Haiku Society of America Haibun Student Haiku Awards for 2019

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

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Student Haiku Awards for 2019

Brad Bennett and Hannah Mahoney

This year 2,835 poems were submitted by 1,033 poets to the 2019 Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition for grades 7-12. Poems were submitted by students from 46 states and 9 countries.

We want to thank the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association and the Haiku Society of America for this rewarding and vibrant opportunity. We thoroughly enjoyed reading the entries for this year’s Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition. These poems were authentic messages from teenage writers, reflecting on their lives and baring their souls.

As we read and reread, and then selected our top six, we were informed by some criteria for haiku and senryu excellence. We were looking for a keen observation of a haiku moment, an effective juxtaposition between concrete experiences, and the kind of precision that is found only in this short form. We were interested in fresh poems with new takes on experiences. We were also looking for depth or resonance. The poems that we selected all lingered in our minds because of their successful craft. Lastly, we wanted poems that represented authentic adolescent creativity and voice. We are inspired by these young poets and hope that they continue to thrive with this form that we love. Congratulations to the winners! ~ Brad Bennett and Hannah Mahoney


year’s end
the smell of gunpowder

Spencer Hollberg
Grade 8, Atlanta, GA

This is a deceptively simple haiku with suggestive depths. At first reading, it describes a well-observed moment: the quiet after New Year’s Eve fireworks. Then we contemplate the poet’s choice of the phrase “year’s end.” This is an intriguing emphasis, connoting a reflecting back. And the evocation of gunpowder brings to mind the many occurrences of violence both around the world and near to home, making the pause felt at the end of the haiku a hopeful but uncertain one. We appreciate the duality of this haiku, its ambiguity, dreaming room, and possibilities.


sliding home
the familiar taste
of Georgia red clay

Lucas Tangpricha
Grade 7, Atlanta, GA

This is a joyful and comforting poem. The glee of playing baseball or softball on a beautiful day. Rounding third and nearing home plate. Diving into a headfirst slide, going all out to avoid the tag. Scoring an important run. Tasting victory. This experience is also comforting because of the double meaning of home. The familiarity and solace of home allows room for that joy to billow up. This poem is well constructed and slides smoothly off the tongue. This haiku scores in our book!


mountain road
the high-pitched sounds
of spring peepers

Lilly Margolis
Grade 7, Atlanta, GA

This is a wonderfully composed haiku. It includes a lovely parallel juxtaposition between the height of the mountains and the height of the pitch. Pitch obviously refers to the quality of the frogs’ musical sound, but also to the steepness of a mountain slope. Both are high; both are intense. This poem also delivers a contrast between the enormity of mountains and the comparatively tiny size of the frogs and their peeps. In fact, the word “peepers” seems to make the frogs and their calls even tinier. Well done!


fence hole
the cat with a nicked ear
slips through

James Propst
Grade 8, Atlanta, GA

This is a sly poem, one that slipped into our consciousness, curled up, and settled in. Perhaps the author is describing the local stray, a veteran of turf wars or cruel humans. Perhaps the author identifies with this cat, still surviving despite the many trials and tribulations of adolescence. We all want an escape hatch, and this cat has found one. Both the cat and this poem are resourceful, sly, and surviving.


twist by twist
knot by knot
mother braids my hair

Lilly Margolis
Grade 7, Atlanta, GA

We were first drawn to this haiku by the lyrical repetition in the first two lines, skillfully conveying the familiar motions of a daily task. It lingered in our minds due to the emotional depth of its image, expressed by the just-rightness of twist and knot. We have a sense of the complexities of a mother-child bond: affection, conflict, understanding, misunderstandings, the parental legacies we rebel against and eventually distill in our own lives. This is a tender and affecting haiku.


spring fever
back to
the chemo ward

Vlad-Sergiu Ciobica
Grade 12, Romania

The first line of this haiku connotes the restlessness of early spring. The second line hints at a returning, the cycle of seasons. Then the third line hits us in the gut. The literal meaning of fever comes to mind as we realize that the return is not to the ease of springtime but to harsh fluorescent lights, IVs, side effects, uncertainty, and fear. We admire the effective juxtaposition of fragment and phrase, as well as the reticence at work, in this powerful and memorable haiku.

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About our 2019 judges:

Brad Bennett is an elementary school teacher in the Boston area and has been teaching haiku to kids for almost twenty-five years. Brad’s haiku have been published in a variety of journals and magazines. His first haiku book, a drop of pond, published by Red Moon Press, was awarded a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award for 2016 by The Haiku Foundation.

Hannah Mahoney lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and works in children’s publishing. Her haiku have appeared in a variety of print and online journals, and she is a recipient of the Kaji Aso International Haiku Award and the Kaji Aso International Senryu Award.




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