Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards for 1989

Haiku Society of America

Merit Book Awards for 1989

for books published in 1988

Charles Dickson and Makoto Ueda


First Place

Nicholas A. Virgilio. Selected Haiku. Burnt Lake Press, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, and Black Moss Press, Windsor, Ontario, Canada, 1988.

autumn twilight:
the wreath on the door
lifts in the wind

on my last journey
alone on the road at dawn:
first sight of the sea


Second Place

Rod Willmot. Sayings for the Invisible. Black Moss Press, Windsor, Ontario, Canada, 1988.

     alone with my books . . .
far off, the library turnstile

dandelion stains:
into my trunks
     her fingers slipping


Third Place

Jane Reichhold. Tigers in a Tea Cup. AHA Books, Gualala, California, 1988.


in morning’s sun
a basket of fire-starting twigs
white with frost


Honorable Mention

Robert Spiess. New and Selected Speculations on Haiku. Modern Haiku, Madison, Wisconsin, 1988.

A selection of speculations:

In order for a now-moment of haiku awareness to be fully apprehended, must we not be truly innocent? Must we not be dying to the past from moment to moment so there can be the renewing of innocence? Innocence has no baggage, no accumulations; and only by continually dying to the past can we be free of accumulations and able to experience a haiku moment with joy, freshness and wonder.

As with all genuine art, a true haiku is a clarification of experience. The haiku poet makes the unfamiliar familiar and the familiar unfamiliar, and yet in such a way that we exclaim, ‘Of course’

In haiku the half is greater than the whole: the haiku’s achievement is in what it omits.

A superficial understanding of Basho’s ‘A haiku is what is happening right here and now’ results in a report of a stimulus, a bit of journalism, or merely a more or less scientific description; not in genuine haiku of aesthetic creation, poetry, insight, felt-depth and intuition.

As haiku poets we can learn much from such sources as the traditional masters’ haiku and from contemporary haiku publications; but our best teachers are wind and rain, oaks and anemones, rivers and mountains, minnows and giraffes, eagles and wood ticks, children and God’s fools.

There is nothing wrong with experimentation in haiku — unless it is used to try to mask superficiality and hollowness.


Honorable Mention

Dee Evetts. A Small Ceremony. From Here Press, Fanwood, New Jersey, 1988.

a small ceremony
    lifting stakes now thinner than
    my trees come of age

train starts to move
    the rain on the window
    slants the other way


Honorable Mention

Joseph Gustafson. October Sun: A Year of Haiku. Leicester Hill Books, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1988.

Last days of winter
only the tail of my kite
flutters in the oak

Wind in the road lifting robin’s wing


Honorable Mention

Jane K. Lambert. Small Journeys. privately published, [Greenville, North Carolina], 1988.

Heat waves
ripple the sunflowers
one thunder clap

Night light:
the small boy falling asleep
fireflies in a jar

Honorable Mention

Geraldine C. Little. Beyond the Boxwood Comb: Six Women’s Voices from Japan. Sparrow Press, West Lafayette, Indiana, 1988.

arranging blossoms
               in my black hair
he will untwist

               all those footsteps
          going by my door, but
I recognize his . . .


Honorable Mention

anne mckay. Street Songs. Wind Chimes Press, Glen Burnie, Maryland, 1988.

always at eight fiftynine
the pawnbroker

                       and folded morning paper

neon and star


Honorable Mention

Wally Swist. Chimney Smoke. Juniper Press, LaCrosse, Wisconsin, 1988, and Unmarked Stones. Burnt Lake Press, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, 1988.

dewy morning:
the logging truck’s load
sweating sap

Quaker graves
in a clearing
unmarked stones




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.