiku Calendar. She holds an M.S. in Secondary Education, an M.A. in English, and is a lecturer at SUNY New Paltz.

John Stevenson is a former president of the Haiku Society of America, a former editor of Frogpond, founding member of the Route 9 Haiku Group (Upstate Dim Sum) and current managing editor of The Heron’s Nest.




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